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Babywearing: The real deal on safety
Brace yourselves, babywearing parents.
If we thought we got inquiring looks for slinging our babies before, I’m sure we’re in for a firestorm of more than just curious glances now that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is preparing to issue a warning to parents about infants having suffocated in popular slings sold at our local Target. And it might not be such a bad thing.
I want the conversations to begin flowing when I’m wearing my babes mostly because my heart weeps for the parents who lost their little ones while trying to wear their babies close to them. It’s terribly heartbreaking that these moms and dads wanted to love and protect their babes by wearing them, and just the opposite happened when their precious little ones suffocated while being worn.
So this warning is important. Yes, it’s so very vital, not only because slings that are being marketing are responsible for death but also because this warning will further thrust babywearing into the spotlight. And though I’m praying that the warning will clearly explain and define why the types of slings that have caused these terribly tragic deaths are dangerous, I, for one, am not willing to leave any of the babywearing education to a government safety commission.
Because the CPCS’s job isn’t to educate the public about safe babywearing. And its job isn’t to broadcast that the act of babywearing isn’t dangerous; rather its job is to sound about which products are unsafe. While it’s important to know which products are unsafe, we need to ensure parents and caregivers understand what the CPSC is warning against so they can make informed decisions when purchasing a carrier.
So let me stand from the my blogtop and scream it:
Any baby carrier can be dangerous! Once parents understand babywearing safety rules, they will not be tricked into thinking that all baby carriers are safe or alternately not safe.
The slings that have caused infant deaths are commonly referred to as bag slings. These slings are worn around the parents’ neck and body much like a messenger bag is worn. Babies who are placed into the deep pockets of these slings are at risk for suffocation because their bodies are positioned in a C position where the child’s neck often touches her chest and restricts airways. All the while, the poor mom or dad wearing baby could be oblivious to any danger because baby is all the way down by mom or dad’s belly button.
(image courtesy of Walmart.com)
These bag slings — like the Infantino Slingrider — are so dangerous; they violate every babywearing safety instruction we babywearing instructors teach:
Baby should be close enough to kiss.
Baby should never have his chin resting on his chest.
Baby’s head should be above the rest of her body.
Baby’s knees should be higher than his butt.
Baby’s face shouldn’t be covered by fabric.
Baby’s head should be supported.
Not only do bag slings — like the Slingrider — defy EVERY SINGLE ONE of these safety musts, they also give reputable ring slings and pouches, like Hotslings and Sakura Bloom ring slings, a bad name. Can reputable slings be worn drastically wrong? Of course, but companies who sell sound babywearing products, like the aforementioned ones, send safety instructions with their slings that explicitely explain babywearing safety.
We must advocate for the safety of babies by educating parents about the dangers of specific slings like bag slings but also by teaching overarching babywearing safety guidlelines. The CPSC statement probably will scare parents away from these bag slings. But that is likely all the warning will accomplish alone.
Instead of fearing the CPSC warning will give babywearing a bad name, let’s speak up for babies’ safety and sound sirens of warning about unsafe baby slings and practices alongside the commission. And then let’s take it a step further by educating parents about babywearing safety so that parents feel secure in holding their babies close. Because we want every parent to feel comfortable with wearing their babies. Shouldn’t they all reap the benefits of being close enough to kiss?
Let’s wholeheartedly pray that this warning thrusts us babywearers into the limelight so we might be able to educate the the public, particularly caregivers and parents, about babywearing safety. I don’t want to see one more baby die from improper positioning in a poorly designed sling, so I, for one, am praying for more gawking and comments because it will just open the door for safety information to flow.
EDIT after inquiries: Baby EJ is being worn in the tummy to tummy position in a Kimz Kreations ring sling. He is one week old in the first picture and two weeks old in the second. Please be sure to note that the fabric is covering the back of his head in the second picture, but his little nose and mouth are clear of fabric and are tilted up away from his chest.