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Sling Shots: The Safety of Baby Wearing

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Sling Shots: The Safety of Baby Wearing

There is a scene in the 2009 film Away We Go, an under-the-radar film about impending parenthood, involving the benevolent gift of a stroller presented to two sanctimonious parents, who would rather carry their baby until their spinal column crumpled before they would ever consider the use of a stroller in their parenting regimen. “I love my babies,” insists the character LN (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) after receiving the objectionable gift, “Why would I want to push them away from me?!!” This tense, but comic, exchange was presented to illustrate the sometimes drastic differences between parenting ideologies. For many, dropping your infant into a stroller provides a much-needed brake from carrying around 20lbs of human all day. For others, wearing your child, close to your heart in a sling, is the definition of attachment parenting.

Now in the real world the debate of whether to “wear your baby” or push your baby is hardly this heated or contentious. The majority of cultures throughout the world practice (and have since the dawn of time) some form of baby wearing, whether it is carrying your baby in a sling contraption or possibly the more restrictive (and somewhat controversial) Native American approach of cradle boarding. But in the United States, strollers have been the popular option for years, with slings and baby carriers relegated to the minority. That has changed over the past few years with a greater number of parents opting for slings, Baby Bjorns, and all manner of innovative baby-wearing gear. But a recent warning from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regarding a particular style of sling (best known as “bag slings”) has put doubt and dread into the heart of many parents of newborns.

The CPSC claims that there is a significant risk of slings suffocating infants who are younger than four months old, and that caution should be used when carrying babies of this age group in slings. The CPSC is investigating at least 14 deaths associated with sling-style infant carriers, including three in 2009.

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

59 comments

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8:17PM PDT on Apr 18, 2010

I'm not a mother nor do I plan to be one , but I am an Aunt and was wondering why baby boarding would be controversial (I don't know enough about it to know what would be wrong except maybe in the cases were people were using them to flatten their kid's forehead)

11:42PM PDT on Apr 10, 2010

I did not care for a sling, I preferred to wear my baby in a wrap. In fact I wore him until he was 2. The bonding for both parents is amazing and it is very comfortable to wear your baby in a wrap. You have hands free and it is the only place your baby should be!

6:21AM PDT on Apr 4, 2010

I have a friend with an 8 month old girl and for the first few months she carried her around in a baby carrier. It wasn't a sling, it was a sort of harness that she put on her front (you could then put it on your back when the kid was older) and the baby was upright, but she used to sleep that way.

I think you do have to be careful with those sorts of things. Make sure you get a reputable brand, you read all instructions and warning carefully, you adjust the carrier to fit you and you always use common sense.

I don't think whether you use a baby carrier or a pram makes much difference to a childs bonding with their mother. Obviously, if the child is always in the pram and never held, then they might not bond as well, but in most circumstances it doesn't really make a difference.

Babby carriers are great, but so are prams. A mother should use whatever she feels most comfortable using, as long as it suits the child but most children that age are pretty flexible to the mothers choices.

12:01PM PDT on Mar 30, 2010

I think all this warning and safety alerts make parents nervous and teach them that even they can't trust their own common sense.

3:42AM PDT on Mar 30, 2010

LOVE CARE2

3:42AM PDT on Mar 30, 2010

LOVE CARE2

3:42AM PDT on Mar 30, 2010

LOVE CARE2

3:41AM PDT on Mar 30, 2010

LOVE CARE2

3:41AM PDT on Mar 30, 2010

LOVE CARE2

3:41AM PDT on Mar 30, 2010

LOVE CARE2

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