Thanks for this post, goes to Silvana, QAB Leader, Ring Sling master, and tandem-wearing extraordinaire.

Babywearing
Image courtesy Martin Burns @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

When a baby enters the life of a caretaker everything in their world shitfs a little. That shift can cause a tiny ripple or a mighty quake. Anything that helps to steady the shift and establish a new normal is invaluable in my mind. Thus enters babywearing. The practice and tradition of babywearing is as timeless and varied as the options available. Learning all about the ins and outs of babywearing can be exhausting so today I want to cover one aspect that will certainly weigh heavy on the minds of those caring for our most precious cargo: safety.

And because I like my safety the same way I like my flatpack instructions, I am going to make it simple.

The first suggestion I will make is to join a babywearing group! They are staffed by experts who can help you find the best and safest carrier for your family. If you are in or around the Fredericksburg area, check out Quantico Area Babywearers [QAB].

If you are in the mood for a cheat-sheet on determining the safety of your carrier, then please read on!

Soft Structured Carriers

Image courtesy Levi Breederland @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.
Image courtesy Levi Breederland @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

1 – Broken/damaged buckles: Occasionally a scc can become damaged. It is not safe to use a carrier if any of the webbing or buckles have been damaged. This includes fraying of the webbing or loose stitching at the contact points of the webbing, or cracks in the buckles. This can occur with improper storage or accidents.

2 – Counterfeit carriers: This is especially an issue with the more publicized brand scc’s. There are common counterfeits readily available. If you did not buy your carrier from an authorized retailer then we ask that you verify the authenticity of your carrier through the company directly.

Woven Wraps

Sometimes a wrap has damage that makes it unsafe for use. This can include holes and weakened areas in certain parts of the wrap as well as damage to fibers due to chemical treatments and felting of wool. Some damage is repairable, some is not. If you are unsure, join a group and ask!

Babywearing Mother
Image Courtesy jocelyndale @flickr creative commons, click image for source.

Ring Slings

Image Courtesy Kristi Hayes-Devlin @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.
Image Courtesy Kristi Hayes-Devlin @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

Ring slings come from a variety of sources and sometimes a maker of manufacturer does not use the safest methods.

1 – Rings: A safe sling will use aluminum or nylon rings made SPECIFICALLY for babywearing [most commonly from slingrings.com]. Rings from craft stores are NEVER safe for use. They are not meant for weight bearing. Rings from hardware stores, while they are often tested for high weight limits, are still unsafe. These rings have a welded joint that is often rough and poses a risk of snagging or tearing the fabric. They are also of a size, shape and weight that make adjustment difficult and unwieldy.

2 – Fabric: A safe ring sling should be made from a medium/heavy 1 weight woven [non-stretch] fabric [something you could make medium weight pants from]. If the fabric feels similar in weight to bed sheets it is too thin to be safe and poses the risk of tearing from strain. The only exception to this is a double layer sling made from two layers of lighter weight woven fabric. These are safe, but more difficult to adjust. Natural fibers are also safer for use than synthetics due to the slippery nature of some synthetic fabrics [polyester jacquards for instance].

3 – Shoulder seams: A safe ring sling shoulder has at least three rows of stitching that stretches all the way across the shoulder. Polyester thread is the safest option.

Recalled Carriers

There have been a couple of recalled carriers in recent years. Most commonly certain bag style carriers such as the Infantino Sling Rider.

If you have a carrier that you suspect may have been recalled, please join a group and ask!

DIY/WAHM

A carrier made lovingly is not guaranteed to be made safely. There are many wonderful carriers that are made in homes, but the best way to tell if they are safe is to, you guessed it, join a group and ask!

By Ergonomidesign (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
By Ergonomidesign (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Narrow Based Carriers

Narrow based carriers are totally safe. The same rules apply to all soft structured carriers, NBC’s included.
Being a babywearing educator is almost entirely a job of easing minds and muscles. We strive to make the lives easier and more steady for the families we assist. Hopefully this post can help to set your mind at ease when it comes to the safety of whatever carrier works best for your needs. I suppose unsurprisingly, I would like to leave you with encouragement to seek out a babywearing education group in your area!