Thursday, March 11, 2010
Bag slings and sling safety
Well, there has been a big flap in the babywearing world in the past couple of days. It seems we are about to be warned that "slings" are unsafe by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The problem is this: No matter how you wear them, no matter how you cut it, BAG SLINGS ARE ALWAYS UNSAFE (You can see one in the photo to the left). I teach this all the time in babywearing classes. A bag sling can not support your small baby in a safe position and I ask parents who bring them to me for help to simply throw them away (many have!). When a baby is crunched into the bag part of the sling the baby has no support for a safe spine and head position in this style of carrier. A child can get curled up with chin mushed against chest and can have what is called Positional Asphyxia, or PA, which basically means, they can't breathe because their tiny airway is crunched up. So, yeah, bag slings are bad.... however, many carriers support children in safe and comfortable ways to support their back and head in a way that is safe and appropriate for their developing spine and neck.
The problem is, this is one style of carrier and the media seems to be jumping on all baby carriers and slings as being potentially harmful. Well, let me say this... most things are potentially harmful if used incorrectly, whether it be your baby's car seat, their crib, their swing, their stroller, or their sling or other baby carrier. The important thing that most media sources are failing to report is the information that parents need for safe carrying in a sling or other style of carrier. As parents we are given more instruction on how to keep our babies safe in cribs and car seats (though not enough) Here are some guidelines for safe babywearing:
1) Your baby should always be CLOSE ENOUGH TO KISS. That means their head should be high on your chest.
2) Your baby's knees should always be higher than his or her bum so that your baby is sitting safely on their bum.
3) Your sling or carrier should extends up your baby's back to their armpits (if they have head control) or to support the back of the head (if they do not yet have head control).
4) Your child's face should NEVER be covered by the fabric of the carrier or by your clothing.
5) Your baby's bottom should never be below your waist level (if they are close enough to kiss they shouldn't be below your waist).
6) Your baby's head should always be higher then their body.
7) Your baby's head should always be supported unless they have complete head control.
8) Your baby should be snug against your body, not dangling or flopping away from you as if in a sack.
This is a good list of guidelines, and most carriers if used correctly by parents meet these criteria.
If at any time you, as the parent, feel that your child is not safe or comfortable you should take the carrier off and seek help to make it work correctly.
There will be a class on babywearing safety and safe positioning at the Center For Breastfeeding in Sandwich, MA on March 22 at 10:30. If you have questions or concerns I urge you to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or come to the class. I am always available to help with slings and carriers.
Let me just say it again... Babywearing is a good thing, but bag slings are bad.... like anything, babywearing can be done incorrectly (just as there are accidents in cars, cribs and strollers!) and things can go wrong. But when done right, babywearing can be your most treasured and special baby bonding expirience. You, as the parent, need to be educated about all aspects of taking care of your baby and it can be a tough job, but babywearing should be something that you strive to do because you and your child will benefit by it. As with everything in life, it is hard to separate fact from fiction sometimes... but the facts in this are simple, babywearing is safe when you follow the rules... just like driving and swimming and using a carseat... all safe and good things, when you are educated and informed.
I would like to assure people that I do not carry any bag style slings at Pinkletink Baby and that all the carriers at Pinkletink are safe when used according to the manufacturers directions and following common sense and basic babywearing guidelines as outlined above. I am committed to teaching safe babywearing in my community here on Cape Cod and I give full customer support to help you and your baby have a safe and comfortable babywearing journey together.
Here are some useful links to other sites with information about bag slings and sling safety.
What is a bag sling?
NY Times Article
Northhampton News report
Babywearing Press release at Taylormade