Slings

The US Consumer Products Safety Commission is getting ready to issue a warning about the safety or lack thereof of sling-style baby carriers.

Saying that all slings are dangerous because some certain brands have failed is like saying all cars are deathtraps because certain Toyota models have failed.

I was getting ready to write an entire post about doing research and learning how to use slings correctly for maximum safety, but then frequent commenter Kate wrote one that was better than what I was going to say anyway. Please go read it, if you're at all interested in the sling issue, or in the dynamics of corporations vs. small businesses.

48 thoughts on “Slings”

  1. unf*&king believable. if it weren’t for slings i would have donated both my children to charity because they just COULD NOT BE ALONE AND NOT HELD for the majority of their first 8 months.

  2. I had that Infantino sling from the Consumer Reports website. It was a whole bunch of crap. It held the baby in an elasticized pouch at my waist level (really great for nursing, not). In fact, it made me hate babywearing because I just couldn’t get it to work. I always did feel that the elastic on the Infantino sling closed in around the baby too much.The sling was a hand-me-down and my sister swore how awesome it was. But we have different body types (and of course, our kids are different) and were using the same sling for different purposes (she to walk around in the store and me to nurse with some discretion and mobility). I guess it worked for the former but not the latter.
    For my second kid, I got a hand-me-down Bjorn that I loved (still do, in fact even at 11.6 kg (25.5 lbs).

  3. I had that sling, too – registered for it, in fact, not knowing any better. My son never liked it, and we put him in it exactly twice for a total of about 6 minutes. A friend who went to a babywearing group meeting told me about the suffocation concerns with it, so I threw it in the back of the closet and bought a Moby, which made me much happier.In an ideal world, everyone would be an educated babywearing consumer. But I think a lot of new moms are just so overwhelmed with how many VITALLY IMPORTANT issues require thorough education before the baby’s arrival, and I don’t think slings are at the top of most moms’ lists. Maybe it’s because the baby is *right there* – how could something bad possibly happen when he’s attached to my body?
    Anyway, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting the information out there in a way that might reach the segment of moms who aren’t/can’t be massively self-educated on every single issue – or don’t even know that it is an issue.

  4. I think I will wait for the actually warning before making a judgment but, honestly, this doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. From what I read they will be warning about only “C” type slings used for very young babies and the warning will be just that, a word of caution to people when they’re using these slings.Like a previous poster said, not everyone who uses a sling will be educated about babywearing. Combine that with the haze of new parenthood and the feeling that nothing could go wrong with your baby so close, it doesn’t seem wrong to me to warn people that you need to use care when using certain slings.

  5. Frankly, I wish there was more accessible, user-friendly info for expectant/new moms about slings, period. I used that Infantino sling for several months with my newborn, because she only slept in there (and I shopped at a big box store because it was convenient and carried EVERYTHING, so this was the sling available)– but it really hurt my back and shoulders! However, I didn’t have the energy or werewithal in the thick of sleep deprivation, colic, and nursing woes to trek around to several stores figuring out the nuances of slings… nor did I realize there WERE nuances! I agree with the previous poster that in the wealth of concerns/new issues faced by new parents, slings may not hit the radar. In that sense, more publicity about slings and their use, pros/cons, styles etc. would be fabulous– much as there’s easily accessed information about varieties of car seats & strollers. I’m a big fan of slings, and wish I’d discovered a style that worked for me. I hope the safety recall doesn’t polarize the topic unnecessarily.

  6. The Toyota analogy is JUST what said to my sister!I told my favorite consignment store she should really not sell the bag carriers, she looked at me like I had two heads.

  7. It seems obvious that there’s an issue with this one particular brand of sling and it should probably be recalled – but generic warnings like this also tend to result in mommy drive-bys for any baby wearer, which is frustrating.I was in Peru earlier this year and was amazed at all the native women carrying their toddlers on their backs in what was essentially a tied blanket. But even more surprising was realizing that some of the little horizontal lumps in those blankets, worn both on the front and in the back, were actually sleeping infants. I have no idea how safe that practice is, but it’s really common and obviously long-standing.

  8. Babies expect and need to be held. And mommies need to get something done, so I can’t imagine too many people ultimately stopping sling use. Though I’m not sure how many folks are still out there who ‘believe in’ using playpens, baby on the floor and letting them ‘get used to it’. As per PP’s it’s about education and the loss of the baby-wearing culture in our society. Anyway, here’s another interesting post on how to safely baby-wear: http://www.undercovermother.net/Summary points so you don’t have to go there:
    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.

  9. One more thing about the Infantino sling: the fabric was lined and padded denim, not exactly a light, breathable fabric. So, imagine enclosing your baby in a pair of jeans. Not so great.

  10. Oh, for Pete’s sake. Recall the crappy Infantino sling and leave us babywearing mamas alone.As I type this, B is passed out (alive) in our BabyHawk. This is where she has slept almost every one of her naps for the past 21 weeks. I spent a couple of days on the BabyWearer and I researched the right baby carrier for us…and then I bought 4 different ones because I knew that not only would I be wearing baby, but so would DH and while he wants a very manly black Beco, I want a custom-made mei-tai. Oddly enough, no one on there ever advised me to go to WalMart and buy my sling there. Weird.
    And Moxie, I think that this isn’t just about small business vs big box, it’s also about common sense. And before I get flamed, I’m not passing judgement on the mothers of the babies who have suffocated in slings – what a tragedy! – but like Kate said in her post, and like @SarcastiCarrie pointed out, really? It seemed like a good idea to stuff a newborn baby into a jean bag and then cinch it around your waist?
    And I think this also comes back to supporting new mothers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stopped and asked about our BabyHawk, Beco, Didy or CatBird by mothers with babies in uncomfortable and unsafe-looking carriers. Sure, my carriers are a bit pricier…but they are also beautiful. and comfortable. and safe. And when you consider what’s at stake (baby’s health, your aches and pains, etc.) it’s one of those things that I consider to be totally worth it. So I do my best to sound like @stillbecoming and I talk and talk and talk about my carriers with anyone who shows the slightest glint of interest.

  11. You know what would make sense to offer… a babywearing class at the hospital, like they have baby care classes or breast feeding classes. Bring in your sling or try some of theirs, use one of the heavy babies that they have for the big bro/big sis classes and try it. Of course, it’s going to be easier to do the class post-partum when you aren’t already “baby wearing” internally.

  12. @Cathy- the hospital I delivered at offered just such a class.And they have a boutique that sells some of the popular carriers, and you can go in and “test drive” them before you buy.

  13. Meh I am still not going to stop wearing my babies. I have to wear my third child since I need both hands to help the older ones when we are doing things like dropping them off at school. It is all about common sense which it seems is not so common.

  14. Baby Cafe (our local nursing support center – website = http://www.babycafe.co.uk) has attracted a lot of progressive mommies who talk about organic food and cloth diapers and, among other things, baby-wearing!Thank god for our Baby Cafe! I have a hand-me-sideways (instead of down, hehe) mamababy ring sling, in addition to the sling we got at the baby shower (Peanut Shell) which was cute but kind of… annoying when he was so little. It fit, but it was not adjustable at ALL. I use it more now, as a hip carrier when I’m working around the house and he’s really clingy because of growth spurt or teething related issues 😉
    Recently, my sister-in-law brought me some silk pieces back from Japan and I ordered a custom-made mei-tai carrier from a vendor on Etsy. Son (1.5yo) LOVES it, both front and back, but especially on my back.
    I would have had NO idea what to wear, how to wear, how to wrap, what to avoid, etc. Without this support center, I would have used the Bjorn (which my son didn’t mind but has already out-grown) and hurt my shoulders/back needlessly; or used the Peanut Shell and denied my husband the chance to baby-wear, too. I am so lucky that I got the support and education I did!
    With baby #2, I plan to buy a Moby-esque wrap for the early days and to transition to the mei-tai when s/he gets bigger.

  15. @ Cloud – that is so awesome that you have that class and that opportunity at the hospital! I wish we had that at ours. Who runs the classes?

  16. @Alison- the lactation educators at the hospital run the class and boutique. Or at least the boutique is staffed by lactation educators. They also have an awesome breastfeeding support group that just about saved my sanity after my first baby was born.

  17. When L was about 2 months I got really interested in carrying her in a sling. I spent many hours scouring the babywearing websites looking for advice etc. I also borrowed a few from my friends. They were non-adjustable, along the lines of the Peanut sling. I personally felt really uncomfortable as I was always worried about the chin to neck problem. I was really scared that my baby wouldn’t be able to breathe. Also, we live in the tropics so I needed something cool. I saw the Maya Wrap ring sling, bought it and love it. The baby sits upright when very young which feels safe, and the fabric is breathable and light, but strong.I also did put my baby into one of those Infantino slings and I really can’t see how anyone could keep their baby in one – it just felt so dangerous.
    So, I, not being a babywearing attachment parent, but with a little experience can tell that not all slings are equal, and it seems very short sighted to think so.
    The report will not be putting me off using my Maya Wrap with the second baby.

  18. @Cathy and @Awesomemom: Those with >1 child might also like the chance to try carriers while “babywearing internally”–I babywore my older til I was quite preggo with #2. Hooray for the Ergo.There are other alternatives to the sling, too, for those who can’t get used to it, or are nervous about the safety issue (which really isn’t, if you do it right, as we’ve established. But some, like me, might shy away if there is even a hint of danger to their newborn.)
    My newer DD would not abide a sling EVER, or swaddling, but would allow the (somewhat eschewed by the babywearing crowd) Bjorn.
    And while the Bjorn put my arms to sleep when either kid got above 15 lbs, the ergo has been great. Also, these carriers (and my meitai) helped correct DD’s borderline hip dysplasia. That’s so much less common in places where babywearing is the norm.
    Seriously hope this doesn’t go into a media feeding frenzy and overkill, kind of like what I imagine has done so much harm to the opportunity for VBAC. Sigh.

  19. Honestly, this type never worked for me, either, without G looking like he was going to suffocate. So I just didn’t use it – I suspect I had the wrong size.What IRKED the hell out of me, though, was this part of the AP article: “Use of slings, also known as “babywearing,” has become increasingly popular in recent years…”
    They are NOT synonymous. Even if all slings were bad, that would NOT make babywearing bad. ARGH!

  20. As it’s been mentioned, I do think a warning should be attached. Most babywearing sites do give warnings about how to wear your little ones. And if they aren’t doing the research (and IMO have some common sense missing)there may be some tragic consequences)As well, I do hope if it is recalled, or more media attention is given, that it doesn’t scare away new moms to baby wearing. For me personally, I just couldn’t get comfortable in a sling carrier. But just LOVE my Moby wrap and Ergo! Of course, what I can’t figure out is the looks I get when I’m out and about with my LO in the carrier vs a stroller or in the cart. And so many of my friends have rolled their eyes at me too when I’ve told them I wear the LO in the house instead of placing him on the floor or pack n play. I can’t seem to convince them otherwise. (and forget about the comments from MIL and my mom about how I’m spoiling my children b/c of it! arrgghh!)

  21. I too am waiting to see the exact wording of the warning, and have been following the problems with the Infantino carrier for a while now on TheBabywearer forums. Hopefully, this CSPC warning will finally alert new parents to the hazards of those bag slings, and perhaps get the big box stores to steer away from carrying them?For those of us that practice SAFE babywearing and are anticipating a backlash from well-meaning family/friends/strangers, this link has a lot of good info AND a pdf at the bottom for handy “business cards” that you can print out and distribute:
    http://sleepingbaby.net/safety.php?PHPSESSID=e304f30824493704319b618c5203e1c5

  22. Not to sound like a snob, but I don’t think I’d ever buy one of those mass-marketed slings or carriers anyway. I don’t know why, but I feel like the ones made by smaller businesses (usually designed and made by mothers) are inherently safer and smarter. I know people who swear by their Bijorn, but I always think to myself “Huh, I wonder if they ever tried an Ergo,” because the Ergo is so amazingly comfortable. Now I’m pg w/ #2, I have a pouch-style sling (a Rockin’ baby pouch, which is pretty great, though my #1 didn’t take to it until he was older) and an Ergo, but am interested in buying a Moby for when he’s little (also looking into mei teis which seem great). Warning or no warning, I’m delighted to live in a time of expanded options for babywearing. Hands free rocks! I have a stroller too which I use all the time, but sometimes when my son is in his Ergo I feel so sorry for moms pushing those heavy bulky strollers everywhere.

  23. It makes me sad. We relied heavily on the New Native pouch sling with my daughter. It was the way we got through her colicky first few months. Frankly, I don’t know if that is considered one of the dangerous “bag slings” or not, even after clicking through a few of the links. I chose it specifically because as a new mother, the more complicated wrapping and arranging required by a mei tei (which I eventually bought, but didn’t end up ever really liking or using) or ring sling or Maya Wrap. Popping her in was something I could handle. Also, and this was more important to me than it might seem at first read, the ring slings look very feminine with all the trailing fabric. I wanted my husband to be willing to use the sling too–and he did and loved it and it was a great thing. (And frankly, I wanted to look more tailored myself, but obviously that is a more frivolous preference.) If next time around the pouch sling is verboten, I will miss both the ease of use and the gender neutrality it offered. And I know that there are great baby-wearing communities who can walk you though and talk you though and educate you, etc., etc. That’s wonderful, but I am not exactly a joiner and don’t want the use of a sling to be quite so much a philosophical and educational investment. I just want a quick easy way to carry the baby without struggling with a stroller. So if the way I was doing that was misguided, as I say, it makes me sad.

  24. Amelia-I think the “bag style” slings are really only the Infantimo where you carry the baby around your hip/thigh like a messanger bag.I never got the hang of the ring sling really, but the pouch was great for the teeny age.

  25. Amelia – I used a pouch with my first child too (for the same reasons as you). I cringe now thinking about the “tips” from the sales staff where I bought it (“oh, you can curl them up tight in there, it’s ok, that’s how they are in the womb”… yeah, but they didn’t need to breathe air back then)!!A pouch sling isn’t the duffel bag type of sling that was responsible for several deaths in 2009. However, proper positioning in a pouch sling (or any carrier, really) is still important. Pouch slings can def be worn safely if you are aware of the right position. This link has good photos for correct pouch sling use: http://www.thebabywearer.com/articles/HowTo/Positioning.pdf
    p.s. The New Native design DOES sit quite lower against your body versus other pouch slings, so if you use a pouch with future kids, may want to pick a different brand that sits higher up.

  26. here is the warning by the CPSC:http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml10/10165.html
    and here is a direct quote:
    “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.
    Many of the babies who died in slings were either a low birth weight twin, were born prematurely, or had breathing issues such as a cold. Therefore, CPSC urges parents of preemies, twins, babies in fragile health and those with low weight to use extra care and consult their pediatricians about using slings.”
    as the mom of a low birth weight preemie, it’s good advice to be aware of your babies positioning and muscle tone/abilities. she hated any sling, the bean liked the wrap and the bjorn.
    i read the whole warning and didn’t think it was either alarmist or attacking baby wearing parents- just gave some decent advice as how to use a sling properly to avoid a tragedy. some ppl really need direction when it comes to using a sling (like me!)- the pp’s above links offer very good advice, and kate’s advice to find a mom/group/expert on babywearing is even better.
    i wish we had waited til the warning was released before we jumped all over this. it does not denounce slings OR babywearing or breastfeeding while using a sling, for that matter.

  27. I don’t know that I would say we jumped all over it. There has been a lot of media coverage which *did* in fact say that slings in general were not safe. So, people reacted to what was out there, not the report we hadn’t heard.

  28. I think the whole freak out about all carriers due to one poor design is super dumb.Consumer Reports recently came out in a total lather against ALL slings and carriers because apparently if you use one, you’ll totally drop your baby, and if you just carry your baby in your arms, you’ll…never drop your baby? I didn’t quite follow their logic, possibly because it didn’t actually exist.
    While I absolutely love and cannot live without my Ergo and think slings of all kinds (well, okay, *almost* all kinds, clearly) are just wicked nifty, I really don’t like the term ‘babywearing’.
    I’m not sure what it is about it that hits me like nails on a chalkboard, but every time I see or hear it, I think “Babies. Are. Not. Clothing.”
    …It’s probably just me.

  29. @akeeyu – Woman! Where have you been? Not to sound like a, um, mom…but I was worried about you! I’m glad to see you’re back.

  30. We used a Maya wrap, Peanut shell, Bjorn, and New Native sling with my guys, and some useless contraption (i’ve happily forgotten the name) with at least eight straps that you meticulously criss-cross and knot each time you lash yourselves together (my sister swore by it but I detested it. Who could safely remember how to strap their kid in that in the sleep-deprived mode we’re in for months?)LOVED the New Native. Lived in it. I am small and had huge babies and it rocked. I felt like the Bjorn just was unnatural and the babies never looked comfy. Peanut shell was too stretchy – no one was confident in it. My Maya always slipped and it was only in the very end that I figured out the shoulder cap thing.
    In the NN, they zonked to sleep fast, I could wear my infant and my toddler at different times in the same outing, I wore them in the pool, anywhere … it rocked, rocked, rocked. It was a blanket over the stroller in the sun … I’ll stop now, but it was the best.
    As to common sense, it’s a rare gift, I have come to believe.

  31. “Saying that all slings are dangerous because some certain brands have failed is like saying all cars are deathtraps because certain Toyota models have failed.”Haven’t read all of the comments yet, but I did briefly look over the warning when it hit my inbox, and I didn’t find it troubling in the least – it singles out one style, and one brand even, I think, and that seems perfectly fair. If it turns some folks off of babywearing that’s unfortunate, but it’s not the CPSC’s role to promote things like this, just to warn us about potentially dangerous products. I think the Toyota analogy is definitely an overreaction!

  32. Putting aside our scared cows for a minute, be they cars or slings – I would be most offended/outraged if the government withheld information that Product X has a design defect rendering it dangerous if used improperly. As a general principle, I’d rather have the information & leave it to individuals to choose. I would put the importance of the availability of that information for making the choice way, way ahead of any concerns about the pecuniary losses of retailers – whether they’re big box stores, entrepreneurial parents, or otherwise.So yes, perhaps an effect of such a warning would be that some new parents who would have otherwise tried slings will now be dissuaded. Then again, maybe in light of this new information, people will dig deeper for the real data, and will end up finding the perfect sling & support resources for them. Hard to predict.
    It seems to me that warning labels are a bit of a farce. The ginormous warning labels on products as varied as car seats, cigarettes, fast food place coffee, and contraceptive jelly (don’t put it on your toast!), don’t usually make people think twice, because that’s not really why the labels are actually are there. I think they are there to minimize litigation costs for the manufacturers, but that’s a topic for another day.
    For the record, I love all of my slings!

  33. Combine that with the haze of new parenthood and the feeling that nothing could go wrong with your baby so close, it doesn’t seem wrong to me to warn people that you need to use care when using certain slings.

  34. I undersand the problem with this sling-style baby carriers.It’s because some users seem not to realize their babies grow up and the carriers don’t.
    The carriers (must of them) availables are for babies under 3 months.
    It also required certain ability and control over the person using it!!

  35. I strongly believe people that use slings need to LEARN the Right way to do it.Slings are pretty safe when it’s the right one according to the age and wight of the baby.
    It also requires a certain skill and teaching.

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