Not all slings are created equal: Baby Slings are safe and beneficial to mothers and infants

not all slings are created equally

In March 2010, a warning was issued on the use of ‘bag-style’ slings in the USA. This was based on a study that was looking into the safety of these slings due to injuries and deaths of baby’s whist in these slings. Infant safety is no doubt the most important issue to any person working with babies, advising on infants and developing products.

It is important to note a few facts: firstly slings are enormously beneficial to babies as well as being convenient for parents. Using one of a multitude of safe style slings according to the instructions, one should not see any risk to babies.

Benefits:

Baby wearing is one of the most wonderful ways a mother can nurture her baby. Over thousands of years and in most cultures women carried their babies in slings. Sadly this tried and trusted method went out of vogue in the 1900’s when modern prams (made popular by Maclaren in 1965) became a fashion item and were used with ease on smooth surfaces like pavements and in shopping centres. Sadly babies lost out on the benefits of being carried and nurtured close to their mom.

In recent years we have seen a trend back towards natural methods of childcare and sensory based parenting. Research by respected baby care medical experts such as Urs A. Hunziker MD and Ronald G. Barr MDCM, FRCP(C), Dr. Maria Blois amongst others supports the numerous benefits thereof. Babies who are carried in a sling are conclusively calmer than babies who are not[1]. Other benefits include:

  • Social benefits – the baby is at the parent’s level, reading signals and seeing the world with the parent.
  • Bonding – the parent has a greater opportunity to read the baby’s signals and connect with the baby at close proximity
  • Developmental – the vestibular input provided by slings facilitates motor development of tone, balance reactions and later motor milestones
  • Breastfeeding
  • Language development – the baby and parent communicate more and benefits may be seen in verbal IQ

Due to the rise in popularity of sling carriers over the past few years there are more and more available on the market a few of which are not safe. These slings have elasticised edges or drawstrings that pull the fabric over the baby. They are deep sling bags that position the baby low on the mother’s body.

Using slings safely:

When choosing a sling, a mother must look for a ring sling, mei tais, wrap or pouch sling all of which do not pose the risks that are being highlighted. These slings are simple, without ties and gimmicks. This style of slings are frequently tested and approved by a standards organisation in the USA and EU.

Critical elements in slings are:

  • Soft, lightweight, single layer cotton fabric. No fleece, no polyester, no thick fabric
  • Tested rings or clips
  • No padding in the body of the sling
  • No drawstrings or ties around the edge of the sling
  • Obvious safety instructions on the wash care label

Critical elements in using slings:

  • Ensure the baby’s face can be seen and that breathing is not hampered in any way
  • Wear the baby high up on the chest above the level of the mother’s belly button
  • Do not place the baby in the sling swaddled or wrapped in blankets
  • Do not wear the sling under the parent’s clothes
  • Ensure that the baby is tightly secured in the sling with the back well supported
  • Regularly monitor baby’s temperature and position

What are the dangerous activities to avoid while carrying your baby?

There are a few precautions you should bear in mind for any baby sling or pouch. Do not drive with your baby in the sling. Do not drink or eat hot substances over your baby’s head. Do not do strenuous exercise with your baby in a sling. To ensure there is no risk of the sling strap slipping through the rings, make sure that at least 7cm of the strap is showing below the rings.