Monday, March 22, 2010

Are Slings Dangerous?

There's been some uproar lately about new reports that slings and "babywearing" are dangerous, with a handful of infant deaths blamed for their use.  I am a huge fan of slings in general, as my trusty pouch sling was so very incredibly helpful to me in those early months with D. There were many times when D was cranky and tired and nothing would calm him down except a nap in his sling, snuggled up against me.  So while my heart goes out to the parents who have lost their babies, I raise a skeptical eyebrow to the notion that all slings are evil and should not be used.

For one thing, the type of sling that has apparently caused the most trouble is called a "bag sling" which I had never heard of until this story came out (and I've researched slings a LOT).  Bag slings are like pouch slings, except they appear to be worn much more loosely, almost like a purse.  The fabric covers the baby almost completely, so it kinda makes sense that one could suffocate in there.

We used a pouch sling, which does pose some potential risk-- the baby is placed in a curved "C" position, which in a newborn can cause their chin to tuck too far down into their chest and cut off their airway.  This is something that I read about on the very websites where I bought my slings, something they cautioned about, and gave tips on how to avoid (such as folding or rolling up a small blanket at placing it behind baby's upper back/neck/head to help keep them in a straighter line).  So I don't see this as a "hidden" danger.
I was very aware of D while wearing him, often checked his breathing, position, comfort, etc.  I found it very easy to do, since he was right there at my chest.  All I had to do was look down.

I also think it's important to note that "the new advisory points out that many of the babies who died were premature, had low birth weight, or had a cold or other breathing problems." (source)

Given all these factors, I have to agree with Moxie when she says that "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."

The bottom line is, if you take the time to find out how slings work, and are aware of what to look out for, they are perfectly safe and can be a huge benefit to mom and baby.  This is just like any other product-- infant car seats are only safe when used properly.  Cars are safe when driven properly.  Forks and spoons are safe as long as you don't poke anyone in the eye with them.  Just like almost anything else, slings and baby carriers are perfectly safe when used correctly, as well.
Here are some great links with more information on all this (expressed more eloquently than I think I'm managing to do):

**Free Range Kids puts sling dangers into perspective, relative to other everyday "hazzards" (like the 600 people who die each year by falling off furniture... maybe couches should be banned?)

**Baby Sling Safety Blog explains what a bag sling is, what to look for when using slings, and how to use them safely.

**One Tired Ema writes a wonderful post with lots of down-to-earth advice on baby-wearing.

These are just great baby-wearing-related links, for anyone interested in using slings or carriers with their kiddoes:

**TheBabyWearer an incredible resource to help you figure out the best type of sling for you, how best to use it, and has forums for asking questions.

**BabyWearing Times Two look, you can even use slings and wraps to wear twins!

If you have found others, feel free to add them in comments.  I also am happy to give advice and help with figuring out slings (what kinds work best for what, how to wear them properly, etc).  I'm not a huge expert, but I have researched this stuff a lot.  One Tired Ema above brings up the excellent point that those of us who have used slings, are often more than happy to help others who are trying to figure it out.  If it doesn't feel right, you may not be doing it quite right-- ask for help! Or, it may not be for you. Some babies, and some moms, just hate slings, and that's fine, too.

But don't be scared off a potentially great tool just because of a few scary, misinformed headlines.

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