The dangers of baby slings?

DONNELLE BELANGER-TAYLOR
Last updated 08:45 22/09/2011

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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19 comments
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MJ   #1   08:59 am Sep 22 2011

Great blog Donnelle!

When I read the article I couldn't help but wonder why the baby would be in the sling under layers of clothes... Surely tempting fate.

Siananigan   #2   09:05 am Sep 22 2011

Couldn't have said it better myself...

...Louise...   #3   09:12 am Sep 22 2011

I've never liked slings, a bit too middle-class hippy new age for me. (Ironic really considering my mother would have been carried around tied to her mother in a blanket). However, the thought that the MCA felt a need to issue a warning and they might issue new standards, over the death of one baby, seemed a bit OTT to me. I mean to say, as you point out, anything used incorrectly can cause injury or death! I feel for the family's loss, but I don't think it is necessary to take this measure, except maybe in the case of the bag slings you mentioned.

JeM   #4   09:15 am Sep 22 2011

I completely agree. The number of sling injuries is so small in the grand scheme of things that to ban them would be rediculous. This is a tragedy but I would say that a lot of the issue contributed to being under the mothers clothes (smothered) and out of site than being in a sling - and also being a newborn with no control over movement. While I never personally used a sling, I am a big fan of "tubey grips" that you get at the hospital which is like a boob tube that your baby goes into those first few weeks to help with bonding - but the aim is that the head is clear, and that didn't happen in the case above. It's really about common sense.

sparkle   #5   09:25 am Sep 22 2011

firstly, it is a tragic accident and my heart goes out to the family who have to get their heads around their devastating loss of a darling baby. Thanks for your great observations! the said article was indeed lacking in details. As keen babywearer (wrap) I am always checking baby's airways are clear as she does seem to like to faceplant forward at times! definitely a long baby wrap is different to a ring sling etc - not sure what a bag sling is, but wearing it UNDER clothes does not seem a great idea, for starters the adult would surely get too hot!

Rad   #6   09:56 am Sep 22 2011

If they worked for the last 30 thousand years why ban them? Perhaps we should also ban having baby in bed with you, another practice as old as time itself. As you say, it's all down to common sense and instict really. If it isn't then maybe we should just ban parenting and hand all our babies to the government to raise, they seem to know the best way to bring up kids...

K   #7   10:03 am Sep 22 2011

That this poor baby died is terrible. That it was put in a sling UNDER clothes seems to be more the problem to me that perhaps the sling itself. I used a Moby wrap with the kids and it is great and I always ensured the kids could breathe and had their heads supported. Lets just face it, at 2 days old, the mother was exhausted from labour and probably not thinking too clearly - I would have hoped that she would have had enough people around her to say "perhaps this isn't a good idea to have the child like this"

Cat   #8   10:31 am Sep 22 2011

It's terrible that a baby died in a bag sling. As you correctly state, they are well known to be unsafe. There is a lot of safety information from slingbabies.co.nz

Juliet   #9   10:49 am Sep 22 2011

I always preferred the large blanket wrap, rather than the slings which seem to hang lower. With a blanket wrap babies are quite snug against your chest and with their wee head quite upright. I even carried my toddlers like this. Even the thought of banning them is entirely ridiculous. As with everything you just need to make sure the baby is in a good position and regularly checking on them as well.

optimummum   #10   10:50 am Sep 22 2011

Didn’t see the article references to banning slings, just advising parents of the proper use and possibly coming up with some safety standards, maybe even international ones, both of which seem like really good ideas to me, maybe I missed it. Even if they were banned you can make your own, just like mothers have been doing for thousands of years and save a few dollars in the process. It’s a shame about the wee one, very distressing and sad for the parents but there seemed no clear link to the death and the use of the sling, again, maybe I missed it. @...Louise.... I recall the ones I used with mine were tie-dyed!


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