The dangers of baby slings?

20:45, Sep 21 2011

Babywearing is sometimes viewed as one of those new, fashionable parenting trends, but people have been using slings and other baby carriers for thousands of years. I think it's sensible, practical, encourages bonding, and should be supported.

So this article caught my attention. My heart aches for the family of the poor lost newborn, whether or not the fact that he was carried in a sling contributed to his death. But people who know a little bit about babywearing and slings obviously found the article lacking in crucial details.

See, it's well known in babywearing circles that bag slings are dangerous. The design is flawed; the baby is buried deep within a fabric bag, with little airflow. Several brands have already been recalled in the United States. If this is the standard which the Ministry of Consumer Affairs is considering introducing, then I fully support it.

However, banning all slings (pocket slings, ring slings, wraps, mei-tais...) on the basis of the dangers of bag slings is approximately equivalent to banning potatoes and tomatoes because they're related to deadly nightshade. They're very different, and without the article specifying what type of sling was being used it is very hard to draw any conclusions.

Note, also, a very important line in the article: "a two-day-old boy, who was in a cloth sling worn under his mother's clothing".  The Herald's article specifies it as "under his mother's shirt and jumper". You wouldn't put a baby to sleep with two blankets over its face, surely.

It is really tragic that this baby has died, as well as the 14 deaths in the last 20 years in the United States which have been attributed to baby slings. But it's important to use slings properly.

An Australian version of the article included the quote, "Our message is, if they are used incorrectly they could be a hazard." Surely this doesn't apply only to slings. Slings have contributed to 22 reported injuries in the United States in the last 20 years. In a mere five-year period, there were 64,373 stroller-related injuries, many of which could have been prevented if the child was properly restrained. Drop-side cots caused the death of at least 32 American infants in nine years. In a period of 18 months, at least nine otherwise-healthy infants in New Zealand stopped breathing due to their sleeping position in car seats.

So let's not ban all baby slings just yet... unless you also ban pushchairs, cots and car seats. Just as with most aspects of raising children, common sense goes a long way. 

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