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

By Amalah

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’t pose safety risks and that are not as easy to use incorrectly as many currently on the market. We’ll 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.

Photo credit of Hotslings

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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 Ama...

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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