Saturday, January 26, 2008

Potential Danger of 'Bag Slings'

by M’Liss Stelzer
Former Registered Nurse,
now babywearing educator and mother of two

"With the majority of fabric carriers it takes only a few minor adjustments to get baby safely and comfortably positioned however, it appears that ‘bag slings’ (like the Infantino SlingRider, Lamaze Close Comfort, etc.) have several significant design flaws that could place an infant at risk of respiratory distress or oxygen deprivation.

First, the design of these bag slings causes baby to curl chin to chest, larger babies more so because their heads are positioned further up in the carrier. This position kinks baby’s airway causing the baby to work harder to breathe.

For more information on the importance of maintaining an infant's head and neck in an aligned position see the articles:
Baby car seat ‘cot death’ concerns

Simple Car Seat Insert to Prevent Upper Airway Narrowing
PEDIATRICS Vol. 112 No. 4 October 2003, pp. 907-913

Second, bag slings are roughly triangle shaped; flat bottom and two sides that slant upwards toward the elastic top. This “triangle” means that the pouch fabric is always angled very close to the sides of baby’s face. If baby rotates even slightly he ends up with his nose within a ¼” of the side, or even pressed against the side of the pouch. Once baby has his head pressed against the side of the carrier and/or against the parent's body there is a risk of him becoming oxygen deprived or even suffocating.

Third, it is difficult for the parent to closely monitor their infant unless he/she pulls open the top of the sling. Bag slings are generally deep, plus they sag when baby is placed in it, further increasing the depth of the carrier. The gathered top, and the fact that the sling hangs so low, obstructs the parent’s view of baby. If a newborn were to have difficulty breathing, and/or rotate until his nose and mouth was pressed against the side of the carrier, the parent may not be aware of the baby’s respiratory distress for some time. Compounding this problem is the difficulty of feeling the baby's distress through the thick fabric of the sling.

Fourth, although one bag sling is designed with large mesh panels placed near the infant’s head, others are not. There is a possibility that, with only a very small opening at the top of a non-mesh sling, an infant may not receive adequate amounts of fresh air. There is also the concern that carbon dioxide levels could rise the longer the infant remains in the sling.

For more information on the dangers of re-breathing see this article:
“About Carbon Dioxide Poisoning and SIDS”

Compare bag slings with a shallow fabric pouch or adjustable open-tailed sling (or mei tai or wrap). In these types of carriers an infant is easily monitored and visualized. Also, a newborn's head is effectively sandwiched between the sides of these carriers, preventing the infant from easily rotating his/her head into the sides of the carrier."

Please, please seriously consider before you purchase a 'bag sling'. The last I saw, these slings are promoted as "NEW!" and "MUST BUY!" in our Malaysian market.

Read more on the different tests being done on these slings. These are definitely worth a read especially if you are planning to buy a 'bag sling' (more so if you already own one)


Montessorimum said...

Thanks for sharing this info. I think my friend bought one of these kind of sling wafter seeing me using my pouch and ring sling. She thought it's similar. I'm going to forward this to her.

Jess said...

Hi Montessorimum, I'm just glad that someone is reading it ;)

Rayhana said...

Hi there jess,

Just the other day at Jusco (Gosh, I seem to be going to Jusco a lot huh? :P) I saw this lady who was about to pay for this bag sling thing, brand - hmm, if I am not mistaken I think it was My Dear (one of the local brands). I gathered up my courage and spoke to her about it (as I had read about it just that morning on TBW!). She was not very accepting.. had this "What are you trying to tell me" look..
But I told her I was concerned for her child, and that I had just read about these bag slings and that they are not safe and about oxygen saturation and all that. Then I told her I use a sling she asked to see it.
Then her reason for wanting to buy the sling bag is that she is only going to carry her son for a short while from the condo to the car, and she has other kids she needs to hold on to. I told her.. well, if you are insistent, then please check your child often..
I think (I hope!) that at the end of the day, she didn't purchase it!

Her son who was in the pram was looking at me ever so innocently and I was really worried for him!

Typical Chinese mindset sometimes - think that carrying baby too much will spoil them etc etc.. she was so repulsed at the idea when I told her the sling can take up to 40lbs! And she quickly retorted saying, Oh no I am not going to carry my son THAT long.

Ok lah

Jess said...

Hey, Rayhana... know what you mean... not sure if it is 'typical Chinese' or 'typical Malaysians'.. I got that, too.

Really hope she did not buy that sling. Good thing though (if she bought it)... she mentioned she'll only be using for very short periods of time... Let's hope that these bag slings get off the shelf soon.

Rayhana said...

I apologise if I seem to have made a racist comment but it was not my intention. Just speaking from experience!

As far as I can see, most Malays carry their babies. They are the ones usually purchasing baby carriers.
Also for Indians. I think even strollers are also something not usual with them.
However, the Chinese I dunno why! I've ever so often gotten smirks, and comments (from the vegetable man to family members) about how I shouldn't carry DS so much ever since he was born.

But I think it's beginning to change now, which is good. As we get more information we see that what was norm isn't necessarily correct.
Odd thing is the mei tai originated from China!

Jess said...

Hi Rayhana, I think I know what you mean now... yes... Chinese tend to focus on 'independence' at a very early age...

Anonymous said...

My baby died from SIDS in a sling (front carrier, airway NOT obstructed) only 10 minutes after getting him in. Although SIDS cannot be prevented, risks can be reduced by making sure the baby doesn't have stressors like even a slightly elevated CO2 level. I did NOT know this. Even Dr. Sears says that slings can reduce risk of SIDS. NOT TRUE - obviously since my baby died in one. SIDS just shuts down the whole baby's systems and there is no way to tell if your baby is at risk. Let me repeat - my baby did NOT suffocate or aspirate. He died of SIDS and there has been research to indicate that even slightly elevated levels of CO2 (which would not harm a healthy infant) can trigger SIDS. Sorry to ramble on, but I will NEVER use a sling with an infant again - at least within the 0-12month age range.