Saturday, March 13, 2010

Weekend Movie: Bag the Bag Slings! (Plus bonus rantiness.)

Alongside may reports from, and then postmortems of, the NIH VBAC conference, another big story in the news that created much reverberation in response was the CSPC warning against slings, due to some very unfortunate deaths by suffocation. Alas, the warning neglects to explain that only ONE TYPE of sling is to blame here, a kind that many babywearers have been pointing out is not really a sling at all: the bag-style sling.

Tons of parents have been speaking out about this, pointing out that NOT ALL SLINGS ARE CREATED EQUAL, and it is not only unfair, but blatantly irresponsible, that they are all being lumped together by the CSPC. As Justine of State of the Heart Parenting points out:
The Infantino Sling Rider is the one responsible for 7 deaths in 11 years, from improper sling use. However, for the 10 year time period between 1995-2005, there were 22 stroller-related deaths for children under the age of 5 reported to CPSC. A majority of these deaths involved suffocation, entrapment or positional asphyxiation of an infant. 3x the amount of death in less time. Where are the anti-stroller crusaders?

[And] the leading item that injures and kills babies? INFANT CAR SEATS AND CARRIERS (and that EXCLUDES automobile accident related incidents). 7 deaths in 11 years from slings...meanwhile 182 children were KILLED by improper car seat/carrier use in only 2 years. And 65 infants died from CRIB related accidents.

By all means, let's please include warnings that your sling is a parenting tool, not a replacement for common sense and observation...but saying that no one should ever use a sling is NOT a reasonable recommendation on the part of the CPSC.
Anyway, on with the show: Katie Glynn from A Child's Garden in Northhampton, MA recorded this video, demonstrating the do's and don'ts of sling positioning, including an explanation of the hazards of bag "slings".

I also found this site very clear and helpful. Here's a great visual:



Note: Most veteran babywearers point out that an upright carry is both the safest and the most beneficial, but one can use the "cradle" position with care and attention making sure baby is NOT chin-to-chest in the dreaded C position. This is illustrated in the top left of the first picture. It's wonderful to be able to nurse in a sling as you go about your business. (Many babywearing experts recommend that once nursing is finished, baby is gently returned to an upright position.)

Be sure to check out the page itself; they spell out the safety points of proper ring sling positioning and the pitfalls of bag slings. They also include a gallery at the bottom of the most dangerous kinds of bag slings. Here's a picture of the worst culprit of all the bag-style pseudoslings, the Infantino:

Now. This is pure opinion on my part, but there's something about all these slings, not just the most notorious Infantino, that bother me, aside from the deeply flawed design. It seems to me that these are inauthentic slings at the core. What the heck do I mean by that vagueness? My gut feeling is that these particular brands were created in a response to a trend, without much if any real research, and without a fundamental belief in babywearing as a practice. I don't think Eddie Bauer executives happened to be reading Dr. Sears and decided to start promoting attachment parenting tools; I don't think Boppy was out for anything more than another product in a different aisle of Babies R Us. I think these companies saw a growing number of consumers purchasing Maya ring slings and Mei Tais and Moby wraps, not to mention the burgeoning legions of WAHMs putting their own lovingly created wares up on etsy, and they decided to try to get in on the action.

If I'm right - and again, it's just conjecture on my part - well, it's not the most nefarious thing in the world. (It's not like they're Nestle. Wink wink.) I can't really blame them for their bottom-line motivation. I mean, that's just business. But it falls as ever to the consumer to do their homework and make educated choices. Slings of any kind, not just the ones with the riskiest designs, can be misused - as can strollers, cribs, and car seats, as Justine pointed out. Babywearing is a fantastic lifestyle choice for those to whom it resonates, and the carriers themselves are tools, to be used with mindfulness and love. It'd be a screaming hot shame if this slipshod media coverage deters some parents from doing something that's not only highly beneficial but also has the potential to make their lives just plain so much easier.

EDIT: I just have to add an observation made by my friend Ashton, who pointed out that what these companies are doing essentially takes slings and turns them into buckets.


  1. I just discovered your blog--love it!

    I posted about this topic yesterday. Hope you don't mind if I link to your post also. You have lots of great info here.

  2. Thanks Katrina! Utah is very close to my heart. I'll be visiting your blog!

  3. Oh, my aunt totally had one of those crappy bag slings. I remember visiting her when her youngest daughter was a baby and thinking "what the heck is this? why is the baby like a belt bag??" I was working in a store at the time that sold real slings like the Maya Wrap and the Ergo. Now I realize that those bag slings aren't just crap, they're dangerous.

    I'm so glad you posted this so I can forward some info to one of the midwives I'm working with in Centering. She wanted to make slings with the Centering group but wasn't sure about it with all this new info coming out. I'll forward her some of these links so she can read more.

  4. I had informed my family I wanted to babywear while I was pregnant and received the infantino sling. I tried it twice, once out to eat in a restaurant and in a grocery store in an attempt to nurse my baby discreetly (a concern I no longer worry about). A friend of mine showed me her moby wrap and never looked back. These slings are a shame to babywearing.

  5. I love, love, love my pouch sling from Slinglings, but it did take some practice to master the cradle position with my second. I received a very explicit instruction book, and worked with my baby until we got it right. Luckily she didn't mind all the maneuvering. Once we mastered it, there was no turning back. She still loves the sling as a toddler when we're out and she's getting sleepy.

  6. Thanks for the video! That is the store that we love when we are up in MA, and Meg was in the AP group I used to go to!

  7. I agree that it was totally unfair for the news to lump all slings together. Inantino and other bag slings are nothing like the other infant slings out there.

    It's been known for quite a while that those types of slings are dangerous and have caused deaths. For the news not to specifically point out the brands causing it and instead say slings in general seems wrong to me.

  8. I'm editing this post to reflect an observation made by my friend Ashton. See the addendum at the end!

  9. My mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law saw this news clip and anxiously called me in to watch the end of it and to talk about all the deaths and how it said no slings were safe. (I use a maya ring sling) I spent about ten minutes explaining how a 'bag sling' is so incredibly different than a 'wrap' sling and there are many safe ways to carry baby that don't involve baby's chin being forced to its chest.

  10. I agree that the reporting of this has been sensationalized and that is often the case with mainstream news media. I did want to point out that when I looked at the source for the car seats and carriers statistic the number reported here is incorrect. There are 182 TOTAL nursery product related deaths in children under age 5, only 16 of those in infant carriers and car seats.
    Statistically speaking I believe that the use of the INFANTINO sling is unsafe, even though the number of children who died related to crib use or infant carriers/car seats is greater, MANY more people use cribs and infant carrier/car seats.

  11. Maybe they created that sling bucket just to put a damper on babywearing (while jeopardizing the life of babies).

  12. Thanks for this nice guide, please keep up this great work