The Baby Sling Thing

Hi Readers! Perhaps you read the other day that now even baby slings are regarded as “risky” by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. This because, over the course of 20 years, there have been a reported 13 baby sling-related deaths.

It is really hard to write “death” in any story about children without sounding cavalier when adding, “Does that really mean a product is risky?” But still, that’s what I have to write. The odds are so overwhelmingly good for babies in slings — fewer than one death a year — that to label a product like this “dangerous” is to label doing almost anything on earth dangerous. In 1999, 624 people died falling off of furniture. So is sitting on furniture risky?

Another 45 people died that year from being bitten or crushed by reptiles. I’d consider that a rather uncommon way to go. But it is about 5000% more common (isn’t it? Help me out with these numbers, folks!) than dying in a sling. Even dying thanks to a venomous spider — 6 deaths in 1999 — is way more common. Here’s a death chart. See for yourself.

Then check out this nice piece by Rachel Lever in the Salt Lake City Parenting Examiner, about the sling thing. “I’m all for child safety, believe me,” she writes. “I have five of my own children and I want them to outlive me. What I worry about here is that people will go too far.”

I worry, too. In fact, I worry that we worry so much we have lost all perspective and are afraid of our own shadows. And especially our baby’s shadows. — Lenore

It's not like baby slings are a new fad.

78 Responses

  1. Does anyone know the numbers for prams? as a comparison. I mean you have to cart your baby around somehow, enless you stay home. Then of course there would be the danger of the house to deal with – like getting tangled in the curtains or whatever.

  2. Your stats are slightly off – the risk of falling off furniture are for all people. The stats for deaths from baby slings are for a small proportion of babies.

    So, (and this is for illustration only, I don’t know the population age distribution or the % of kids carried in slings) roughly:

    Say 25% of babies under 1 are carried in slings (and no babies older than 1); and babies under 1 make up 1.5% of the population; and the population is 600 million.

    That’s 13 deaths every 20 years for 2.25 million (600M*.015); equivalent to 1 death every 20 years for a population of 175,000 (2.25M/13); which is 1 death a year for every 3.5 million (175,000*20).

    For furniture deaths we have 624 deaths in a year fro 600 Million people (assuming the whole population uses furniture). That’s 1 death a year for every 1 million.

    So roughly 3.5 times more dangerous to use furniture than to use a baby sling. Still NOT dangerous. But also nowhere close to 5000% more dangerous!

  3. The odds comparison isn’t quite so simple. A person of any age can die from being bitten or crushed by a reptile (although it may be more common for young children, we don’t know) while I suspect that only children up to about the age of three die in slings. Since the size of the under-three population is much smaller then the total US population the odds may be much higher for an under-three to die by sling then reptile.

    Putting aside stats nit-picking though, sling death is still very, very rare. I would argue slings are still safe, though if there is an commonality between the sling deaths perhaps they could be modified to avoid even the very low risk of death.

  4. I looooooved my sling. Loved it. The baby (now 3) loved it. I was able to actually do things, like volunteer at my older child’s school and not be worrying about a crying baby in a stroller, or not being able to go places because it was “naptime.”

    By definition baby is three inches away- I think we are capable of monitoring them from that distance. From what I have seen, most of these “dangerous” products are dangerous because they were used improperly.

    It’s a terrible thing to lose a child, I cannot even imagine, but if we ban everything that could possibly ever do anything to anyone anytime….we may as well all go naked in caves again.

    Oh wait, there might be rocks there. someone might get hurt.

  5. I do think this can be oversold, but I also think there can be some use to this. Slings are becoming more and more popular (3 of those 13 deaths were in 2009 according to one of the articles linked above). And there are a variety of slings, not all of which are entirely like the ones that have been used for centuries.

    It seems the one I’ve seen the most about in regards to this are the “bag type” slings which I think are somewhat like this one:

    And the risk seems to be most significant for underweight and premature babies.

    I think if these warnings help parents work out what’s an appropriate sling for their baby then the warnings are good. But when it’s promoted as a “Arrgh! Don’t have anything to do with it even if you use it safely” (as it seems to be, by the media at least) then I think it does more harm than good.

    I was a bit horrified by Consumer Reports a year or two back who put baby slings on a “10 things you should not buy for expectant parents” list because there were no positive studies that they were safe. Somehow they thought that made it one of *the* 10 worst things that could possibly be bought for a parent to be. Forget the hundreds of years kids have been worn by parents throughout history. And the fact we’ve never tested the bibs our kids use, or the keys I let them chew, or the yogurt they eat. Not to mention those *%&%$ bathtub thermometers. /rant

  6. Also, all of these deaths involved one very specific style of sling, the type that looks like a little purse with gathering at the top. And yet all slings of all styles are called unsafe. I really think it’s because large corporations make money off strollers but very small companies make most of the money off slings.

  7. I would love to see what they would have made of my sling….it was essentially a long bit of cloth that I could twist into different ways to hold baby. With a knot. There was definitely a knack to it.

    Lots of slings today are more like pouches- since they got popular (never heard of them when my 12 year old was a baby). LIke the one from the link above.

  8. It is even worse – my understanding is that it is only one particular type of sling that is a problem, yet they all get tarred with the same brush. And even moreso – a different manufacturer saw the problem with their competitor’s product, and contacted them about it telling them that their design looked like it may be dangerous. Yet they ignored the warnings.

  9. Slings are tools. Any tool can be unsafe if the person using it doesn’t know how to use it properly or is careless with it.

  10. Helen and Bushidoka are correct. The warning is intended only for bag type slings, which *are* inherently unsafe.

    When you use a sling, you have to position the baby correctly to ensure that they’re able to breathe. In these bag type slings, there is no way to do that – and worse, it’s not easy to check on the baby either. (One thing I told the busybodies is that I liked slings because I *knew* my niece was breathing. My grandmother was once in the park with her screaming baby, jealous of the woman whose baby was sleeping quietly in the stroller. What she didn’t know at the time was the baby had died that day, there in the stroller, and nobody knew for hours because they thought he was asleep. A freak occurrence, of course – strollers aren’t inherently unsafe! But it did shut them up.)

  11. Slings, just like bassinets, cribs, toys, car seats, and, oh, every other consumer product, can be used correctly or incorrectly. And there can be bad models among the good ones.

    We love slings, and I’m already tired of explaining that they are not evil to strangers at the store (it only happened twice, but still…). Slings aren’t going anywhere and this craze will die down.

  12. The other infuriating thing about this warning is that you have to read 3 paragraphs down before they admit that “Many of the babies who died in slings were either a low birth weight twin, were born prematurely, or had breathing issues…”

    These babies are at risk for suffocation no matter where you put them. But they don’t put that up front. No, they start the announcement with the words “infant deaths”. To me, that’s not a warning, it’s propaganda and it’s dangerous.

    It infuriates me because my first baby is due in about 6 weeks. We have 2 carriers and no stroller. We’re not even buying a stroller until the baby gets too big to carry comfortably. So when my parents saw this headline they panicked. Of course, they didn’t see the part about the babies being at risk before they went in the sling, they just saw the sensational headlines.

  13. RE: baby sling and product safety,
    Interesting news. But surely, it is operator error, not the sling, that caused death. We cannot eliminate every product out there. We can’t legislate our every behavior. We seem to think we can outsmart life.

    If we use the right contraception – no unwanted pregnancies (my mother believes this one) we use the right baby equipment – no worries about safety. Nothing bad should happen and if it does, it is someone else’s fault. Yes, I suppose from a purely legal standpoint, if you follow manufacturer’s instructions, poof, no liability on your part. We need to step away from a purely legal and litigious standpoint and just do what is right.
    These issues clog up our legal system. Yes, the information is good for people to know, to be aware, to take some precautions.

  14. Major style points for the photo. Makes me want to go re-read some Hillerman novels. Yah ta hey! (That’s Navajo for “the casino is up the road on your left”, I think.)

  15. I wonder how many babies have been dropped by their parents while carrying them in their arms? (I know I almost dropped mine a couple of times). Probably shouldn’t allow parents to carry their kids because of the risk of dropping them…..

  16. I hate seeing the little babies toted around in those car seat buckets. Mine hated carseats. They wanted to be close to mama.

    In a carseat, how do you stay in constant touch with your baby’s needs? In the sling, I could feel them move, breathe, their hearts beat and feel completely in touch with their needs. I also never had issues with strangers poking at them (because they were well within my personal space). I could also breastfeed in public and no one could even tell.

    This goes in the same category as “cosleeping is dangerous”. If they compare cosleeping “overlying” deaths to the SIDS rate (which is how they code unexpected deaths in cribs) – cosleeping is as safe (given that drugs are not involved and proper beds and all are involved).

    Sometimes, I think as soon as the CPSC gets involved, there are lobbies to insure that cheaper solutions are vilified. Have you seen the TED talk on booster seats in cars?

  17. Calling slings dangerous based on a few incidents makes it sound like they are the equivalent of nooses.
    My mom raised nine kids and would carry a child in each arm. I imagine that if she had twins she would have had to learn how to juggle!

  18. ditto the posters who mentioned that this warning really pertains to bag slings, which actually are inherently dangerous.

    On a related note, I’ve been wondering lately how to apply free-range parenting to babies and young children. As the mom of a 9 month old I wonder how to begin to instill the concept from his earliest days. He’s a “high needs” baby who is so often attached to my body (thank you slings) and while I’m certain I’m giving him what he needs right now, I am somewhat nervous that it may transition into helicopter parenting as he grows. How can a be a free-range baby mama?

  19. I would never buy one because I saw one of my daughters friends moms with her baby in one, and the poor little thing looked all scrinched up. I’m all for baby bonding, but when walking around the mall or whatnot, what’s wrong with a stroller. The kid can then stretch out and mom can use the stroller as a bag carrier. LOL!!!

    Anyway, yes, they do go overboard with these recalls sometimes. Before this recall I always said that I would never buy one of those slings whenever I have another child. So my thinking came before all the recall hype.

  20. @mountcool2000

    My LO was/is a high needs baby, she craves that constant touch, but now that she is almost three she goes and does her thing and when she needs the touch she comes to me. Just follow her lead and you’ll be fine

  21. I’m curious about “inherently dangerous,” a phrase that at least two commenters have used here.

    Yes, the deaths seem to involve use of bag slings. But what I haven’t seen are complete numbers. How many of the deaths involved bag slings? How many bag slings are estimated to be in use? Were there other, non-fatal problems attributable to bag slings? At what rate? How do the numbers on other types of slings compare?

    And since the numbers do seem to suggest that the risks are mainly for premature and underweight babies, how does that make bag slings “inherently dangerous” across the board?

    These are serious questions; I expect my first child in three weeks, and am trying to make informed decisions. If you’re going to make statements like this, please back them up–it would really help me.

  22. Here’s the real statistical comparison. Most people who are not slinging their infants are carrying them in car seats or pushing them in strollers:

    “…according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in the three-year period from 2002 to 2004, 16 infants died in car seat carriers outside the context of motor vehicle accidents. Also for that period, nine infants died in strollers and carriages, and 11,100 children were injured in strollers and carriages in one year alone.* In comparison, the CPSC is investigating 14 possibly sling-related deaths that occurred over a period of twenty years.”


  23. @KateNonymous, please read the article I linked above, it describes the design flaw that makes bag slings dangerous.

    Note, a bag sling is NOT the same as a pouch sling or a ring sling.

    For my money, having already had two babies and with a third on the way, I loved the Moby Wrap when they’re really little: it’s very secure feeling, they are aligned vertically with their head on your chest, and the weight is distributed evenly across both your shoulders, hips and back. You might want to check them out. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but once I got it, I was SO happy with it.

  24. Thank you so much for posting this. My daughter is almost 14 months and we don’t own a stroller, nor do I ever carry her in a CAR seat. Of course my in-laws saw the headlines and mentioned it, though not as though they were terribly worried thankfully. There are all kinds of baby carriers, and they are not unsafe. In fact, they are wonderful for parents and babies.

    I’ve done some thinking on free range parenting and attachment, and sometimes I get frustrated with FR because I feel like people put down attachment. They easily work together. Attachment is about emotion, not about doing everything for your kids. You can still give them every opportunity for independence as it becomes age appropriate. So for me I allow our daughter to fall and explore on her own, but I cosleep and carry her in a sling which I feel better meets her emotional needs, which seem to be particularly high in that area.

    Anyway, the headlines over slings have been really bothering me, so I’m glad to see it being addressed intelligently.

  25. @pipu, thanks–that’s very helpful!

  26. The one thing about Moby Wraps is that, because they’re stretchy, many people find them harder to use with heavier babies.

    If you really like wrapping, switch to a woven wrap when your child gets bigger.

  27. Also, I say that only for completeness. Pipu otherwise summarized the issue very neatly.

    If you want more information on wearing your baby, you might try asking over at TheBabyWearer, where people are all very nice and knowledgeable.

  28. Amanda, what’s “wrong” with a stroller is as follows:

    1. Babies don’t mind being scrunched up. If they did mind – they’d tell you! They’re far less scrunched in a carrier than they were inside the womb, after all 🙂 To them, it’s comforting. (And of course, there are many different types of carry.)

    2. When you push a baby carriage you have fewer options. You take up more space – some places don’t allow strollers for this reason! You risk bumping into things. You have to lug your stroller up stairs or else wait for elevators. You notice every bump in the terrain.

    3. It’s nice to snuggle with your child. Very few people, years down the line, go “Darn. I wish I’d held and hugged my child less”.

    4. For some young infants – those that are ill or that are preemies – being worn can help them regulate their breathing and heart rate better. It also helps keep them away from germy people, better than a sign does, and in those cases they might actually *need* to be kept away from germs.

    5. Many people find that worn babies walk sooner because when they’re being worn they’re exercising their muscles and getting used to the feeling of walking. (This might not be a selling point!) Some people think that they talk sooner as well, because they’re up in the world seeing everything and closer to the action.

    6. They have a better view. There’s a video on YouTube, I don’t have the link to hand, comparing the view in a back carry with the view in a stroller. WHAT a difference! Given the choice, I’d rather see more than less.

    7. It really is more convenient. If you had to lug a sack of potatoes, would you rather do it in a granny cart or in a backpack?

  29. Of course, there IS nothing wrong with strollers. If you want to use them. But if you don’t, you don’t have to… and if you were used to seeing slings you wouldn’t ask that question. You ask it only because it seems different and unfamiliar to you, you know.

  30. Edit: Last comment, I promise 🙂

    Amanda, I forgot one more point. Many people find it very difficult to watch two or more young children, especially when one of the young children is an infant. They constantly have to tell the older one no while they tend to the baby, or they have to put the baby down alone (even if they’re crying and upset) while they help the older one.

    It can be very helpful to have a sling. Imagine how much easier it is to wear your baby on your back while you spot your older child on the monkey bars! In a stroller, the baby might be bored or frustrated, or suffer from a bout of separation anxiety. Or you might decide to stay with the baby because you’re too tired to hear the crying, and that upsets the older one who also wants your attention.

    Imagine being able to get on the train and hold your three year old’s hand, haul her over the big gap, because both hands are free – you’re not pushing a stroller! (And you don’t get any glares from people who think you should fold it.)

    Imagine being able to wear your baby while she falls asleep, leaving you free to read a story to the four year old, instead of having to find a quiet activity for the older one while you try to manage naptime for the baby. (And independence is great, but not so much when your kid thinks “quiet time” is “let’s go raid the fridge!” time or “I bet it’s time to see if I can play with mama again” time and UP goes the baby again.)

    There is no comparison.

  31. I got a sling with my first child, who is 22. I loved it, once I got used to it. (I don’t recall the name…maybe “over the shoulder baby holder” or something like that). It was great to shop in crowded markets since my hands were free, she felt secure and happy and was in the midst of things yet close to mommy. I also found it was wonderful to use on a toddler when I was pregnant with her sibling. She could be carried in a “hip” position, sitting up, yet my hands were free and her weight was well distributed for carrying, saving my back. I loved my sling!

  32. I have a Baby Bjorn that my 2 month old daughter is in almost all the time, because I have two older boys I need to keep up with and take care of. She is never so happy as when she is in there (except maybe when nursing!). I used one for both boys too. The other day I was approached by a woman who wanted to make sure my baby was breathing, because “those things can be dangerous.”

    I immediately thought of this site, and I just smiled and assured her my baby was fine and quite content. People really seem to be losing perspective…

  33. Olivia, if you like wearing your baby, be SURE to check out the link I posted above when she outgrows the Bjorn. There are other SSCs out there that are comfortable for bigger children 🙂

  34. Oh dear lord Uly!!!

    I have my opinions, you have yours. That big long speech that you gave me won’t change my mind on how I think. My daughter is perfectly fine have been put in a stroller. Also, I used a baby carrier, so it’s not like she was never close to me. I just liked having some space every once in a while, plus it was good for her to be off of me. The baby should also have a choice. Yes, I went there. When she was in the carrier, she would start moving around and get whiny. When I took her out of it, she was a very happy baby. She was a very independant baby and still is at the age of 5. She hates to be weighed down by me, her mother. All babies are different and all parents are different, and I think people need to have more respect for how others operate.

    Oh, and when I said using the stroller as a bag carrier at the mall, it was sarcasm. I didn’t just put my daughter in a stroller because I wanted it around for convienience.

    On another note:

    My daughter rolled over both ways by three months, was crawling and sitting up by 6. She held onto her bottle at 4 months, walked before she was a year. We allowed her from a young age to be free to move and to explore. And while she was able to hold her bottle at 4 months, she always ate in our arms. Just because I used a stroller doesn’t mean that she was there all of the time. When she was a year old and able to walk, I would have her walk with me to the park and I had her hold my hand. When she got tired, I would carry her home.

    Stepping off of my soap box and going on with my life. I’m going to go play with my daughter instead of spending my day on the computer ignoring my child.

  35. Considering the picture with the article was EXACTLY what I was thinking of… yeah. How many cultures world over have carried babies in slings? The fear-mongering has just gotten disgusting.

  36. We’re seeing a OHNOES TEH SLINGS article because slings are seeing more popularity in our culture. Which is a *good* thing. My first kid I hauled around in a stroller and that hideous, plastic, *heavy* car seat snap-in. I learned how to use a sling after my second kid and I was so much happier – and so was the babe. I hope more people use slings and find them as wonderful as I did.

  37. Amanda – You said “All babies are different and all parents are different, and I think people need to have more respect for how others operate. ” – Yeah. It would have been good if you’d acknowledged that in your first post instead of pejorative statements like “I’m all for baby bonding, but when walking around the mall or whatnot, what’s wrong with a stroller.”

    Uly simply responded to the question you posted and also followed up immediately with a post stating that despite the problems she sees with strollers she thought they were just fine for people who wanted them. Get off your high horse.

  38. Oh my goodness, what is the world coming to? People are dying?! Heaven forbid that anyone should succumb to that awful malady called death. [eye roll] All sarcasm aside, it is ridiculous that people can’t use common sense anymore. One of the commenters mentioned that their theory on those baby sling deaths was because of improper use; I’m inclined to agree. I used a sling with my daughter until she was almost 16 months old and I would have DIED having to lug my chunky monkey everywhere in my arms alone (she was 9# at birth and at two is currently 97th+ percentile for weight). She was very colicky and spent most of her time in the sling because it made her happy to be all “scrinched up”, a la in the womb. The reason babies love slings is because it makes them feel like they’re back in the womb. If they’re uncomfortable with the sling it’s probably because of two things: a) you’re not using it correctly or b) you’re not using the right kind. Ok, and maybe c) a sling just isn’t for you and/or your baby. But more often than not, I see the issue as a or b. I’m glad slings are getting more attention, I just hope that more people will start to use common sense when regarding things like this. 13 or 16 deaths in a span of 20 years is a drop in the ocean in terms of the risk factor.

  39. Holy crap! I so need to get rid of every stitch of furniture in my house. I just took the guard off my toddler’s crib to turn it into a toddler bed…maybe I should put it back on before she DIES. LOL

  40. “Babies don’t mind being scrunched up. If they did mind – they’d tell you! ”

    Mine did tell me. Which is why the sling lasted 3 months with my first and 1 day with my second. Of course, the stroller only lasted until they could walk…

  41. Using a sling (and by that I mean a real wrap or ring sling, not that baby handbag looking thing) is an art form. It’s also a lifesaver when you have an infant with a high need for physical contact. My youngest was like that and my ring sling nade it possible to lead my life and still be able to give attention to my older children. Sorry, but the options of a stroller or car seat are no good if they cause your child to scream hysterically. Also, they are so huge and bulky. Much easier to just have to carry the infant and a diaper than to lug all that stuff around. Also, I wish people would realize what a menace their huge strollers can be under certain circumstances. I do have a markedly attachment parenting bias. It seems as though modern life has made it possible to care for a baby and rarely, if ever, share physical touch. Babies go directly from crib to exersaucer to car seat to stroller to high chair and back to crib. To me, that is not a healthy way to nurture an infant. And don’t even getting my started an a four month old holding their own bottle being touted as a sign of independence.

  42. “Babies don’t mind being scrunched up. If they did mind – they’d tell you! ”

    That’s generally true. But the (very, very few) babies who did die because of this would not have been letting anyone know. The 13 deaths were from a combination of causes but the ones due to the scrunching up are the suffocation ones and that’s more like cot death.

    And dismissing these deaths as operator error seems a little unreasonable too. Because it comes across as being like saying if we can just blame the parents we don’t have to blame the product.

    Is it impossible to take a position that there might just be accidents? Unfortunate combinations of events even though all people behaved reasonably?

  43. These kind of articles drive me insane. They never differentiate or specify what they are talking about. There are many different types of slings, some safer/better than others.

    I wore my second child in a MayaWrap sling (it came with a video to learn how to use it properly). Loved it! I worked my older daughter’s book fair with my 2 month old asleep in the sling the entire time.

    People didn’t even realize I had a baby there until she woke up and stretched! She loved that thing, I think she’d still ride in it if she’d fit. When she was older she really like being able to see things from my shoulder height instead of stroller or toddler height.

  44. Amanda, Helenique already answered for me, so I’ll just ditto her, because she said what I was thinking, but much more nicely than I would’ve said it. I don’t always phrase things in the most diplomatic way, but I rarely intend to insult. (If I do, you’ll know it. I don’t DO subtle!)

    Sky, you’re right – some babies are more active or just less “wanna be held” than others. And that’s fine 🙂

    I want to point out, though, for anybody who is interested in BWing but who worries that their kid may be like this that there are many different types of carries. Some of them are less restrictive or provide better views than others. If BWing is more convenient for you (the biggest reason, IMO, for it, though others have their own views) but the baby balks (or if you’ve already invested in a nice carrier), you might try moving things around before giving up. (Note: This is not meant to malign people who give up. It’s not a moral quandry here, do what you do.)

    With one shouldered carriers you can do a cradle carry (popular with newborns, though I never got the hang of them myself), or a sideways-sitting-up carry, or a “tummy-to-tummy” carry where the baby is sitting up and facing you, or a hip carry (like carrying on the hip, but you have both hands free), or even – with a sitting baby is the general advice – a back carry! Two shouldered carriers have different options.

    I will also note that I sometimes see, when out and about, people who are wearing carriers wrongly. I’m a *major* buttinsky, and I often stop to help them. (No, nobody has ever punched me or cursed me out, and quite a few of them give me enthusiastic thank-yous and ask follow-up questions. Yes, I’m as surprised as you are by this.) The single most common problem is that they don’t have the carrier snug enough, and so both the wearer and the wearee feel insecure. But they don’t blame a lack of skill, they blame the carrier. Or all carriers. So if you have a carrier, and don’t think it worked for you, but would like to give it a second try, ask around TBW (I linked to it above) and see if you can get some pointers – you may even be able to meet up with people in your area to help you fix your sling issue, if that’s the problem.

    And if you don’t want to, well, you don’t have to. I’m not living your life 🙂 Maybe when I become dictator of the world I’ll force everybody to do things my way, because what’s the fun in being a totalitarian despot if you can’t make a few absurd rules? But in the meantime, while I think BWing is certainly more convenient and that it’s definitely a boon for many people, I don’t think it’ll make or break your parent-child relationship.

    And to be clear, when I post this, it’s not with the intent of saying “Gosh, you should do this!” That would be silly. However, I am well aware that most people in the US (where I assume most people posting here are from) are less familiar with carriers than with strollers. By talking about it, I can help expand people’s options. If they think they can’t wear a baby, that slings don’t work for them, that it’s too hard or too uncomfy (none of this has to be true) then they have fewer options than they could have. More knowledge gives us more choices.

  45. As a male observer, it seems to me that babies have been carried this way throughout history, long before commercial product of this type arrived on the scene.
    No stats on this?
    In my “other home”, it is quite common to see babies carried in slings created of rebosos, with grandmothers, mothers, aunts, and even preteen “big sisters” doing the honors. In 20 years, I have not seen or heard of a baby harmed by this customary method.

  46. with regards to free-ranged-ness in babies my sister in law has a 9 month year old and she is doing a great job with this. She has always been generous about letting people hold her kid so the baby is used to being held by lots of different people, she doesn’t get very anxious about being separated from her mom. Since my sister in law lives with her parents my neice is used to being taken care of by several adults.

    a few months ago we were all at a dinner party at another relative’s house. When the adults went to sit down and have dinner I noticed that my niece was in a different room hanging out with two cousins (they were 5 and 8) and some dogs while the adults were eating dinner. At first I wondered why my sister in law didn’t bring the baby into the dining room where she could keep an eye on her but then I figured that we could trust little cousins could keep an eye on the baby and if she started crying, we’d certainly hear it. Since the baby was perfectly happy in the other room we just let her stay there with her cousins. These are little things but in the grand scheme it’s helping my niece to trust that someone will take care of her she needs help but she is also free to explore the world without being glued to her mother.

  47. Dean – You don’t have to be an observer because you’re male. My husband is the biggest user of slings etc. in our household.

  48. One must not get carried away with comments that slings are not good. A death is a death. If any product or issue results in a death, especially a child’s, everyone has an obligation to correct the situation! This is sometimes accomplished by taking the product off the market, removing the child from a dangerous situation or giving better instructions.
    In the case of the sling, making people more aware that kids can and do die is essential. Also describing better ways to prevent this malady may help to reduce the numbers of deaths.
    Those of us in the health care field that see dangerous situations are most vocal in making comments when injury to kids is at stake. I never shy away from a kid climbing out of a cart in the store, a kid playing in an ant bed outside, riding a bike without a helmet, taking a walk in bright sun ( a major potential for sunburn), playing in a busy street, etc. This “call to action” for sling awareness is another one of those areas where those of us more knowledgeable need to help those who might put kids in harms way.
    I am pediatrician who treats many infant and children injuries.

  49. I got a MayaWrap as a gift before our second baby arrived. I tried, I watched the video, I practiced with a pillow… never got the hang of it. I wish I’d been able to- it would have been a lit easier than carrying the car seat, though neither of my babies ever seemed to mind traveling that way, either. If we’d had any money to spare I’d have tried out another type of sling, for sure.

    I passed my sling on to a friend, and I’m hoping she has more luck with it. Even if she doesn’t, at least she’ll know that before spending money on something. I imagine she’ll get ALL the questions, though, when she eventually stats using it- she just had her baby 6 weeks early.

  50. Doc B – I know it’s very natural to want to do something when there is a death. But I think there is often a degree of blindness to the unintended consequences of some of these messages.

    For instance: Sunburn is bad. Kids falling off their bikes and hitting their heads hard is bad. But sedentary lives are also bad – potentially much worse than sunburn and falling. These messages – that we should avoid the sun, that we need to take more and more precautions when doing things – all add to the pressure to just stay indoors and not get moving. Overall do these messages *as they are related to the public* actually benefit the population? Because I think they often don’t.

    It does seem that health professionals are some of the worst for looking at one single problem and forgetting that the solutions they suggest affect much more than the one thing they are focused on.

  51. Check out and their radio premiere about how babywearing is safe. Monday March 22 at 11:30 am PST. You can listen at

    I’m sure it will be a great program. Free range parenting and really go together for me. Thanks for this site!

  52. Please tell me we are not going to have a sling mom vs stroller mom war, a la breast vs bottle.

  53. I think I’m glad my kids were born before the sling age. I’m not sure I could have handled something that is an “art form” or requires a “knack” every time I wanted to take one of them out. I am definitely knack- and art-limited!!

  54. Even better picture

    Millions of African women can’t be wrong


  55. Our sling rocked my world. I don’t think I would have gotten anything done without it. My eldest came to me at 6 months via adoption. His Guatemalan foster mom carried him in a sling all the time. He was the most content little thing in the world in the sling. I could vacuum, cook, and practically paint the house with him in the sling. I figure if the Guatemalans can till fields and such with babies in tow, I can figure it out too.

  56. …and that is why I use an Ergo. ;P

  57. For those who asked for information on why bag slings are more dangerous than other types of slings and carriers, here’s an interesting blog:

    This lady (a nurse) did oxygen saturation tests on babies being carried in bag slings back in 2006 because she suspected the slings forced them into positions that were naturally more likely to cause harm (chin-to-chest, face smooshed into mom, material covering face, etc). Her tests confirmed her suspicions, and she’s been trying to get the manufacturer to take the bag slings off the market (or at least drastically change their design) for years with no success. So in this case, it’s not all about user error. With this particular sling, even the babies who were placed in the sling following the manufacturer’s directions had lower oxygen saturation than they did when placed properly in a pouch sling.

    I’m also an avid babywearer. Some may call it an “art form”, and if you’re a fan of woven wraps, it really can be at times (I haven’t gotten the hang of them, myself!). But I’ve found that ring slings, pouches, mei tais, soft structured carriers, and stretchy wraps are all easy to use and have a very small learning curve. Since both my babies so far have HATED the carseat, the stroller, and all flat surfaces, the only way I’ve gotten through infancy has been with liberal use of my various carriers, and, when I need a break, the swing (which was the only way either of my girls napped if they weren’t being held).

    I am now the mother of two VERY independent girls, ages 7 and 2.5 (so no, wearing a baby does not make them clingy and dependent, regardless of what my MIL says, LOL!), and I am currently pregnant with girl #3. I plan to wear her, as well, even if she is more laid back than the other two. Part of that is to make sure she doesn’t get completely ignored in the hustle and bustle of a busy household (and to make sure I get plenty of newborn snuggles!), and part of it is to protect her from her 2.5-year-old big sister, who will certainly want to “share” inappropriate toys and foods with her 🙂

  58. I can understand how parents can be tempted by the “easy” pouch wraps. I got a wrap – I forget the exact type – as a shower gift. Oh. My. GOD. I hated that thing. I could never master getting it on me even without the baby in it, even with my husband’s help – I’m not plus size at all but we ran out of fabric before we could secure it every time. Art form? Arcane bit of magic, it felt like!

    To be honest I was wary of it anyway as it seemed like he’d fall out easily or it would squish him. I’ve since been convinced otherwise by research, but I won’t use one again, ever, purely because I hate the idea of money spent on yet another thing that can’t be used. And the one I got, I could not use. It literally reduced me to tears on one of the attempts (not that that was ALL that hard with my hormones that close after birth).

    We got an Infantino Front2Back instead (which is NOT the one that people are raising an issue about above; for young infants it creates a tummy-to-tummy carry). It worked much better for us. I got a lot of messages from people who love slings about how it’s “more convenient” and “more comfortable” to use something without “all those buckles” and that is true for some people, I imagine. For me, it was “possible” to use something with “all those buckles” – I could actually get me and the baby both in the carrier, which I couldn’t manage with the alternatives.

    So – I’m glad the (safe styles of) slings work for so many people. I imagine they’d work for me if I had the fortitude to keep battling with them, but the carrier we’ve got works quite well for us too, and it took very little time to get it sorted out for our needs. (On the other hand, I’ve heard from people who tried it that it isn’t great for small infants. Given my son was over 11 pounds when born, that is one scenario I didn’t face. Newborn, yes, but not small.)

  59. Thanks, Shannon. That link is really informative. I find actual information that I can read and evaluate much more helpful than strings of adjectives. I have never disputed that bag slings may be across the board more risky–in fact, what I’ve been asking for is information that shows that. Thanks to the links you and others have provided, I feel like I’m better able to make an informed choice.

    And isn’t that what Free Range is largely about?

  60. i co-slept with all of my children, and the rubbish you find about that is amazing…oh no, we will roll on the babies and kill them! do what you feel is right. that is the only reply to ANY child related guff.

  61. […] The Consumer Product Safety Commission considers them a hazardous product [Lenore Skenazy, Free-Range Kids] […]

  62. Lets say you sell 50,000 baby slings per year and there is one death per year. This works out to a chance of death being .000002. This is greater than your chance of being struck by lightning.

    Of the number of infant deaths from slings, there are verified 10% being of the mother’s error (incorrect usage). This brings the risk down to .0000002

    Why are we panicking about this??

  63. sonya, wrote “Probably shouldn’t allow parents to carry their kids because of the risk of dropping them…..”

    After my daughter was born, the hospital wouldn’t let anyone walk while holding her; if she needed to be moved, she had to be put in a crib on wheels. I understand that after a difficult C-section it probably would have been a bad idea for me to walk and carry her, they stopped my husband from walking with her in his arms.

    Another thing about slings, in the urban neighborhood where we lived when my daughter was an infant most stores didn’t allow strollers. The aisles were not large enough to accommodate them so if I shopped in any of these stores I needed to have her in a sling.

  64. sonya, wrote “Probably shouldn’t allow parents to carry their kids because of the risk of dropping them…..”

    After my daughter was born, the hospital wouldn’t let anyone walk while holding her; if she needed to be moved, she had to be put in a crib on wheels. I understand that after a difficult C-section it probably would have been a bad idea for me to walk and carry her, but they stopped my husband from walking with her in his arms.

    Another thing about slings, in the urban neighborhood where we lived when my daughter was an infant most stores didn’t allow strollers. The aisles were not large enough to accommodate them so if I shopped in any of these stores I needed to have her in a sling.

  65. I love my baby sling, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend using one to anyone. Gives your arms, and therefore your life, back. I did just post about a sling though, having worried that I should have helped a mother with a newborn whose head and neck seemed unsupported. But risky? Maybe babies should never leave the womb in the first place.

  66. […] The Baby Sling Thing Hi Readers! Perhaps you read the other day that now even baby slings are regarded as “risky” by the […] […]

  67. I would have been lost without my sling. I have two kids, 18 months apart, and only one fully functional hand. My kids both loved the sling(ring type), I could put it on myself, unlike any other baby carrier, and have my one free hand available to hold my son’s hand as we crossed streets. It was a life saver. The kids are now both teenagers. the sling was passed on to another mom.
    I made my own sling, and several more for baby gifts, before they were readily availblee in stores.

  68. The confounding data is infuriating, not mentioning that the deaths were of already at risk children is akin to a flat-out lie, I think. It’s the same for data involving cosleeping, they include data of drunken parents and who then accidentally fall asleep on the couch with their babies. Instead of teasing out conscious, conscientious deliberate co-sleeping.

    I think it is important to look and see what is done in traditional cultures, and to support individual parents decisions, when they are being made deliberately after careful consideration, and understand that we all have to find different solutions for our families.

    We carried our babies in one of those Dr. Sears slings, and the babies never fell out. I practiced in front of a mirror for almost an hour before I felt comfortable with any given position, but it was a wonderful tool for our family. We never used a stroller, and yes, our babies were incredibly content and social. And it made it much easier to ride the bus (just a sling and a backpack), and go shopping, etc.

  69. CR is advising against a particular type of sling, not all slings/bjorns. I love CR because they tell me not to buy products I don’t need. The only reason to buy a carrier is because a parents wants one. It’s not a necessity like a car seat.
    Low weight/preemies seem to be particularly in danger of dying in a sling. There is a New Age parenting movement (“attachment”) that insists that a mother, especially mother of a preemie must, must, must “wear” her baby, which is BS. Dr. Sears sells $150 “bonding devices”… er… slings.
    To me the main problem with slings is maternal pain/discomfort. The sling design in question is supposed to address pain/discomfort in mother.
    It’s true that women in many societies (not mine, though) put babies in carriers. It doesn’t mean that it’s safe. Traditional societies have high infant mortality rates. Most of it is b/c of lack of proper hygiene and medications, but there are accidents too.

  70. All slings are not created equal, here’s a good link:

    Those awful duffel designs weren’t even around when my babies were young, they look unsafe, and uncomfortable.

    And for those safer slings, there are many options, and thanks to many friends who handed us down every conceivable option when my kids were babies, we tried all of them. And my babies hated most of them, except for the wraps. The baby bjorn and back pack variety, etc, worked for their babies just fine, mine hated them. But they loved the wrapped slings. You’d think every baby and mom and dad was built differently or something?

  71. […] Lenore Skenazy from Free Range Kids perfectly sums up my feelings on the whole ZOMG SLINGS ARE DANGEROUS!!! thing: “Perhaps you read the other day that now even baby slings are regarded as “risky” by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. This because, over the course of 20 years, there have been a reported 13 baby sling-related deaths. […]

  72. The bag slings just look wicked uncomfortable for both mom and baby. I use a wrap for my babies when they’re young (and it wasn’t an art form, just needed to learn how to use it, took ten minutes.) When they got bigger I used an Ergo. I currently wear 2 ergos, one on back with my 1 year old and one on the front with my 5 month old. I pull the 2 year old in the wagon and the 5 and 8 year old walk. 😎

  73. attachment parenting gives me hives, and I think the hempy vibe over at Mothering is just thiiiis side of completely unhinged, but even so, it’s a little unreasonable to describe slings as dangerous across-the-board.

  74. I completely agree, they are only making a fuss about it because it’s to do with babies. Baby slings are safe when used correctly, which is why parents must always read the instruction manual that comes with the product.

  75. Slings are tools. Any tool can be unsafe if the person using it doesn’t know how to use it properly or is careless with it.

  76. our toodler beds are made of synthetic material fabric that is very smooth to touch *

  77. Fantastic post and I had thought of this before

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