Ever since the recall of the Infantino SlingRider in March 2010, babywearing has come under attack as being dangerous. These bag slings are in fact dangerous and the babywearing community was relieved to see the recall of these carriers. Unfortunately, other slings and baby carriers are now being lumped together by people who do not understand the difference. You can read this article for a detailed description of what a bag sling is and what makes these particular carriers so unsafe.
Tragically, any baby carrier can result in death when used incorrectly. This includes car seats, infant swings, bouncy seats, strollers, and any device a baby can be placed in. The risk with any newborn being placed in one of these devices is that they can experience positional asphyxia. This can occur when a baby is incorrectly positioned in a "C" shape where baby's head is curled down towards their chest. This position can cause their breathing to be restricted and newborns are at risk because they do not have the strength to reposition their heads to allow them to breath properly.
Newborns that are experiencing distress breathing may sometimes make noises, especially while sleeping. This can sometimes seem cute, like little whimpers in their sleep, or even snoring. But in fact, if these noises are being made with every breath, this is a huge warning sign that your newborn is having difficulty breathing. This actually happened to my first while someone was holding him asleep in their arms. We thought it was adorable, but after it continued for over a minutes, we decided to reposition him and he stopped immediately. Looking back, I had no idea he was having difficulty breathing and that the way he was being held was causing it. Not all babies will make noise though, so don't assume you are safe if they are quiet.
So how can you make sure your newborn is safe? Here are some simple rules to follow to make sure you are wearing your baby correctly.
1. Use the Heart to Heart position with newborns, formerly known as "tummy to tummy". Baby should be positioned upright with their chest to yours and baby's head should be "kissably close"! The cradle carry can be used for nursing, but return baby to a heart to heart position when done and before baby is sleeping. I do not recommend using the cradle carry unless you are an experienced babywearer since it can be very difficult to get proper positioning using that carry.
2. Keep their airway open! Make sure baby is never curled up in a C shape. Instead, make sure that you can put two fingers between baby's chin and chest.
3. Make sure baby's face isn't covered by fabric. Older babies can and will move their head if they are having a problem re-breathing the same air, but a newborn can't do that. So make sure there is nothing covering their face.
Take a minute and watch this great video on proper newborn positioning. They are using a ring sling in the video, which is closest in design to a "bag sling", though completely different. For more information on positioning in other types of carriers, check out this detailed article with photos.
When done correctly, baby carriers are not only safe, but one of the safest places your baby can be!
Here are some great resources for more information:
Babywearing International: Is Babywearing Safe?
Lots of safety tips for babywearing.
Newborn safety in ring slings from SweetPea Ring Slings
A Facebook group dedicated to education on safe babywearing practices.
Peas On Earth: What you need to know about your newborn's airway
Wrapsody Blog: How safe are baby slings? About as safe as it gets…
An interesting article on the statistics of babywearing safety.
Article: CORRECT POSITIONING For the Safety & Comfort of your Newborn
Same article linked to earlier. Provided by The Babywearer. TBW is an amazing resource for anyone interested in babywearing.
Babywearing Safety by Sleepy Wrap