As you know, the CPSC and Infantino are recalling the SlingRider and Wendy Bellissimo bag-style slings. This recall comes after reports of three infants dying while being worn in these slings.
As parents, we grieve for these parents and for the utter devastation and heartache for their loss. It is incomprehensible and heartbreaking.
In the midst of sadness for these families, many in the babywearing community are deeply concerned over the CPSC's statement that accompanies the recall statement regarding sling safety:
On March 12, 2010, CPSC issued a warning about sling carriers for babies. Slings can pose two different types of suffocation hazards to babies. In the first few months of life, babies cannot control their heads because of weak neck muscles. The sling’s fabric can press against an infant’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and rapidly suffocating a baby within a minute or two. Additionally, where a sling keeps the infant in a curled position bending the chin toward the chest, the airways can be restricted, limiting the oxygen supply. The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate.
It is absolutely true that parents must be careful to practice the art of babywearing in a way that is safe. When you choose to wear your baby in any kind of carrier, you must also choose to be informed about safe babywearing practices.
The concern lies in lumping all slings (and baby carriers) together into one general category. Bag-style slings such as the SlingRider are inherently dangerous in design, usability, and performance. Would you like to know how I know? My very, very first carrier purchase was a SlingRider. I bought it when Dacey was about three or four weeks old. I used it for less than ten minutes before I realized it was not safe. The fabric covered her face, her neck was contorted in a way that could not be comfortable, and she was sweating profusely after just a few minutes tucked down in the heavy fabric.
Additionally, every single non-mass-market carrier I have ever purchased came with brochures and specific instructions illustrating how to use the carrier safely.
As news of the Infantino recall spreads, babywearers are encountering comments from well-meaning but misinformed family, friends, and strangers. The temptation is there to put the carriers away to avoid the hassle of having to explain over and over that the carrier you have chosen is safe and that you know how to use a carrier without endangering the life of your little one.
Although I no longer have little ones who want to be worn, I would encourage my fellow babywearing enthusiasts to seize the moment to educate others and advocate for safe, effective babywearing.
Here are some helpful resources:
1) Educate yourself. Sleeping Baby Productions has created a page that briefly describes and illustrates safe babywearing practices. Familiarize yourself with this information so that you can know that you are safely wearing your baby.
2) Educate others. If you know an expectant or new mama who is interested in babywearing, share that link with her.
For those who are growing weary of answering the question, "Didn't you hear that those things aren't safe?" Sleeping Baby Productions has created a Sling Safety Card. These can be printed out and tucked in your purse or back pocket. When well-meaning Aunt Susan or Stranger In Line At The Market expresses concern for that baby you are wearing, smile and hand out this card.
3) Continue to advocate. Refresh your memory on the benefits of babywearing. Polish up your own stories of the impact of choosing to wear your little ones has had on the life of your family. Wear your baby with pride in public, and go prepared with a gracious and gentle script for countering the comments of those who seek to make you feel guilty for practicing this ancient and effective art. (Or at the very least, print out some response cards to take with you!)
Babywearing saved my mama sanity with each child. How could I have gotten through the infancy and early toddler years with a high-needs child would wanted to be on me all the time without my carriers? How could I have managed to chase and after and meet the needs of that first child when Little Sister came along without relying on my trusty carrier stash? Though our carriers are tucked away (for now), I cannot help but to continue to advocate.
This is not the time to apologize or hide. This is a time - motivated by compassion and sympathy for those families who have lost babies - to speak more clearly and boldly about what it means to wear your babies in a way that is, above all, SAFE.
For more insights on safe babywearing, read Babywearing: the real deal on safety at Undercover Mother. Not only is Hyacinth's post a great resource, she also has invited other bloggers to share their own babywearing safety posts as well.
photo by moochida