By Mandy Schutt
My husband and I were walking through IKEA yesterday when a stranger came up to us with a frantic look on his face, pointed to the sling I was carrying my daughter in, then stopped dead in his tracks and said, “Did you guys hear about the safety warning for those things!?”
My husband and I eeked out a smile and thanked him for his concern but assured him that making a baby safe in a sling simply involved engaging the ol’ cerebellum- something we do on a daily basis- and thus, do not fear for our baby’s life.
Later that day…
We got home from IKEA and my husband got a phone call from a family member who let him know that she was sending us a newspaper article on the dangers of slings. She was deeply concerned, knowing that we often carry our baby in a sling.
Here’s the scoop on slings:
There have been 14 suffocation deaths in the
Here's the scoop on cars:
According to the US Department of Transportation, during 2005, 1,335 children ages 14 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes, and approximately 184,000 were injured. That’s an average of 4 deaths and 504 injuries each day.
I find it funny that no one has ever stopped me in a parking lot as I was putting my baby in the car, and said, “Did you hear about the safety warning for those things?” Additionally, not a single family member has shown the slightest tinge of concern that I drive with my child on LA freeways on a daily basis.
Babies have been worn by billions of mothers for millions of years. Let’s put all the figures into perspective here instead of sounding off an alarm that makes new moms nervous and paranoid about carrying their babies. Yes, babies could suffocate while being carried in a sling so when we wear slings, we need to be aware of how we are using them- in the same way we would be cautious laying our babies on a bed by moving fluffy blankets and pillows away from their faces.
The slings that have caused most of the problems have been the less popular, “bag slings”. Bag slings are the westernized version of a standard cloth sling. They are typically made from thick, synthetic material and have a bungee-like draw sting along the rim. These slings are deep and the wearer is not able to easily tighten or loosen the material to create a shallower “cradle area” for the baby to lie in. Additionally, the infants that have died in slings have primarily been a low-birth weight twin, premature, or had a cold. While babywearing can greatly benefit premature and lower weight babies, these little people require special needs while being worn. Kangaroo Mother Care includes a special method of babywearing that is appropriate for these situations.
There are dangers lurking around every corner for our babies and it is really, really sad when babies die. I’m not lessoning the devastating deaths of the infants involved but I am hoping that we don’t all rise up against the ancient and ever-useful art of baby wearing. The media is having a hay day with this topic and is doing a poor job at informing the public. How so? By: a) not giving all the facts and statistics in their reports b) clumping all “soft carriers” into the same category c) over exaggerating the danger and not taking into account any of the benefits slings provide.
In my opinion, there are far more important issues for the government and media to cause a frenzy over; issues that take the lives of significantly more children on a daily basis. For example, the use of fire retardants (chemicals) in baby mattresses and clothing has the government’s stamp of approval despite its links to SIDS and poor brain development. How about addressing the drastic increase of premature births in this country due to labor induction? These premature babies have a high chance of death in the first few months of life and if they live, can suffer brain damage yet there is no 5 o’clock media coverage on this issue.
While carrying a baby in a sling is truly not a difficult task, the internet is loaded with instructional videos, step by step instructions, and a plethora of information on proper babywearing techniques . If parents need a little guidance, postpartum doulas are also trained in how to use slings properly and can easily model and guide moms and dads in safe baby-wearing practices. Here in LA, there are baby-wearing workshops all over the city and you can drop into the Pump Station at any time and ask for a soft-carrier consult for free. The information on sling safety is abundant.
For many, including me, the benefits of proper babywearing far outweighs any danger posed by improper sling usage. It’s been statistically proven that worn babies cry less (one study found babies to cry 43% less when they were worn!) and because of this heightened alert, non-crying state they actually learn more throughout the day than their crying counterparts- literally making them smarter. Parents with infants who cry less are in turn less stressed and happier people. Dr. Sears outlines some of the benefits to baby wearing as well as how to safely do so, in his article entitled, “Babywearing”. Additional benefits of babywearing include: colic cure, assisting with breastfeeding issues, contributing to faster weight gain of underweight infants, regulating baby’s body temperature, increasing baby’s sense of security, allowing for vital skin to skin contact, making public breastfeeding easier as well as more discrete, and much, much more.
So- before you trade in your $40 sling for that $140 infant stroller- do your homework! Go to a baby-wearing workshop, check out what Dr. Sears- a babywearing expert (in fact, his wife and he coined the phrase) has to say on the matter, hire a postpartum doula for a consult, research the statistics, or contact one of the 3 Doulas for more information. Babywearing is not only extremely convenient; if done properly, it has proven physiological benefits to both baby and mom.
I found these beautiful photos of babywearing across the globe at this wonderful blog site.