March 15, 2010

Doula-ing Offers Sling Safety Tips

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently issued a safety warning about sling carriers. As an avid babywearer I was very interested in learning about the concerns surrounding slings. The CPSC did not issue a warning about a particular sling, but cautions about potential suffocation hazards due to improper positioning of the baby in the slings. The CPSC goes on to express concerns about premature twins and babies of low birth weight.

Babywearing offers many benefits for parents and for babies. Whether its soothing a fussy baby, offering close physical contact for a premature infant, or allowing mom and dad a free hand to cook dinner, proper babywearing can be an invaluable tool for many parents.

I personally, have enjoyed wearing my all three of my children and have found it an absolute necessity with my twins. The New Native sling has been my "must have" baby item since they were a few months old. One of the things I love about the New Native sling is that they give very detailed safety instructions and also tell you what to look out for if baby is not positioned properly. They also offer an "infant support pillow" for newborns to help ensure proper positioning.

Proper positioning is extremely important while wearing the baby in any sort of sling. Here are a few tips on how to ensure proper usage of a sling.

1. Make sure your baby can breathe. Baby carriers allow parents to be hands-free to do other things … but you must always remain active in caring for your child. No baby carrier can ensure that your baby always has an open airway; that’s your job.

a. Never allow a baby to be carried, held, or placed in such a way that his chin is curled against his chest. This rule applies to babies being held in arms, in baby carriers, in infant car seats, or in any other kind of seat or situation. This position can restrict the baby’s ability to breathe. Newborns lack the muscle control to open their airways. They need good back support in carriers so that they don’t slump into the chin-to-chest position.

b. Never allow a baby’s head and face to be covered with fabric. Covering a baby’s head and face can cause her to “rebreathe” the same air, which is a dangerous situation. Also, covering her head and face keeps you from being able to check on her. Always make sure your baby has plenty of airflow. Check on her frequently.

2. Never jog, run, jump on a trampoline, or do any other activity that subjects your baby to similar shaking or bouncing motion. “This motion can do damage to the baby’s neck, spine and/or brain,” explains the American Chiropractic Association.

3. Never use a baby carrier when riding in a car. Soft baby carriers provide none of the protection that car seats provide.

4. Use only carriers that are appropriate for your baby’s age and weight. For example, frame backpacks can be useful for hiking with older babies and toddlers but aren’t appropriate for babies who can’t sit unassisted for extended periods. Front packs usually have a weight range of 8 to 20 pounds; smaller babies may slip out of the carrier, and larger babies will almost certainly cause back discomfort for the person using the carrier.

Also, there are many other babywearing options. I have used both a Moby Wrap and an Ergo Baby Carrier, but there are lots to choose from.

If you live in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area please checkout Triangle Babywearers. You can try out a variety of carriers and also get great tips on proper babywearing techniques.

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