The CPSC is apparently preparing to issue a warning to parents regarding the use of slings with infants, according to numerous media sources. Inez Tenenbaum, head of the CPSC, addressed the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association yesterday and broke the news, saying “We know of too many deaths in these slings and we now know the hazard scenarios for very small babies. So, the time has come to alert parents and caregivers.”
This news is rippling through the juvenile industry today, with sling manufacturers (many of whom are very small, mom-owned companies) scrambling to defend the safety of their products.
If you’re a parent, you’re wondering first and foremost whether or not a sling is safe to use. I can’t give you that answer, but I can give you some facts that I’ve collected, which may help you figure out how you want to respond to this.
1. The primary target of any sling safety investigations over the past few years is the Infantino Sling Rider.
2. The Infantino Sling Rider is a “bag-style” sling, and even though it is worn over the shoulder like other slings, it creates a much deeper space for the baby than other sling designs, like pouches and ring slings.
3. In May of 2008, a mom known as M’Liss posted the results of a homegrown study showing decreased oxygenation levels when infants were worn in bag-style slings. She tested several other babywearing options that didn’t create the same problems.
4. In October of 2009, Consumer Reports aired serious concerns with the Sling Rider in article on their blog, citing the recent death of a 6-day-old infant in an Infantino sling.
5. In the comments section for the article mentioned above, Kristen DeRocha, founder of Hotslings, responded by sharing the results of an independent study she had done, gathering data on 5 sling manufacturers over a 3 year period. Of over 600,000 slings sold, there were no reports of accidents or fatalities.
It’s true, there’s not a lot of legitimate scientific and therefore convincing/comforting data on this. That’s because scientific studies cost a lot of money, and most sling makers are moms who don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars lying around to fund research. Consumer Reports is right to point out that there is no ASTM standard that governs the design of slings. Even the government hasn’t spent much time thinking about this – until now.
But there’s also not a lot of evidence against any product other than the Infantino one. The expression “don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater” comes to mind here. I’ve used a variety of slings with all three of my kids, including my youngest, who napped in a Kangaroo Korner sling twice a day, every day of his life for a 4 month period (see photo above, taken when he was 5 months old). Like most moms, I was always vigilant about keeping an eye on him and the position of his head and mouth. We never had a problem.
It would be a shame for the CPSC to cast a shadow on all slings because of problems with one particular style. But I also care deeply that all the products we sell are safe for our children (mine and yours). I’m waiting for more information before I make any drastic decisions, either personally or on behalf of my business.
Based on what I’ve seen so far, I wouldn’t panic. Even if there are compelling reasons to avoid a sling during the very early months – and I’m not saying that’s actually the case – the beauty of a sling is how long it lasts. I’ve used slings with children as old as 3. There’s a bigger picture here that shouldn’t get lost in all the commotion.