Unfortunately, babies have died in unsafe slings. An unsafe sling is one which it is either impossible or nearly impossible for a parent to use without putting the baby in danger. Unsafe slings can come in a number of shapes and forms. Bag slings, discussed below, are a type of sling that comes in a number of different brands. They are unsafe. Fakes or knock offs are cheaply constructed slings made to resemble popular brands such as Ergo, Beco and Freehand. They are also unsafe due to their construction and lack of testing. Ebay is a difficult place to buy a safe carrier, the reasons are discussed in this article too.
Bag slings are unsafe. They are distinguished by a deep bag-like pocket in which the baby lies in a cradle position at or around the parent’s hip. Fabric covers the baby’s entire body and restricts the flow of oxygen around the baby. Even bag slings with mesh sides restrict a baby’s respiration since these slings force the baby into a curved-spine position, pushing the chin to the chest. These carriers ignore the TICKS guidelines. Babies have died in these slings.
There was a recall of some brands of these carriers in Australia several years ago, but some different brands are still on the market – the concerns remain the same. Secondhand ones are still available regularly on eBay and other second hand sites. Here is an excellent run down on bag slings and a number of pictures which will help you identify if you have a bag sling. A thorough and scientific examination of the dangers of bag slings can be found here.
I think I have a bag sling, what do I do? Either contact the manufacturer to see if it was a part of a recall and return it for a refund or replacement- or cut the straps and bin it. Do not put your baby in this kind of sling, even if others assure you it is safe. If a carrier cannot meet the TICKS guidelines, it is not safe for newborns. Alternatively, sling groups and carrier libraries are often looking for donations of these slings for demonstration purposes. They don’t put babies in them- they use dolls.
Knockoffs are fake carriers based on a design of another vendor, breaching copyright and intellectual property laws. It is a common problem with many well-known brands like Ergo, Beco and Freehand. These carriers are made of cheap materials and poor workmanship. They have not been tested for safety. Essential components can fail leading to injury. Knockoffs are cheap, but they pose a risk to your child. For more information, contact the distributor of the relevant brand to ascertain if a carrier is genuine.
Ebay has many slings for sale, but it can be extremely difficult for the novice buyer to determine a quality brand from a poor one. The cheaper carrier may be just that- cheap. At worst untested slings can be dangerous. If you are interested in buying a second hand carrier, then joining a dedicated babywearing page like Babywearing Buy Sell Swap can be a good place to get both advice on safety and a cheap sling.
Unfortunately, not all carriers are created equal. Some are merely uncomfortable, but some are dangerous to your baby. Knowledge is safety.