In Defense of Slings
I am seven months pregnant with my first baby. I have read every word you’ve every written about pregnancy on your blog and Zero to Forty (I skipped ahead! I cheated! I know!) and the Advice Smackdown. I love how you make scary parenting things seem easy and approachable and have already talked my mom into giving us the gift of a cloth diaper service early on (then we’ll do our own later, once we get the hang of it all) and have filled my registry with Miracle Blanket and baby food cookbooks.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the sling recalls and the babies who suffocated while in the slings. OMG, so awful. Everybody who views my registry certainly has, and I’ve had a couple people comment that I should “take those things off” because I “certainly can’t use them now.”
So…should I? The slings I’d like to try have not been recalled, though one of them is the “pouch style” (similar to the ones you used) (hi, stalkerish!). I’ve registered for an Ergo as well but really liked the idea of using those pretty fabric slings too, especially when the baby is little. I still see plenty of moms using slings but wonder if the comments will continue and I’ll have to defend myself out in public when I’m newly postpartum and already emotional regarding all my many failings.
If you were having another baby (which I think you totally should btw, because your boys are just too cute), would you use a sling again?
Wannabe Earth Mama
Yes. I would use my slings again. In a heartbeat.
Here’s where I sound a little obnoxious: a few people recommended the Infantino slings to me along the way, usually because they were so affordable. (Compared to the $100+ price of some of the fancier, more complicated ones.) My sister-in-law even offered me one for free because she’d received it and never used it. And I swear, I took one look at that thing and said “No. Way.”
It just…LOOKED dangerous. The pouch is so deep and tailored and padded and gathered — it looked more like a purse than a sling. And far, far too big for a newborn. If you Google Image Search it now, you can easily find user photos where the padded and elasticized edges are CLEARLY closing up right over the baby’s face. It was a horribly designed sling, and I wanted nothing to do with it.
I’m NOT saying that mothers who used SlingRiders should have thought the same thing — seriously, this is entirely the fault of the manufacturer, even if user error was involved. (And I have no idea if there was, but 100% support the recall regardless.)
It really, really does suck that all slings are getting unfairly painted with a broad brush now. (I’m sure that infamous Consumer Reports blogger is crowing with glee.) It sucks that now we have to add babywearing to the Long List of Things People Will Judge You About.
The Baby Wearer has some great links front and center on the site now in response to the recall and safety concerns, including the design distinctions I mentioned: The Infantino was more than a “pouch.” It was a BAG. A baby duffle, essentially. A properly designed sling is shallow, with no elastic or excess gathered fabric. There is no “flat base” to the bottom, just fabric that conforms to your baby’s shape and keeps him firmly in place with no risk of rolling. He rides up high on your chest, in a diagonal or vertical position — NEVER in a horizontal line around your waist. And most importantly — you can ALWAYS easily see his face. Even if he looks a little fetal-position smushed, you can SEE him, and nothing (fabric, elastic, your own boobs) obscures that view or his nose and mouth.
Every carrier I personally tried (New Native, Rockin’ Baby Sling, Ergo) met these safety criteria, so I would absolutely use them again. The only exception was the Hotsling, but only because I bought the wrong size. It was too big and Ezra hung too low on my torso. Which brings me to a hugely important point: EDUCATION. Watch the DVDs, check out YouTube, ask for a demonstration at the stores. There are even babywearing support groups across the country that will help you choose your preferred sling style and teach you how to use it.
I publicly praise slings a lot simply because of the convenience and hands-free aspect of them. I could carry Ezra around and nurse him…while fixing myself a sandwich or writing a blog post! Brilliant! But another thing that a really well-designed sling will give you is an INCREDIBLE sense of connection to your baby. And that’s something I really don’t think those over-padded and over-structured baby duffels provided, thus leading to a nightmarish scenario where a baby suffocated while his mother had no idea there was a problem. When Ezra was in our favorite sling (the Rockin’ Baby), the thin fabric allowed me to feel his little warm body and every movement. His head sat up on near my chest and heart, and even though I used the sling for hands-free activities, my hand still cradled his shape or stroked his face and body inside the sling every chance it got. It was not a utilitarian piece of baby transporting equipment, it was a really wonderful bonding tool, and a place where I could truly keep him close and safe and loved.