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Is Babywearing Dangerous?

Baby G snoozing happily in our Maya Wrap sling

A few months ago, I turned on my laptop one morning to find several urgent  emails from my mother advising me that the use of baby slings had been found to be dangerous by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. According to a news release by the CPSC, babies who aren’t positioned appropriately in slings can smother to death or fall out and be injured.

Although I am a huge advocate of babywearing, and have loved carrying all 5 of my babies in a sling and a Baby Bjorn, and as toddlers, in our baby backpack, I was actually glad to see this safety issue finally being raised.  Over the past few years, as babywearing has surged in popularity in the U.S., and as dozens of new brands of baby carriers have hit the market to meet the growing consumer demand, I’ve been concerned to see firsthand how a lot of parents – without any guidance – are carrying their infants in unsafe ways.

In the past couple of years, while out at the grocery, the mall, restaurants and outdoor festivals, I’ve seen tiny babies curled into dangerous, smothering balls inside slings, and I’ve seen babies much to0 young to sit up slumped into baby backpacks. I’ve seen infants stuffed into thick, padded frontpacks on dangerously hot days, and I’ve seen moms clearly unsure how to use the more complicated wrap style slings struggling to carry their babies without letting them fall out.

All of these scary sightings have worried me a lot. On the one hand, I’m really glad that so many American parents are now recognizing the closeness and convenience that babywearing offers, but on the other hand, I think that most women are trying to figure out how to carry their babies in slings and wraps and packs without any support or guidance.  In other cultures, where babywearing has been common practice for generation after generation, women get this hands-on teaching in how to carry their babies from their own mothers, sisters and grandmothers, but here in the U.S., we are expected to learn how to do it from a printed manual or a how-to video online.

When mamas know what they need to know, babywearing is super safe and really wonderful for babies and toddlers. I know that couldn’t get by without my sling and frontpack (we don’t even have a stroller for Baby G at this point).  But I do agree with the CPSC that it’s really important to learn how to manage your sling or carrier safely BEFORE you begin using it with your infant. It’s also important to choose a truly safe brand/design of carrier for your baby, because unfortunately, not all baby carriers on the market are safe.

One of the best ways to learn how to use a sling or carrier safely is to get to know other babywearing moms, and let them give you some hands-on guidance. Some great local resources to check out are Attachment Parenting International, La Leche League and the Holistic Moms Network. All of these organizations have local chapters full of experienced babywearers who are happy to help.

Do you use a sling or carrier for your baby? What brand or design do you prefer? Did you find it difficult to figure out how to carry your baby safely? Talk about babywearing safety in the comments below.

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