Consumer Reports: The new Motrin?

Wonderingwilla emailed me a couple of days back with this link to a recent Consumer Reports article titled “Five products not to buy for your baby”. The mention of two AP-related paraphernalia – cosleepers and slings – has, like the babywearing Motrin ad last November, raised the ire of the AP/NP crowd. It hasn’t quite yet reached the proportions of that particular storm yet (see Twitter activity), but it may still.

Unlike the Motrin ad, in this instance I think the AP/NP crowd has a valid point: instead of a blanket recommendation against the use of all slings and cosleepers, Consumer Reports should probably have looked more closely at these deaths and recommended against the use of specific slings and cosleepers, perhaps with certain dangerous features. Unless there is more information that isn’t mentioned in the CR article, it doesn’t look like the evidence is enough to claim these items should be considered inherently dangerous, in the class of bath seats and baby walkers.

However, some of the responses from APers in the comment section are what you’d expect of hysterical ninnies, not grown women with a point to make:

Posted by: Jennifer | Apr 25, 2009 9:57:46 PM

Sounds like these folks are most likely being paid to print this negative propoganda by the crib manufacturers and such.. In what way are cribs any way ‘safer?’ People have co-slept with their infants since the beginning of time. When it comes to parenting, our society needs a serious wake up call. (My comment: Ah, the ‘pharma shill’ – or in this case, ‘crib manufacturer shill’ gambit. I was wondering when this would come up.)

Posted by: Brandy | Apr 25, 2009 1:16:14 PM

Practices at work for thousands of years are now dangerous because of a handful of idiots?

Great. Thanks Consumer Reports for fueling the flames of others having control over what I can do or do NOT do with or to my child.

CR has so much clout in the consumer market, they really should use more common sense when they want to start their fear mongering. I could understand thousands of deaths, or a true defect in the product, but using a product INCORRECTLY is not the fault of the producer but the USER. (My comment: Here we go again with the ol’ “If it didn’t work for you, you must be doing it wrong” argument.)

You know, I’m sure there is a study out there that shows how many babies die from being dropped by their parents. Does that mean that we shouldn’t hold our babies at all?

No, it means use common sense.

If these deaths were due to suffocation or posture in the carrier that cannot be avoided due to the design of the carrier, bathseat, crib, cosleeper etc, then I could see a legitimate concern.

Let’s break down their claims:

Bassinet/CoSleeper: The bar shown in the photo shouldn’t be seen or in place at all when using it as a co sleeper. It should be covered up in the fabric running around the product being used as a bassinet. Again, not the products fault 2 babies died due to parental stupidity. [snipped fpr length]…

…Sling Carriers: Saved my life. I loved tucking my little one into her little pouch. I even went so far as to go to a local sling clinic to get instruction on how to use it properly. MILLIONS of women and babies have used slings in their lifestyles for THOUSANDS of years. And yet again, the lack of common sense parents ruin it for many.

Posted by: Christine Mehl | Apr 24, 2009 12:10:08 PM

I am saddened to read this list. How dare Consumer Reports undermine babies! Co-sleeping and sling-wearing (baby-wearing) are the fabric of our existance! Read the research from Dr. James McKenna of the Notre Dame Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab for information about the co-sleeping facts (through scientific method not through opinion as stated in this blog). Here is the link: http://www.nd.edu/~jmckenn1/lab/ (My comment: James McKenna’s studies in no way constitute proof of the safety of cosleeping, as anyone who’s actually read the studies should know. Not that I expect any APer to have done so, as opposed to merely parroting what all the other APers and Mothering Magazine say on the subject.)

Let’s stop the scare-tactics in our society, the health and wellness of mothers, babies, and families depend on it!

Mom of 4 (breastfed, co-sleeping, babywearing)
B.S. Degree in Public Health
Doula & Lactation Counselor
API Leader

To be fair, there were many less hysterical and much better-reasoned responses as well. But all too many responses had the , “OMG! You have committed AP sacrilege!! How could you?!!” tone about them.

Mind you, while I can somewhat understand taking offense about slings, I really have to wonder about the colseepers. These are usually the same people who allege that sharing an adult bed with your baby is perfectly safe, thus making a cosleeper unnecessary. One or two of the responders actually did mention this. There were also cries of “formula kills babies, why not recommend against it?” and the usual railing against death in cribs (“They call SIDS crib death, and many more babies die in cribs!”) and infant seats (“Plastic buckets”).

I’ve already covered the “science”, or rather lack thereof, behind the practice of babywearing in my Motrin post; the risk/benefit balance of bedsharing is covered in multiple posts, mostly here and here. The inanity of the “But cosleeping has been around for thousands of years!!” argument, expressed by all too many AP responders, is addressed here. Note that I endorse cosleepers as a rule and think they are safer than having a tiny baby in bed with you; however, I wouldn’t dismiss offhand that some, or even all, cosleepers may be dangerous. If the evidence actually pointed that way, I would recommend against using them. But that’s because I try to remove my ideological blinders when assessing reports such as these. Unfortunately, it seems many AP/NPers just can’t. There is all too much paranoid thinking in the AP/NP crowd that goes, “I am right, my way is inherently superior. Any evidence you might present to the contrary means you are either in error, or you must have been paid off by evil people to persecute me”.

So while I would personally prefer that Consumer Reports qualify its blanket recommendation against slings and cosleepers, I can’t help thinking that this hysterical outburst isn’t the way to do it. And I can’t help hoping that one day, some organization – be it CR or some other company that runs afoul of the AP/NPers – will tell them, perhaps not in so many words, to go screw themselves if they can’t react in a mature manner and back up their dislike of a company’s practice with cold, hard science.

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8 Responses

  1. That Infantino sling does look crappy, and like it would be easy to suffocate the baby in. Not to mention that it would only be useful for a very short time, and that some babies (mine included) didn’t like being worn in that position even as newborns.

    But yeah, there are so many types of carriers out there that a blanket recommendation against them seems silly. But since I also use Teh Ebil Cribs and Buckets and Strollers, I’m not going to get all ZOMG CR IS A TOOL OF THE MAN about it!

  2. I had a few dealings w/reporters from CR back in my days as Communicatons Director with a Big Medical Association. My impression was that nuance and gray areas were not their strong suit.

    They seemed to want black and white declarative sentences: “X is bad; Y is good,” and were not particularly interested in long, science-y discussions (or short ones). That’s part of their broad appeal, I think.

    Anyhoo, seems like the same modus operandi here.

  3. ” I even went so far as to go to a local sling clinic to get instruction on how to use it properly”

    LOCAL SLING CLINIC??????

    I confess that looking at some of the mothers I’ve recently seen “wearing” their babies, during an Israeli chamsin, *I* began sweating, dunno how the babies felt…and at least one mother is going to have serious spinal issues if she keeps on carrying her obviously large and heavy baby on her chest the way she was…as for co-sleeping, I really cannot think of a better way to convince a husband to find himself a girlfriend [who doesn’t have a baby to intrude on their sex life] but then, I’m just an old fogey who comes from a home where my parents never had me sleeping in the room with them, nor did my children ever sleep in my room with me and my husband, but what do I know? It must be sheer luck we have all turned out OK and didn’t become ravening serial killers or something.

  4. This is pretty interesting. I think the big problem is that parents do not understand that some types of products are more highly regulated than others. Some products are nearly completely stupid-proof, and others require a lot more skill to use correctly.

    The co-sleeper where the baby could be strangled was pretty terrifying. Perhaps these should be more closely regulated.

  5. I thought it was interesting that most sling deaths/injuries were from contusions, etc. (i.e., bumping into things). This was the main reason I stopped using the soft slings (for my daughter … my son hated them). I only used it around the house, and I used it very sparingly. In part, the “common sense” decrier you quote above is right. Common sense tells you that these soft carriers have very limited uses, in very limited contexts.

  6. You are right. Not all products are the same. Folks have to be very careful. Remember all those deaths from portable cribs? Scary and very sad for the families who have lost their babies to such trajedies.

    How could anyone be so cold to say “well you were using it wrong” when a woman has lost her chid.

    I have not read the article so I will go do that now.

    Good post. I applaud you as usual.

  7. The Infantino is a very bad sling, and someone at TheBabyWearer did an experiment showing that a baby could (and would) be deprived of oxygen n it.

    I don’t think bumping the baby in the carrier was the big issue. If that were the case CR would also have recommended against Bjorn type carriers… and instead they recommended them. It is not difficult to bump a baby in a Bjorn and there isn’t much protection. If the baby is facing outwards, they might even be more likely to be injured than they would in a soft carrier.

    I wonder about one thing, though. “Sling” gets used very sloppily. Some people use it to mean “ring sling”; others to mean any soft cloth carrier. I think precision was really lacking in this. I actually dislike ring slings for new users because it is very difficult to get a secure fit, creating the exact problem CR complains about. Even a wrap is much easier to fit snugly and the baby is tied tighter to the wearer. It is much easier for a baby to swing away from the parent in a ring sling.

  8. Well, I would likely be classed by many people as an APer (I’m awaiting delivery of a bedside cot, and had been lazily researching slings) and I rather think this magazine has a point about the co-sleepers and slings.

    If these products don’t have safety standards, that’s absolutely terrifying, and a definite big point against buying them, unless you’re confident in your ability to spot anything dangerous.

    On the other hand, saying that people shouldn’t buy baby bath seats because other parents left their child unattended seems excessive, if that’s the right word. I know this sounds terribly unsympathetic (maybe cold-hearted, as Pinky said, and I’m sorry about it), but I’ve previously noticed catalogues saying “never leave your child unattended in the bath” below bath seat entries and I’m guessing it says something similar on the packaging or accompanying instructions.

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