The Ultimate Guide to Babywearing Safety: Baby Carriers Parents Worry About

This is Part 7  in our guide to babywearing safety. You can find the other articles here and articles on safe baby carriers here.

This article covers slings that babywearing parents commonly worry about. They include clip slings like the Mini Monkey, Babasling and Bubba Moe and front pack carriers like the Baby Bjorn, Snuggli and a long list of similar carriers. We will look at the known safety risks, the theorized safety risks and leave it to the parent to decide whether they should be used.

Clip slings look a little like bag slings, with several important differences. Firstly, they are adjustable. They are not as adjustable as ring slings such as Sakura Bloom or Maya Wrap, but unlike the bag slings, it is possible to adjust them. They also tend to have a shallower pouch for the baby to lie in so its face is not covered and oxygen is flowing freely over the baby. However, they are difficult to use in the correct newborn cradle position without which a newborn may be at risk of asphyxia or apoxia. It is sometimes possible to use these slings correctly in tummy-to-tummy upright carries which pose less concern for newborn positioning, but keeping the TICKS guidelines in mind when using them is paramount. As long as TICKS are followed, the slings are fine to use, albeit not necessarily comfortable.

Common brands of clip-slings are Babasling, Bubba Moe and Mini Monkey.

There is a common perception in babywearing circles that front pack carriers such as the Baby Bjorn, Snuggli and other brands of this kind are damaging to babies. These concerns center around the sub-optimal positioning of these carriers in regards to hip and spine development (see here).

It is certainly true that these carriers can become very uncomfortable for parents over a long period of time, especially as the baby becomes heavier. They may be uncomfortable for babies as well; although attentive parents are usually responsive to this.

It is also true that front pack carriers like the Bjorn promote a positioning of the hips and legs that are suboptimal for a baby’s development, see here.

It is unlikely, however, that these carriers are damaging babies on a widespread basis. In almost 30 years of use by a large group of babies, there is no documentary evidence that there has been an increase in hip and spine problems in these babies. Other baby items have resulted in an increase in Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH) in the general population, for example, a swaddling nappy used in Japan during the 19080s on a large scale was deemed responsible for an increase in DDH (see here for details); but there is no confirmed evidence that front pack carriers have caused similar outcomes.

If you have one of these carriers and you and your baby find it comfortable to use, there is probably a very minimal risk involved. Whilst not ideal, the problems caused by the carrier may in fact be self limiting due to the short time periods that the carriers can be comfortably used. In those societies where DDH has been linked to the use of baby carriers (cradle boarding in some Native American groups, see link above), these carriers were probably used daily for extended periods over the early years of an infant’s life. The front pack carriers such as the Bjorn are rarely used in such a manner.

There are many baby goods that place the hips and/or spine in a similar position (see here) – it is clear that a short period in a car seat is better than no car seat at all. The same probably goes for baby carriers.

The obvious exception is in children or families where there is a family history, diagnosis or suspected case of hip or spine problems. In this case, it would be wise to discontinue use of such carriers.

Overall, there are a number of slings that, while they may be suboptimal in terms of positioning and comfort, are not dangerous as such. Not all parents will feel that they are suitable for their child’s needs. However, if you already own one of these slings and you can follow the TICKS guidelines when using it, then it is probably not dangerous to use it so long as both you and your baby is comfortable.

The Ultimate Guide to Babywearing Safety: Safe Slings

This is Part 3 of our series on Babywearing Safety. You can find the original post with links to all the others here.

This series of articles will help you identify the features of safe carriers and the distinguishing marks of carriers that are unsafe. Babies can and have died in an unsafe sling, but being aware of what they look like will help you make an informed choice.

We discuss the features of safe carriers here. How to choose a safe carrier, especially those made by Work At Home Mum (WAHM) vendors and sewing your own are discussed here. Unsafe carriers such as bag slings, fakes and the concerns around eBay are discussed here. Parents are often advised to treat clip slings and front pack carriers like the Baby Bjorn with caution, this is discussed here.

Unfortunately, not all carriers are created equal. Mass-produced carriers available in large chain-stores are not always safe. However, there are some amazing carriers available that will give you and your child years of adventure- not months. Happy shopping!

The Ultimate Guide To Babywearing Safety: Unsafe Slings

This is Part 6 in our Series on Babywearing Safety. You can find links to the other articles here and specifically on safe carriers here.

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

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.