Babywearing Safety

Is Babywearing Safe?

Absolutely! With a well-designed and well-made baby sling or baby carrier, babywearing is safe — and can even be safer than holding your baby in your arms. As with any other baby gear item, you need to make sure you choose the right baby sling or baby carrier, and you need to make sure you know how to use it safely. That said, baby slings and baby carriers have a safety record better than that of most other baby items, including cribs, carseats, and strollers.

As the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance says, Keep Your Baby Visible and Kissable! The best way to do this is to position your baby upright against your chest, just as you’d hold her in your arms. The sling or carrier should keep your baby in the same position she’d be in in-arms (for front carries, not back carries).

To maintain your baby’s airway properly, always ensure that baby’s face is not covered by fabric and that baby’s chin is not forced against her chest. Newborns, premature babies, and other young babies should not be placed in a carrier in a prone (lying down) or cradle position as this may put them at risk of positional asphyxia. If your baby snores, squirms, grunts, cries, turns red, or otherwise seems distressed, take her out of the carrier and reposition her immediately.

For detailed instructions and pictures on the correct positioning of your newborn or small baby, click here for the correct positioning handout. Also check out the babywearing safety rules and guidelines from Babywearing International.

Common Sense Babywearing Safety Suggestions

All of the baby slings and baby carriers at QuirkyBaby are professionally manufactured and inspected, and the designs have been extensively tested by expert babywearers to ensure that they are safe when used as directed. However, your baby’s safety is ultimately your responsibility. Please inspect your sling or carrier before you first use it and before every use thereafter for signs of wear and tear, and immediately stop using it if you detect any potential problems.

Read all printed instructions and watch any instructional DVDs that come with your carrier. Practice over a soft surface such as a bed and check your work in a mirror to ensure baby is secure.  Always keep at least one hand firmly holding onto your baby when putting her in the carrier, and make sure she is securely in the carrier before letting go. Learn how to use your carrier without assistance: you should not rely on others to help you with your baby carrier, as they will not know how to help you safely and may cause an accident.

Do not engage in any hazardous activities while babywearing, such as driving, riding a bike, rock climbing, etc. Make sure to keep your baby safely away from any heat source, hot food and drink, etc. Use common sense and be mindful of your baby’s position at all times.

Why Duffel-Bag Style Carriers are Not Safe Baby Carriers

Brands such as Infantino SlingRider, JJ Cole Premaxx, Lamaze Close Comfort, Munchkin Jelly Bean Cargo Sling, Boppy Carry in Comfort, and similar designs are not safe baby carriers and should not be purchased new or used.

Any baby sling that is a deep bag shape and resembles a duffel bag is not a safe sling for your baby, particularly a premature baby or newborn. This type of carrier can force baby’s chin to her chest and often encloses baby’s head in fabric, potentially impeding baby’s airway and forcing rebreathing of exhaled carbon dioxide.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled the Infantino SlingRider in March 2010 after the SlingRider was linked to the deaths of three babies.  However, babywearing educators and advocates had been warning of the dangers of the SlingRider and similar carriers for years before that. The Baby Sling Safety blog shows how the duffel bag baby carrier is inherently dangerous *when used as designed and directed.*

Why Car Seats (Bucket Seats) Are Not Safe Baby Carriers

It is most unfortunate that infant car seats are now being used as baby carriers, even though they have never been safety-tested for this purpose. Just because a bucket seat snaps into a stroller doesn’t mean baby should be pushed around in a car seat all day or that car seat manufacturers have tested the safety of their products OUTSIDE of the car!

When used as baby carriers, car seats are responsible for thousands of falls every year requiring emergency room visits, some resulting in skull fractures or even death. A study presented to the AAP in 2009 found that, from 2003 to 2007, more than 43,000 babies went to the ER after tipping over their infant car seats from countertops, shopping carts, etc., resulting in bone fractures, head injuries, and three deaths.

Positional asphyxia and head deformity (plagiocephaly or “container head”) are also risks of using infant car seats (bucket-style) as baby carriers and using other infant containers such as swings, strollers, bouncy seats, and cribs excessively or inappropriately. Please be aware that there are risks posed by these baby gadgets to your baby’s physical safety and long-term development. The best place for your baby’s physical and emotional development is in your arms or in a baby sling or baby carrier. Although babies should sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS, when your baby is awake, keep baby off her back in your arms or in a baby carrier as much as possible.

The bottom line: for all car and air travel, babies need to be in car seats that are properly installed and properly used — but babies should NOT be carried in car seats outside of the car on any regular basis.

Links:

AAP Says Infant Carseats Increase Risk of Positional Asphyxia

AAP Study Says Car Seats Harm Thousands of Babies Outside the Car Annually

Get Container Babies Off Their Backs!

Convenience for Parents Could Lead to Container Syndrome

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