Babywearing safety has been brought into the spotlight with the publication of the non-inquest findings of the Queensland Deputy Coroner regarding the tragic death of a Brisbane baby last March. The investigation determined that the baby tragically died of asphyxiation while in a baby sling. It is therefore timely to raise awareness of the importance of babywearing safety and sling education.
Babes in Arms, an award-winning distribution company specialising in baby slings and carriers across Australia and New Zealand, is committed to ensuring that parents and caregivers are well informed about babywearing safety so that all caregivers are able to confidently enjoy the benefits of babywearing.
“I offer my deepest condolences to the Brisbane family who lost their baby, such a loss would be unimaginably painful,” says Anita Lincolne-Lomax, director of Babes in Arms, “I would like to take the opportunity to remind parents and caregivers of important tips for monitoring babies while being carried or held in any other baby hardware, such as a baby swing, car capsule, or pram.”
Babes in Arms is a business member of the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA), an international body formed to increase awareness of the value of quality baby carriers and to propagate standards across the industry. It also promotes educational outreach and participates in research and help businesses comply with standards.
Babywearing International advises caregivers follow these positioning guidelines when carrying young infants in wearable carriers to ensure safety:
- Ensure the baby’s back and torso are well supported: Make sure the baby is not curled up such that his chin is pressed to his chest or his airway is otherwise compressed. Ensuring that you can put two fingers vertically between the baby’s chin and chest is a good guide.
- Carry babies how they would be held in-arms: Well-designed front baby carriers hold babies snugly against the chest and near caregiver’s face.
- Monitor the baby at all times. Make sure nothing obstructs the face or impedes breathing.
- Be aware of movements and surroundings. In general, don’t do something while wearing a child that shouldn’t be done while simply holding them. Avoid heat sources, bumping and jarring motions, and other hazardous situations.
The Deputy State Coroner also confirmed that sling asphyxia is rare and babywearing has benefits, “there are also many benefits for parent and child in their use if done safely.”
Lincolne-Lomax adds, “Baby carriers and slings are the world’s most ancient parenting tools and are incredibly helpful when used safely. Using a sling incorrectly is like using an infant car seat without proper installation, infant positioning, and restraints. Although the incident rate with slings and carriers is very low in comparison with prams, car seats or walkers, always choose a brand that offers clear and thorough instructions to safe guard your family. As with any baby product, safe practice is paramount.”
Babes in Arms created the following Babywearing Safety checklist poster to educate both retailers and end consumers regarding the importance of safety.
There are currently no Australian Standards that apply to baby slings or carriers. The ACCC is however currently discussing the development of either voluntary or mandatory standards for this product category.
“Together with other industry leaders and the babywearing community, we are in the process of creating an Australian Chapter of the BCIA to form a body of key stakeholders to work in partnership with the ACCC to develop much needed standards”, states Lincolne-Lomax.
At the end of the day, as a mother of four, I want to know that we are doing all we can to keep babies safe while parents enjoy the benefits and freedom that babywearing offers.
The BCIA’s Position Paper on Babywearing states, ‘Babies under the age of four months, with their immature respiratory systems and lack of muscle strength and control, are especially vulnerable to death and injury. This susceptibility is magnified when they are left unattended. Keeping babies close and under direct supervision, such as when they are carried in a sling-style carrier, is the best way to ensure their well being.’
In well-designed products, babywearing is not only safe, but is very beneficial when practiced safely. Studies have shown that quality baby slings and carriers have been shown to save lives, improve health, decrease crying, increase IQ, and facilitate breastfeeding and bonding.
While Australian standards are being developed, Babes in Arms in the meantime only imports products which comply with stringent U.S and European standards and from manufacturers who have load tested all products and have adequate product liability insurance in place.