Tied Up in Baby Sling Regulations

Readers — Here’s a piece from Tasha Batsford, “a working mama of three small children,” who writes about her parenting journey at www.maybediaries.com. dttarfzket
She lives in New Zealand.

The Downfall of The Baby Sling by Natasha Batsford 

For millennia, women the world over have been taking the fabric at their disposal and using it to tie their babies to their backs. While the practice largely died out in the 20th century, it has recently seen a revival and there are now a large number of businesses, from international organisations to work-at-home moms, creating their own interpretations of the traditional baby sling.

Can mindless bureaucracy be far behind?

In 2010, the CSPC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) forced a major recall of a “bag” sling after it was held liable in the death of an infant, and made a move to extend this recall to all baby carriers. Enter stage right the BCIA (Baby Carrier Industry Alliance), created by the sling manufacturers to be a regulatory and advocacy body within the baby carrier industry.

For five years, BCIA and CSPC have been working on turning the current voluntary safety standards into compulsory legislation.

When the upcoming regulations were opened to public consultation, some weavers voiced their opposition. Their view was that it doesn’t matter how much you tested the fabric, what makes carrying safe is education, and that if used incorrectly, any carrier can pose an inherent danger to an infant.

This is not something the CSPC had considered, and naturally it’s is not something that they can legislate on, and so, spooked by potential deaths they might unleash on the American public, the CSPC is now considering banning the sale of all ring slings, pouches and wraps.

So what is the motivation here?

If the aim is the safety of children, then I’m sorry CSPC, you’ve got it wrong.

Banning people from selling a length of woven fabric is going to achieve as much as banning the sale of plates to protect people from the risk of heart disease.

Let’s remember, there is already a voluntary code in place which has proven effective in protecting consumers, and there are already well researched guidelines on how to keep a baby safe while in a carrier.

The new legislation is being heralded as the champion we need to keep babies safe from the dangers of unscrupulous profiteers. I say it’s just another case of swapping laws for common sense. – NB 

Lenore here:  I think it’s possible that some newfangled slings that aren’t just a piece of fabric are designed badly, and am not against somehow keeping those off the market. But I do agree with Tasha that there is something wrong with the basic assumptions that 1) An ancient product is inherently defective, even though thousands of years of history would suggest otherwise. And 2) If only it were regulated, no one would ever get hurt again. (See my musings about this at “Some Non-Mainstream Thoughts on the Crib Recall”)

Anyway, having never used a sling, I asked her to explain them a little more to me and here’s what she sent:

This is a ring sling http://www.slingbabies.co.nz/Site/Ring_Slings.ashx – high tech, isn’t it? 😉
 
 
And this is a pouch sling – http://www.slingbabies.co.nz/Site/Pouches.ashx
Slinging regulations around.

Is the sling shot? 

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35 Responses to Tied Up in Baby Sling Regulations

  1. Tamara October 5, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    I actually believe the sling may have saved my life, or my first child’s. She was colicky from day 10 and we drove ourselves literally insane for the next six weeks trying everything to calm her down. Burned out the vacuum (white noise) bounced and bounced trying to get her comfortable, she hated swings, driving in the car, laying down, standing up! Then I heard about slings. I got one the next day and my life changed. She slept in it, ate in it hung out in it and pretty much stayed in it till she was 18 months old. And she didn’t cry! Most of the time anyway. For the first very short while I was afraid that she would smother – she seemed so small in the big pouch of fabric I thought maybe she couldn’t breathe but I just kept checking on her and after a few more weeks, as she grew and could move herself around, she was obviously just fine. And once they are a bit bigger the front facing position is awesome for checking out the world. I’m an advocate.

  2. DirtyHooker October 5, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    We used a Moby Wrap. It’s just a long piece of fabric that you wrap around yourself and the baby. I have no idea how you would ban a long piece of fabric. I see how the Moby Wrap could be dangerous, but only because there’s a learning curve in figuring out how to use it, and it can be tough to learn when you’re not sleeping. But there’s nothing wrong with the fabric itself.

  3. caiti October 5, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    Banning slings will just force mothers to use a large piece of fabric as they have for millennia. Unless of course this ban turns in to a law prohibiting women from carrying babies with anything other their arms. Then CPS can essentially kidnap more children from mothers guilty of carrying their babies.. I know I’m going off on a tangent but there are just so many false assumptions with the argument to ban long swaths of fabric… I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a conversation with these people who overlook the basic fact that the incredible evolution of our species would not be possible if mothers didn’t have the necessary instincts to keep their babies safe.

  4. Emily Morris October 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    I use a Baby K’tan. I love it.

    Sure, if you don’t put them on correctly they can be dangerous. Just like if I stand on top of a big wheel and roll down a hill into a train, a big wheel could be dangerous.

    I agree, if a wrap is badly designed, get it off the market. Safety important. But let’s actually look at unsafe things.

  5. Emily Morris October 5, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    And have you seen the instructions and safety checks these things come with?

  6. JaneW October 5, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    Caiti: The evolution argument is a bit weak. Keep in mind that, just a few generations ago, about a third of young children died. Nowadays, it’s under 1% except in the poorest countries. Infanticide happened fairly commonly. Just because something was commonly done in the “old days,” that doesn’t necessarily mean it is always safe.

    Now, it is possible for a baby sling to be unsafe, but, as Batsford notes, the major issue is user error. Especially with a newborn, you have to pay attention to where the baby’s face is, and make sure that the face doesn’t get trapped against either your body or the sling itself. And the best time to educate parents on sling use is BEFORE the child arrives. (Of course, if the sling contains a fastener, parents should be able to trust that it’s made well enough to not fall apart during use.)

  7. Red October 5, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    As others have said: banning slings isn’t going to stop moms from using slings.

    On one of the worse days of crying my infant son had, I made a sling out of a twin sheet simply because I couldn’t hold him anymore but didn’t want to leave him crying in a playpen or crib. It worked.

  8. Jessica October 5, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    And of course when banning the sale of slings doesn’t stop people from making/using them it will simply become a criminal offense to use a sling or wrap at all, but don’t worry, it’s for the children.

  9. Liz October 5, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    The sling that was banned *was* dangerous, even if you used it correctly. I bought one from a major retailer, used it twice, realized my son would never be safe in it and returned it the next day.

    After that I bought 2 ring slings of different sizes and fabric weights of fabric and was gifted a Moby. I loved them all, especially the Moby: that’s the best thing *ever* if you have a baby with reflux. It allowed me to feed him and keep him comfortable while also allowing me to eat and maintain an adult conversation. He loved it because he was warm, comfortable and snuggled right next to me. (Bonus was a reduction in reflux-created laundry.)

  10. catherine October 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    How many people at the CSPC are involved in trying to ban this? Holy cow, talk about a waste of resources.

    I received a Maya wrap as a gift for my third child… it is perhaps the best gift I ever received and I regret not having it for the first two children. Just like Tamara’s baby, my #3 was fussy and the only thing that calmed him was being in the sling. Not only that, but I could carry on a lot of regular activities while baby-wearing.

  11. Heather October 5, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    We used and loved slings, even though that death was not long after we had E and completely freaked out my mother. As a result of our experience, all my nephews and my niece have been carried in slings, for different reasons. One was colicky, one had to be carried down lots of stairs to the car, another was extremely clingy. We are the only ones who didn’t even get a pram at first, but we are also the only ones who don’t drive and live by a train station that didn’t have lifts to all platforms.

    It makes no sense to try a ban a length of fabric, when you can fashion a sling out of a scarf or a towel or a sheet. If the authorities must do *something*, they should make rules about writing the instructions clearly. Most manufacturers already have videos showing how to put a child into their slings. Those are much more help than written instructions.

    H

  12. Michelle October 5, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    All six of my biological children have been carried in one kind of sling or another. Some are easier to learn than others, some are more or less ideal than others (without actually being dangerous), but I think most mothers can find a way to wear their baby comfortably and safely, and I trust them to figure it out (including seeking instruction if necessary).

  13. Elin October 5, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

    Bad slings or carriers should definitely be banned and as we are talking about tiny infants many times I am OK with strict rules but just forbidding all of them is plain wrong when it is mainly about using it correctly. I carried my daughter in a ring sling, a Manduca carrier and a woven and a stretchy wrap at different times in her life and I still carry her sometimes at two years of age. Without carrying I would have been a very unhappy parent, the first 4 months she did not say in the pram for many minutes without crying her head off so a carrier was gold.

  14. bmommyx2 October 5, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    I remember those “bag” type slings & the recall well. My son was an infant then. I agree with everything said in the article above. The problem with CPSC is that they go way overboard in their attempts to protect. My other issue with them is that when they do act it’s so long after the fact that it doesn’t prevent injuries anyways. I am sure that as slings & baby carries have become more popular there have been some unscrupulous companies or individuals taking advantage & selling inferior or dangerous products. I do agree that education is so important but most mom’s don’t know they need this info or how to get it. Where I live there are lots of baby wearing groups of mom’s helping mom’s for free. Some of them do sell baby-wearing products but will help even if you don’t buy anything. An example of how useless the CPSC can be. I still have the stroller I got for my oldest in 2006. There was a recall about three years ago in 2011 because of one baby that died & two that were injured in 2005 & 2006. How is that efficient & how many of those are still in use? If you read the details of what happened it’s more likely a baby that was too young to be in the stroller set up the way it was combined with an inattentive parent. They also had a recall for any stroller of a similar style. When I called the manufacturer they told me they were only recently made aware of the problem. Sometime parents just have to use common sense. If something doesn’t look safe don’t buy it or use it.

  15. Jenny Islander October 5, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    This is an example of a good idea being ridden off the cliff of Zero Tolerance. Pouch slings aren’t a good idea. They’re cute, but they were designed by people who apparently had no contact with people who carried their babies and just went from “Cross-body bags are for carrying large objects” and “If it’s cozy, it’s good.” They are not safe for small, foldy babies.

    This does not mean that other types of slings are bad. This does not mean that banning all slings will protect anybody.

    The “weavers” who were afraid of something bad happening if their cloth was used for baby carrying were being stupidly paranoid and should never have started this ball rolling.

  16. Jenny Islander October 5, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    I retract my previous statement. Apparently the weavers were pointing out that fabric testing misses the point and education is the key (well, duh) and the CPSC somehow went from there to NO BABY SLINGS EVER OMG. So it’s the CPSC that needs to chill out and get some life experience.

  17. BL October 5, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    @bmommyx2
    “If something doesn’t look safe don’t buy it or use it.”

    One of the problems with all these regulations is that they lead some people to assume that everything must be completely safe or it would be banned. Or would have some safety feature to prevent it from being used in an unsafe manner.

    To actually do that you’d have to ban literally everything.

  18. LauraL October 5, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    Today marks the first day of International Babywearing Week. Go figure.

  19. Peter October 5, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

    what makes carrying safe is education, and that if used incorrectly, any carrier can pose an inherent danger to an infant.

    Sort of reminds me of the car makers talking about how if people just drove more safely, we wouldn’t have these accidents and–gosh–we shouldn’t have to add seat belts or anything like that.

  20. Virginia October 5, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

    FWIW, my favorite sling was the New Native Baby Carrier, still available:

    http://www.newnativeinc.com/

    It’s a non-adjustable “pouch” type sling — you have to get the right size for your body (which simply requires one measurement with a tape measure). It’s lightweight and extremely well designed, so that it fits comfortably and the baby is visible yet very secure inside. I hadn’t heard about the recall, since my kids were long past slinging age by 2010. But it seems pretty obvious that carrying a baby in even a reasonably safe sling is safer for long periods than carrying the baby in your arms (which was actually forbidden in the hospital where my son was born). Are they going to try to outlaw that next?

  21. Mandy October 5, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    There’s definitely a learning curve for proper use of baby wraps and slings, but there are plenty of resources to get help. I use both with my 4-month-old after using an ergo carrier with my son. Once you figure it out, it’s much safer than just holding a wiggly baby in arms. My cousin at 9 months old jumped over his dad’s shoulder and cracked his skull (healed fine), which would not have happened had he been in a wrap or sling.

    Any item can be dangerous if used improperly. Ban beds next, because I could fall out and break my neck?

  22. J.T. Wenting October 5, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

    The problem isn’t that they’re trying to keep children safe, that’s laudable.
    The problem is that they, like all government agencies, MUST create ever more draconian laws and regulations for themselves to control and police in order to justify to themselves (mostly) their own existence.

    Such things have very little to do with what the law is about, and everything about the fact that we’re dealing with government bureaucracies whose sole purpose is the control and enforcement of regulations.
    Thus if there’s a voluntary code of conduct, an industry body that makes its own standards, that is a direct threat to the government agency’s reason for existing, and HAS to be cut off by turning that voluntary program into a government enforced law or regulation.

    The only possible solution is to do away with that government agency, or at the very least take away all its ability to create and enforce laws and turn it into a purely advisory body (which would quickly show its uselessness more likely than not).

  23. Havva October 6, 2014 at 12:47 am #

    I think trying to ban wraps would make the practice more dangerous. At this point the public is well aware of wraps and carriers. Loads of moms and dads know how to wrap. There are instructions all over the internet, and parents like me and my husband able to teach. The info is so wiggly available that I seriously considered just getting a length of fabric rather than buying a wrap. But I was gifted with two Moby Wraps. I was a little taken aback by the repeated notes of “or your baby could die” in the Moby Wrap instructions. But, they got me trained and I did the checks religiously, and sometimes the check showed an adjustment was in order. Had I not gotten the Moby wrap, I would have bought a length of fabric, and not been so clear on the safety checks.

    I also considered a structured carrier until I realized they were only for babies who could hold up their own heads. I liked that the head support available from wrapping made it good for newborns. Even when my daughter could hold her head up I loved it, as her head could be free when alert, and a quick tuck secured her head when she got sleepy.

  24. Eliza October 6, 2014 at 3:21 am #

    Yay! Free-ranging baby-wearers unite! 🙂

  25. Flurry October 6, 2014 at 7:06 am #

    Okay yay, but are you really going to tell me, and all the other mothers out there, that it’s UNSAFE to hold my baby in my arms? Come on.

  26. Cindy October 6, 2014 at 7:53 am #

    All four of my kids survived baby slings. I even wore two at a time with the twins. It was the only way to get things done with young children. ( I had 4 under 4 at one time). I started wearing them at the beginning of this current baby -wearing phase so not a lot of support but so much easier than lugging car seats around. I only went to strollers with the twins when they were 20lbs and I was trying to carry 40lbs( one in front sling, one in back pack)

  27. Havva October 6, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    So I did a little more research on this.

    There is no proposed ban.

    As of 2010 CPSC’s was quite supportive of baby wearing. Then along came:
    “Danny Keysar Child Product Safety Notification Act, Section 104 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA)” which required them to turn industry standards for durable infant or to into law and to go beyond those if they thought they could reduce injuries further (regardless of the existing safety record).

    So here is the info on current proposed regulations associated with “soft infant carriers” and “Sling Carriers.”

    http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Regulations-Laws–Standards/Federal-Register-Notices/2013/Safety-Standard-for-Soft-Infant-and-Toddler-Carriers-Proposed-Rule/

    http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Regulations-Laws–Standards/Rulemaking/Final-and-Proposed-Rules/Sling-Carriers/

    Note the comments period for the soft infant carriers proposed rules closed last year. For the Sling Carriers, where no change form commercial standards is currently proposed, there is an open public comment session running.

  28. Warren October 6, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Peter,

    You are really going to baby slings to seatbelts? With a baby sling, it is the user that has complete care and control, thus making education the thing.

    Car crashes are not within user care and control, as they are often the fault of others.

    Not even close.

  29. fred schueler October 6, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    One of our favourite stories, from around 1980, was once when a women approached my wife and said how lucky young mothers were to have these baby carrier devices which they’d never had in previous decades – and our daughter was just sitting on her mother’s purse

  30. caveat October 6, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    Sort of reminds me of the car makers talking about how if people just drove more safely, we wouldn’t have these accidents and–gosh–we shouldn’t have to add seat belts or anything like that.

    Lousy comparison – Automobile deaths (40,OOO per year US, yr. 2000) were and are a problem that requires a range of fixes including design (seatbelts and crashworthiness, etc.), better driver training, stricter drunk driving laws, etc. Sling deaths on the other hand are down there with killer rabbit attacks as a cause of mortality.

    Plus as Warren points out safe use of slings is totally under the parents control while the safest driver is still at risk from other crazy/incompetent drivers

  31. Tsu Dho Nimh October 6, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    I saw one nasty baby sling injury … the front-mounted baby would have been fine except the mom was skiing and fell.

    You can’t legislate common sense, but the lift operators were asked to refuse to board anyone with a baby in a carrier.

    ========

    The problem with the bag slings, like the SlingRider, are that if the baby curls up they can’t breathe properly. Traditional slings like the rebozo, hold the baby’s body straight and head erect.

  32. Zoe October 7, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

    I think we should ban the most dangerous baby carrier of them all – the automobile – as motor vehicles are the leading cause of death among children. (I’m being sarcastic, of course, but I’m just taking the “ban it unless it’s 100% safe” argument to its logical conclusion.) Of course, there could be great side-benefits: instead of making sleep-deprived new parents venture out on the roads and exposing newborns to various illnesses that their immune systems aren’t ready for, doctors/nurses would have to make home visits (as they do in other countries) and could see if the home environment is a healthy one and that the new parents are coping well. WHO actually recommends it around the world, and some studies have shown mothers are more likely to breastfeed and more confident about their parenting skills than those seen at physicians’ offices (American Journal of Nursing, Feb. 2012).

  33. Papilio October 8, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    Skiing?!! She took a risk like that just to have some fun??

    Over here the big baby sling question is whether it’s safe to ride a (city!) bicycle with a baby in a sling… (General opinion of both moms and safety organisations: no. Which doesn’t mean noone does it.)

  34. Theodora October 10, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    First, I’m wondering why a blogger who lives in New Zealand cares about US regulations. Second, I’d like to point out that her characterization of the BCIA is inaccurate. The BCIA is a trade association, NOT a regulatory body. They do not write legally binding policy-the CPSC does that. Any work they do “with” the CPSC is with the intent of minimizing regulation, which protects the manufacturers they represent.
    https://wrapsodybaby.com/guide-to-cpsia/

  35. pentamom October 18, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    “Sort of reminds me of the car makers talking about how if people just drove more safely, we wouldn’t have these accidents and–gosh–we shouldn’t have to add seat belts or anything like that.”

    No, it’s more like the CPSC is insisting that cars should be so safe that no one would ever get hurt even if driver testing and licensing were abolished.

    Making things safe so that they don’t hurt people when properly used is reasonable. Insisting that something be so safe that people don’t have to learn how to use it properly is not.