Saturday, March 13, 2010

Are Baby Carriers Bad?!!!

My heart aches for the parents of baby Derrick Fowler, who obviously thought that their 1 week old would be safe and sound as they carried him in his sling.

And, they are not alone. There have been other baby deaths involving sling-type carriers. Which I find shocking, but not unimaginable... just horrible.

"On March 12, 2010, CPSC issued a warning about sling carriers for babies. Slings can pose two different types of suffocation hazards to babies. In the first few months of life, babies cannot control their heads because of weak neck muscles. The sling's fabric can press against an infant's nose and mouth, blocking the baby's breathing and rapidly suffocating a baby within a minute or two. Additionally, where a sling keeps the infant in a curled position bending the chin toward the chest, the airways can be restricted, limiting the oxygen supply. The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate." - Baby Zone Newsletter
And yet, and yet... 'babywearing' has been one of the great joys of my life. And I will continue to wear my baby and to advocate wearing your baby(!) but with this very particular caution:

Wear your baby as you would carry your baby in your arms. Her head near your head. You wouldn't naturally hold a newborn down by your waist, you would hold a newborn close, against your chest. So a carrier designed to do that is the first kind you will want to use.

The picture above is the Infantino Sling Rider, the sling the Fowler's were using. Notice how far away
 the baby's head is from the mother's head. Baby is down, below her ribcage. She can't hear him breathing. She can hear if he cries, she can feel him squirm, but if his breathing is labored, or if he is turning blue, she is too far away to know. With a newborn, till he is about 2 months old, this is crucial. Even though this company shows a young baby in their sling, I would wait till the baby is at least 2 months old before wearing the baby as shown.
This next picture is of a mother using the Ergo Baby Carrier:

Here the baby's head is much closer to the mother's head, so she can more accurately hear and see her baby to assess comfort and observe and correct her baby's posture, etc. Notice baby is nestled on the mother's ribcage, at the top of her breasts. Much better.

But this still does not exactly mimic how a mother actually carries her baby in arms. In arms, a baby is nestled way up, at the mother's shoulder, near the mother's head, where the mother gets to do all the head sniffing and kissing and nuzzling that we mothers seem to crave. I suspect these 'animalistic' behaviors are a way to monitor baby's temperature and overall well-being minute by minute.

Here is a picture of me with my second baby Aurora in our Moby Wrap:

The Moby, the Storchenwiege and other Mei-tai style carriers can be tied so baby is held higher than my breasts, all snuggled against me. I could nuzzle her head wth my nose as I folded laundry and could feel when she awoke and was ready to nurse. I felt very connected to her.
And her 'big' 16-month old brother could give her hugs that I could safely monitor! :)

I have 10 different types of baby slings and carriers, which my husband finds excessive, (but having had 5 babies, that's only 2 per babyhood, right?).I have been trying to find 'The Perfect' baby carrier since I became a mother.
And having had so many babies and different baby carriers, I've earned the (rather dubious) honor of being known in our neighborhood as the 'Baby Carrier Queen', and also as the 'Mom who Nurses in Public'. Which means I have had the actual honor of having helped my friends and neighbors to do these things too.

With each carrier, there are definite pluses and minuses, and though I have really tried to find The Perfect Carrier, I now believe there simply cannot be one baby carrier that will suit all babies, through all stages newborn through toddler. So you will need a few. Sorry.

For a newborn, you want that baby held high, right by your head. The baby will gradually become able to support their own head, and look around, but keep that little baby facing in, toward your body. (For why, read this.) It's better for their pelvis and spine anyhow.

As a new mother, I tried to use slings with my first two babies, and each baby just did not seem comfortable... they were way too scrunched up, too snuffly sounding, and I was quite disapointed that my purchase was 'wasted'. However, once my babies were bigger, the slings proved to be quite nice. Especially when hip carrying toddlers!
So, are baby carriers inherently bad?!!! No. But, they are not 'perfectly perfect' either.

Here are my favorites in order of baby's development:

For Newborn through the first 3 months:
For a 3 -5 month old:
  • Baby Bjorn: Stop using it. Your back will thank me.
  • Ergo: Tuck a folded blanket under baby's bottom for support in the Ergo, keep arms and legs tucked in for now.
  • Eden: (I have the purple velveteen one - it's stretchy and comfy!) Tie the knot underneath baby's bottom for support, keeping arms and legs tucked in.
  • Kozy: tie the knot underneath baby's bottom for support, keeping arms and legs tucked in.
  • Moby: still great, though with an older, heavier baby, you will need to re-tie it as the material stretches out
  • Storchenwiege: lovely as ever, but a bit tricky. If you can master these, you too can be known as a Queen of the Baby Carriers!
  • New Native Sling offers firm support
  • Peanut Shell Sling for a bit of stretch with lycra
For a 6- 12 month old:Congratulations! You can now use just about any carrier out there as baby can now support his/her own head and you can untuck those little legs and even graduate to wearing that baby on your back!

My all time favorite, most comfortable, most convenient and most versatile baby carrier? The Ergo. Love it love it love it.


  1. So sad...Thanks for all the great advice :) I know the sling I loved wasn't 'great' but I sure kept those little ones at 'lips reach' and treasured every minute of it...I am heartbroken for the family and their loss...

  2. You can buy a baby carrier that will support an protect your child just like he is in you arms.

  3. What many people forget, aside from newborn babies needing the obvious head support, is that newborn babies need upper body support before they can sit own their own for proper spine development. Not many carriers offer this support. Only one I know on the market is Weego. (the former Snugli) It's inner pouch holds up the baby by supporting under babies' arms whilst keeping the healthy C shape spine. Have you tried this carrier? Perhaps for your 6th child ;-)


About Me

My photo
Mamazakka is Mommy blogger Autumn Sousanis; also-known-as Autumn Dunbar; and also-known-as "Mama" to six little ones, ages 9, 7.5, 5, 3.5 2 and a 3 month old! :) Busy,yes. A graduate of C.C.S. (Center for Creative Studies, School of Art and Design in Detroit) with my bachelor's degree in Fine Arts, I have finally found my calling as 'Mamazakka', maker of everything and anything that might improve your home, life and outlook. :) It's my goal to create things that truly meet Wikipedia's definition for 'zakka'; (here's an excerpt)..."cute, corny, kitschy is not enough. To qualify, a product must be attractive, sensitive and laden with subtext." Oh yeah! You betcha! Well, that's my goal, anyhow! I'm also known as an over-user of exclamation marks(!) and parentheses (can't help it) though I do try to keep my smileys to a minimum :)