Friday, October 8, 2010

A Matter of Survival

This week has been dubbed International Babywearing Week. In light of the recent recalls of unsafe bag slings and the resulting CPSC warning about slings it is imperative that we not only celebrate babywearing, but call attention to the myriad benefits to SAFE use of baby carriers.

I was first introduced to slings when my oldest child was a colicky infant, my husband traveled for work a lot, and I was in law school. I only wish I had discovered slings sooner! Wearing my daughter was one of the only ways we could soothe her. I would have been much happier the first couple months of her life had I been aware of babywearing.

Babywearing has had a tremendous impact on the way we parent (yes, I said "we" because my husband is a total convert and has worn all three of our kiddos). We are more connected to our kids, were less stressed because we could respond quickly to their needs while...gasp...accomplishing other things like cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping, and felt less overwhelmed once the second and third kiddo came along because we could keep the littlest one close while still tending to older siblings. I am more confident getting out and about because the baby is content in the carrier. We can also venture to places that are not particularly stroller friendly like the pumpkin patch or small stores. We have been able to attend events we may not otherwise have attended when we had an infant (ex. Christmas party) since I exclusively breastfeed for a while. People are less likely to touch my infant without permission since she is attached to my chest.

The frustrating thing about recalls of many carriers is that the carriers themselves were often not defective, nor were they poorly designed (aside from the Infantino bag-style slings). The sometimes tragic events were the result of user error. The vast majority of carriers on the market are absolutely safe when used as instructed.

Recently baby carrier manufacturers, retailers, and advocates have joined together to form the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance. The BCIA is working with the American Society for Testing Materials to create a voluntary standard for sling-style carriers. Creating a standard for these carriers will hopefully discourage the CPSC from painting all carriers/manufacturers with a broad brush, thus maligning perfectly safe carriers in the event that one particular carrier is found to be unsafe and/or in violation of this standard.

This standard will not only protect consumers from unsafe products like the Infantino SlingRider, but will protect manufacturers (big and small) from ill advised recalls or poorly researched warnings. As the BCIA website points out, "without quality standards written in a way to be achievable to small home businesses, (the baby carrier) industry stands in grave regulatory danger." For more information visit BCIA online and on Facebook.

To read more about babywearing and how it has impacted people's parenting visit Steph's call to action at Adventures in Babywearing.