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Consumer Reports’ Controversial Opinions on Slings & Co-Sleepers. We Disagree.

May08

by

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Photo courtesy of Hotslings
Okay, so before I type another word, two things:
1) I’m talking about this blog post from Consumer Reports today. So if you haven’t read it yet, you should. (And the follow-up post.)
2) I’m sick with — no exaggeration — my FOUR FRILLIONTH cold/cough/misery thing since October and am cranky and annoyed and this will probably be more sputtery than it should be.
So…Consumer Reports, that trusted source of independent, unbiased safety information, published a blog entry called “Five Products Not To Buy For Your Baby.” Ooohh, awesome topic! Unfortunately…it really wasn’t five specific products, but five very broad CATEGORIES of baby products. And they included: bedside co-sleeping devices, baby bath seats, sleep positioners, crib bumper pads, and slings. Two of those categories (co-sleeping & slings) are the holy grails of the Attachment Parenting (AP) movement, and if you remember what happened when poor Motrin cluelessly released an ad about moms using slings because they’re “trendy” or something, you can probably imagine the outcry in CR’s comments.
Which led CR to write a follow-up defending their initial piece…sort of. Using the John McCain “health of the mother” airquotes of derision, they mentioned that OH, APPARENTLY some wackaloon proponents of “bed sharing” and “baby wearing” had ISSUES or something, blah blah co-sleeping kills a bazillion babies blah cakes. Put babies in cribs! That’s an order!
(The next blog post after this one, ironically? Was for a crib recall.)
Look, I do not subscribe wholeheartedly to ANY “one” way of parenting. Except for, perhaps, “good enough parenting.” I do not believe the human race is as fragile as teensy snowflakes made up of millions of easily-shattered lightbulbs. I despise when words like “child abuse” get thrown around cavalierly to describe anything that YOU don’t practice. I own slings AND strollers, I’ve co-slept AND sleep-trained, breastfed AND bottlefed. Basically done the best I could using the best information I had at the time — filtered through my own personal mother’s instinct.
And I think CR really missed the mark with these posts. The “best information” is not here.
First, their reasoning for including certain products is inconsistent. Co-sleepers are included because of the design flaw in one particular recalled model. It was recalled after two babies died. That’s terrible…but what about all the crib recalls, including the ones posted on the very same blog? What about all the brands and models of bedside sleepers that…you know…HAVEN’T been recalled or responsible for any deaths or injuries?
On the other hand, slings and bath seats are included because of user error. (Bath seats provide a sense of “false reassurance” to parents that it is safe to turn their back on the baby or leave them unattended in the tub — so I guess we should just recall anything that requires parents to read instructions?) And yet CR recommends parents opt for the Baby Bjorn front carrier — which has been recalled TWICE and is often criticized because of the strain it puts on a baby’s hips and spine. If we’re following the logic posed by the co-sleeper category, the Bjorn should most certainly NOT be recommended.
The Ergo, a more structured carrier that still keeps your baby in a traditional baby-wearing position, is never mentioned, though in the follow-up post CR states: It may be possible to make sling carriers that don‚Äôt pose safety risks and that are not as easy to use incorrectly as many currently on the market. We‚Äôll reserve our judgment until an adequate safety standard can be developed for these products. Dude, if this is you “reserving judgment,” I’ll…uh…I’ll eat my Hotsling.
And on that note, the author does not appear to be particularly familiar with the products he or she is bashing. Don’t buy slings. Slings are bad. Babies fall out of slings. What kind of sling? Pouch? Ring? Mei tei? Wrap? Did the babies fall out in a cradle hold position? Hip carry? I got the sense that the author’s eyes would have glazed over in confusion when peppered with these questions. Does the author know there are free support groups nationwide for mothers who want to learn how to use a sling correctly? They bring up a recall by Infantino (hardly a top-of-the-line sling to begin with) as support for their claim, but once again I want to smack my head in frustration because what category of baby products HASN’T recalled particular models or styles? Cribs, strollers, car seats, high chairs, toys…honestly. I’m just not following their logic as to what makes THESE particular recalls worse and worth blacklisting the entire category.
Which brings me to my last point: not only does CR just flat-out come across as biased, but also not especially well-informed. There’s no first-hand independent safety testing going on here, just a cherry-picking of other reports and statistics that fall in line with what the author clearly believed BEFORE he or she started sourcing this article. Cribs are safer, slings are weird, parents are too dumb to read instructions.
The follow-up post simply DRIPS with bias, from the opening “baby wearing” quotes to the not-exactly-what-you-were-talking-about-before attack on actual “bed-sharing”…with just a passing “And we don‚Äôt think that co-sleeping products make the practice much safer” tacked on at the end.
Well, why not? How is a securely anchored bedside co-sleeper all that different from a crib or bassinet? What about all the studies that strongly recommend room-sharing for the first three months? Why not at least address the fact that some babies who die in adult beds die because of other factors, like alcohol, drugs, smoking, obesity, or basic co-sleeping precautions being ignored? What about babies who just plain die of SIDS in plain ol’ cribs? What about the dozens of stories from parents in the comments that testify that co-sleeping actually saved their child’s life, be it from seizures or rolling over or illness or (in my case) a swaddled baby getting loose because his mother stupidly wrapped him too loose and TRIED to leave him in his crib before bringing him back to bed, only to be woken up by nothing but SHEER INSTINCT in time to remove the blanket from his face?
Well, I guess we’re just crazy and making it all up, and our babies don’t count, since they fail to support the initial pro-crib thesis. And maybe the next “do not buy” list should include swaddling blankets! Babies can cover their faces if you don’t swaddle correctly! Leave your fresh-from-the-womb newborn in a stark barren crib in a room far away from you, unswaddled, and see how well it goes. Good luck when you crash the car a few weeks later from sleep deprivation, but at least you’ll know that Consumer Reports approves of your parenting choices!
(Whew. Okay. Sorry. Time to reign this in.)
Look, we ALL WANT TO KEEP OUR CHILDREN SAFE. We really do. We’re all really doing the best we can — particularly those of us who are reading safety blogs at Consumer Reports. It’s almost impossible to know the right answers. (I remember removing Noah’s crib bumpers the very day I read that they were dangerous — and that very night he got his foot stuck in the slats and I was truly terrified that I broke his poor swollen ankle when I had to force it back through.) I think we deserve better, more balanced, more thoroughly researched information than what this pageview-courting article provides.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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29 Responses to “Consumer Reports’ Controversial Opinions on Slings & Co-Sleepers. We Disagree.”

  1. Jenn May 08 at 10:42 am Reply Reply

    Sigh… my husband and I really want to start a website called “Evidence-based parenting” that examines studies on all sides of an issue and discuss the flaws of each kind of study. In part to figure out what parenting choices are “quantifiably better” than others, and in part to make sure there’s some place that documents just how complicated all these issues are.
    I really expected better from CR, I have to say–I really like their usual methodology. But you’re right that this is just cherry-picking from random studies to support a specific viewpoint (I know because I’ve had to do it for writing jobs!).

  2. Moxie May 08 at 11:21 am Reply Reply

    Great smackdown, Amalah. I have to say I’m not really surprised, though, that CR reviewed them so poorly. I tend to think their reviews in general look at points that aren’t the most important ones for a given product. Kind of like the college rankings in US News & World Report. Lots of surface, but no in-depth, real-world testing.
    @Jenn, someone did start an evidence-based parenting site a few years ago. I have no idea what happened to it. I think it was waaaay too much work for people who had no funding.

  3. Kelly May 08 at 11:25 am Reply Reply

    I’m typing this with my 2-month old strapped to my chest with my beloved Moby wrap. It’s been a lifesaver on days like this when lil girl wants to be held all day and I need to get things done. I can see how many of the products CR mentioned could be harmful if used incorrectly – bot so could almost any baby product. My stroller has a dozen warnings on the assembly sheet – if you don’t assemble this correctly your baby will die – type of warnings. But we’re still using the stroller. If CR recommended we not buy anything that might endanger my baby then she’d be naked on the floor all day.

  4. Isabel Kallman
    Isabel Kallman @AlphaMom May 08 at 11:44 am Reply Reply

    What’s crazy is the increasing danger of “drop-side cribs” (like my use of quotes? heh.) Yet, that did not make the list of the 5 products NOT to buy, though Toys ‘R Us stores are phasing them out. (though in fairness, in another article, CR writes “for now, we think there are better and safer design alternatives and our first recommendation is for cribs with stationary sides.”)
    Read more by our friends at Parent Dish:
    http://bit.ly/Maxhd

  5. Alex May 08 at 12:25 pm Reply Reply

    Suggestion for defrosting: We don’t have a microwave, so when my brother and sister in law come with frozen baby food they just stick the bag under hot water from the tap. One time I was boiling frozen corn and we just stuck the bag in there for a bit. It’s fast and easy!

  6. schoolofmom May 08 at 12:29 pm Reply Reply

    Word, Amalah. I think CR should look into getting a blogger who’s less biased. Sure, co-sleeping can be really dangerous if you co-sleep with a bucket full of water next to your bed without any bedrails (actual story from a recent anti-cosleeping study)! Then again, crib sleeping can be really dangerous if you put the crib next to blinds with long cords you don’t bother to trim. People who ignore basic safety precautions shouldn’t count against a particular point of view.

  7. Elizabeth May 08 at 12:46 pm Reply Reply

    AWESOME.

  8. eva May 08 at 12:46 pm Reply Reply

    Consumer Reports kind of sucks ass on a lot of levels. They hate VWs and Jeeps but my husband and I have loved both. They are all about being uber-risk-averse, and about the best bargain, but not always about the most practical, and they leave the “I just LOVE my VW because it’s cute and fun to drive & don’t carer how expensive parts are” factor out of it.
    Without the Ergo, Cuddlywrap (like a Moby wrap), Baby Bjorn, and pouch sling I don’t know how I would have gotten through Megan’s first year. We still use the Ergo and she’s 16 months old!
    Also, we have a drop side crib and it was fine, well built and really not a safety hazard at all. So far…

  9. Becky May 08 at 1:03 pm Reply Reply

    I’m not even a parent and I have to agree — since when did we start labeling products as “unsafe” just because some people don’t know how to use them correctly. If we’re going to use that line of reasoning — then EVERY product out there is unsafe — b/c chances are there’s some idiot that won’t take the time to read the directions, assemble it correctly or provide proper supervision while it’s being used.
    That would be like saying strollers are all unsafe, b/c sometimes kids fall out of them, or sometimes they roll down steps. Cribs must also be unsafe because sometimes kids fall out of those too.
    This is a pretty poor report from CR — doesn’t seem to be in line with their usual rankings.

  10. Kari Weber May 08 at 2:20 pm Reply Reply

    While in the hospital recently, giving birth to our second boy, my husband and I were laughing very hard over the warnings on some products… For example: My Boppy pillow has a label that says, “take caution when using near an open flame or lit cigarette” Because I routinely nurse my baby while simultaneously dropping hot ash on their face… Or the label on the Maternity Grade Sanitary Napkins the hospital provides you with, “Place adhesive side AWAY from skin.” You have to laugh because you know that the only reason these products have labels like this is because SOMEONE tried it! Some poor lady stuck her lady parts together, and some poor Boppy Pillow using person lit themselves on fire because they mistook the ergo-shaped pillow as an ashtray to rest their ciggy on! Please. If you ever need a good laugh read warning labels! The same people that write them, are probably the same people that use the hairdryer in the bathtub!
    — Owner of a Sleepywrap, and a proud part-time co-sleeper!

  11. paranoid May 08 at 2:48 pm Reply Reply

    I agree that the CR blog posts are incredibly biased and bordering on snide. But I suspect that her problem isn’t so much with attachment parenting, but rather with the idea that there are some baby products that are not subject to uniform safety standards or regulations. Particularly with respect to co-sleepers and slings, this seems to be her main complaint. She mentions the lack of regulation at least three or four times in the two articles.
    When I was practicing law, I met a fair number of people who thought as the CR blogger seems to — that unregulated products should be viewed as unsafe until proven otherwise, and that if we just keep writing new and better standards/regs/laws, we can legislate out any chance of harm to our children. I think it’s their way of creating order in a universe where kids sometimes die, no matter how careful the parents are. It’s not the most rational viewpoint, given how many recalls there are of regulated products, but it at least provides the illusion of safety and control.

  12. Amber May 08 at 3:16 pm Reply Reply

    My baby is snuggled up in a ring sling on my front as I write this. I can’t think of many safer places for him to be. If he weren’t in the sling, I would likely be holding him. I bet more babies fall out of someone’s arms than fall out of ring slings, but we’re not panicking about carrying our children.
    Because not carrying your baby for fear of possible injury would be silly. As would not bathing your baby for fear of drowning. I think our babies are much safer than pretty much any other babies have ever been in the history of the world. Now let’s just all use our own best judgment and stop scaring parents needlessly.

  13. momalom May 08 at 3:16 pm Reply Reply

    Thanks for breaking this down. I expected more from CR. I own and/or have used several different kinds of baby carriers for all three of my kids. And, over they years, they have slept in two different cosleepers and in a crib and in bed with me. As with every parenting decision, using common sense and looking out for your child’s well-being should guide a parent’s every move.

  14. momranscreaming May 08 at 3:36 pm Reply Reply

    Consumer Reports should really be investigated. I’ve ended up with some very crappy products listening to their recommendations. As a co-sleeping baby wearing mom, I’ll have to say that they don’t pay much attention to who gets these assignments and how much research is done. I do not subscribe to them any more and would never suggest anyone else did.

  15. kgirl May 08 at 4:04 pm Reply Reply

    RIGHT ON. (and yes, I’m shouting.)

  16. Kate May 08 at 4:44 pm Reply Reply

    I am a brand new mom of a not yet three week old, and can I just tell you how scary it is? Everywhere I turn I’m being told how I’m going to completely screw up/kill/damage my child. So basically if I listened to all this crap (like the 11 million baby books with completely opposite opinions, CR reports, etc) I would be paralyzed and not able to effectively parent my child at all. So thanks Amalah for the call out on this crap.
    Amen to just paying attention to your own baby and making as reasonable a decision as possible. And everyone else should just shut the F#@$ up about telling people how to raise their child.

  17. Mary Lynn May 08 at 5:13 pm Reply Reply

    Excellent response to CR’s article. I’m surprised that they would do such shoddy work. I’m normally a big fan of their work, but you are absolutely right to point out the inconsistencies in their arguments. Why ban entire product types for problems with only specific brands.
    Like you, I don’t parent according to any particular philosophy. My kids slept in cribs as soon as I could get them to, but that’s just because I couldn’t sleep a wink with them beside me. If co-sleeping works for others, that’s all good, too. On the other hand, I adored my Heart-2-Heart sling and used it all the time with both my kids. Lent the sling to one of my best friends and she just couldn’t get used to using it–she preferred just holding her baby in her arms. Different things work for different people–it doesn’t make one style of parenting wrong.
    What a boring world this would be if we all did everything exactly the same–parenting included!

  18. Bobbie May 08 at 6:00 pm Reply Reply

    Nicely said!!
    I for one have LOVE my Arms Reach Co-sleeper and my Ella Roo ring sling. Before purchasing either products I did my research and spared no expense cause I wanted the best, safest products on the market. Both have been a life saver in my journey to be the best parent I can be.
    That being said, it is very unprofessional for anyone, let alone consumer reports to but out such a half a**ed report about “The Five Products Not To By For Your Baby.” When used correctly and made correctly all of these products are safe.

  19. Ellen Luckett Baker
    Ellen May 08 at 7:15 pm Reply Reply

    You know, the first thing wrong here is the title “Five products not to buy for your baby”. Our culture is consumed by fear and feeds on hysteria.
    Both my babies slept in the bed with us. It’s a personal choice. No advice can take the place of common sense and good parenting.

  20. Laurel aka TheSlingLady May 08 at 7:16 pm Reply Reply

    What an awesome post! You said so many of the things I believe, but even better than I said them in my own post. Go girl!
    I also ran across another comment that I thought was interesting. CR is always into the “best value” and yet the recommendation for using front packs is hardly anything but a best value, considering you can only use them for the first year (TOPS) whereas other carriers can be used for years. Sigh.

  21. desiree fawn May 08 at 7:28 pm Reply Reply

    Great post! That CR report makes me cringe every time I think of it.

  22. lgbroussard May 08 at 11:00 pm Reply Reply

    1) HOW are you supposed to put a baby down in a crib with stationary sides? I am 5’0″. I tried once. I dropped the baby. And since the mattress has to be hard as stone and no soft blankets are allowed, it HURT her.
    2) Right on. Big ditto to all of this.

  23. Theora May 09 at 1:47 pm Reply Reply

    Babies and really don’t need most of the products marketed to them. The products that are marketed should be researched really well, and should come with good documentation.
    When my grown up son was a baby, he hated the front-fastening baby carrier, and I had no idea how to rig a sling. We loved co-sleeping, and when he got too squirmy, we put the Moses cradle next to the bed.
    Babies are paradoxically sturdier than we think, and incredibly fragile. What worked best for us was to take the time to really pay attention.
    Amalah, this was an excellent post. Thanks.

  24. Reiza May 10 at 12:06 am Reply Reply

    THANK YOU. I hadn’t heard about this until I read your entry. Your commentary on this is right on.

  25. class factotum May 12 at 8:32 pm Reply Reply

    I apologize if someone has already mentioned it, but I haven’t read the other comments because well, I want to watch a movie I have to return to the library tomorrow.
    Anyhow. There have been three co-sleeping deaths in Milwaukee in the past few months. Oh no! People can’t afford cribs!
    No. That’s not quite it. The local talk-show host has started calling them, “Drunken crushing couch deaths.” They all involved alcohol. With brand-new mothers. Who had gone out drinking. And left their infants at home. Asleep on the couch. And then came home and fell asleep. Drunk. On their kids. On the couch.
    Not a co-sleeping problem, as the paper keeps reporting it. But stupid drunken mother problems.

  26. Naomi Winebrenner May 12 at 10:28 pm Reply Reply

    Great post! You seem to be able to say things I’m thinking, except in a more ass-kicking way.
    I’d really like to know about that sling study. “X babies fell out of slings” means nothing by itself. It needs a comparison. I’d like to know how many babies get dropped out of parents’ arms. My gigantic, squirmy baby (OH MY GOSH MOST CURIOUS BABY EVER) is almost impossible to carry sometimes. If I didn’t have a sling, she’d probably have had brain damage by now. She’s hit her head on door frames, tables, walls, chairs, absolutely anything and everything imaginable, all while I was carrying her in my arms. I’m not strong enough to completely contain her when she launches herself at some coveted object. In a sling, she’s never, ever been hurt.

  27. Mich May 13 at 1:16 pm Reply Reply

    If you could only see the standing ovation happening here!
    Hope ya don’t mind a lil “YAHOO!” from one of those “AP nuts”!

  28. BabyBjorn May 15 at 5:10 pm Reply Reply

    We want to assure parents that BabyBjorn Baby Carriers properly position a child’s hips and spine. To read what Dr. Amanda Weiss Kelly and Dr. Allison Gilmore of Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital (a top 5 children’s hospital according to US News & World Report) have to say about how BabyBjorn Baby Carriers position children, go to: http://www.babybjorn.com/en/American/Questions-Answers/What-medical-experts-have-to-say/-om-BABYBJORN-barselar2/Expert-Opinion-Dr-Amanda-Weiss-Kelly-and-Dr-Allison-Gilmore-USA/

  29. Michelle May 20 at 3:37 am Reply Reply

    Becky asked “since when did we start labeling products as “unsafe” just because some people don’t know how to use them correctly.”
    It started with baby walkers. More children are killed and injured each year playing baseball than they are using a walker (average walker deaths per year-one) but we don’t ban baseball.
    The fact is, we opened pandora’s box when we started blaming the product for the lack of foresight from some parents by not properly blocking off stairs etc.
    I’m a lot like Amalah, a little bit crunchy, a little bit not and I’ve done different things at different times with both of my children-13 and 2 1/2 and there is really no one perfect way to do anything.
    But at some point, we have to take responsibility for ourselves and quit trying to find blame elsewhere.

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