By Kelly Mullen-McWilliams
I've worn my baby in Bjorns, Tulas, Ergos, and Cuddlebugs. I've worn her front-facing, inward-facing, on my hip, and on my back. Yes, I've worn her with a goat, and in the rain, and on a train. Now summer's heating up, and baby-wearers everywhere want to know — can my baby overheat in a sling?
Baby slings are different from other carriers, in that they are generally worn —or rather, "slung" — across one shoulder. According to BabyWearing International, ring slings echo traditional carry systems found all over the world. Many parents love slings, and wear them safely year round. For guidelines on safe baby-wearing practices, check out BabyWearing International.
However, the baby-wearing trend is still relatively new, and between January 2003 and September 2016, 159 baby sling incidents were reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) — 17 of them fatal. In response, the CPSC approved a new federal mandatory standard in January 2017 to make these products safer under the Danny Keysar Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. New standards go into effect next year, with the aim of reducing incidents of suffocation and injury. However, overheating was not addressed as a special risk.
Romper asked Emily Edwards, M.D., a Board Certified Pediatrician with Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, if it's possible for babies to overheat in a sling or other infant carrier, and she confirms — it is possible.
In fact, according to Sarah Brown, a community safety and wellness expert at Mattress Firm, "Babies can't regulate their temperature like we can, so once the temperature hits 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, babies are at a high risk of overheating, anywhere, at any time."
Edwards advises parents to watch for flushed cheeks, damp hair or sweating, and a possible rash. She writes in an email interview that infants that appear to be overheating should be undressed, taken to a cool area, and cooled with a damp cloth. Furthermore, if babies are "behaving abnormally or have a fever, parents should cool them down immediately and seek immediate medical attention."
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that babies under 6 months old avoid sun exposure to prevent sunburns, and dress in light-weight long pants and sleeves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that, with heat-related illness, "the best defense is prevention," and urged everyone to stay hydrated and indoors, especially during the hottest hours of the day. The CDC also recommended dressing infants and children in loose, light-weight, light-colored clothing.
When specifically referencing swings and overheating, a post by Laura May Bunnell on BabyWearing International noted that Ring Slings may be a cooler baby carry option because they come in a variety of light fabrics and fabric blends. To keep baby cool outside, follow AAP and CDC guidelines, and always keep fluids on hand. When I wear my baby out, I like to wear a wide-brimmed hat, thus turning myself into a walking palm tree.
Romper asked Edwards what pediatricians most want parents to know about keeping their babies safe this summer. (Spoiler alert: it's not about baby slings.) "Never leave an infant unattended in a car as temperatures can rise quickly, causing heat stroke," she writes.
In a sling or other infant carrier, your baby is close to you, so you can monitor her for any sign of trouble — including overheating. If you leave your child unattended in a car, however, there's no such safeguard. According to Jan Null, CCM, Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, San Jose State University, 709 children left in cars have died of heat-stroke since 1998.
Many of these deaths were inadvertent or accidental, so the most important heat safety tip of the summer is this: always check the backseat before you leave the car. It might sound crazy, but life moves fast, and accidents can happen.
As for the baby sling, as long as you follow heat guidelines, dress your baby lightly, and carefully monitor her for any sign of illness, you're set to wear her straight through Labor Day (though at that point, you'll have to put the white slings away). Be safe and enjoy the beach, baby.
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