22 January 2012

Babywearing Father Pulled Over.

Beach Street, Frankston. 2 police cars stopped, 3 police got out and interrogated this Dad for wearing this 12 month old baby in a soft structured baby carrier while she slept. They had received a call from someone saying a man was suffocating his baby while walking down the street.
After 1 officer stuck her head into the sling to see the baby, she noted that they baby was fine and said so. They then continued to lecture this man about parenting informing him that it was too hot to wear the baby (under 30 degrees with a cool breeze in a suburb by the sea), that it was unsafe to have her on his back, that she was at risk of dying of SIDS, they requested he remove the sling and carry the baby home, which he refused to do because it would wake the child. 1 officer reached their hand into the sling and removed a small toy the child was holding in her sleep and stated "now there will be better airflow" the officer also loosened the hood which was supporting the sleeping baby's head.
(from the parents)

Is Babywearing safe? I certainly believe so. So do my friends, customers and many other informed parents. Is it possible to do it in an unsafe way? Yes. That is why we have information for people about how to be sure to do it safely. The question for today though, is whether it is ok for the police to stop someone who is safely wearing their child and demand that the baby be removed from the carrier, and that from now on the parent use a pram.

We all understand that keeping children safe is the responsibility of all of us. That is why we have created organisations specifically to remove children from dangerous environments. That is why we have laws about carseats and seatbelts. But once the police established that the child was safe they continued to harass the parent. And remember – no law had been broken here. There isn’t a law about wearing your child only in cool weather. Or only on your front. Or only in certain types of carriers.

When my friend shared her story on facebook this afternoon there was shock and upset among many of us in the babywearing community. And though when I asked around I found that most people had received very few, if any, negative comments about wearing their babies, the stories I did hear bothered me.  Stories of people being followed around the shops by someone convinced the sleeping baby on the back was dead, the story someone shared about a stranger pulling the wrap down off a sleeping baby in order to check that the baby was indeed alive and breathing – those stories scare me. Because they suggest yet again that parents are unaware of their baby’s needs, that strangers care more than parents do about said baby. That personal space is not something we are entitled to as parents.
Was the baby in the original story in any danger? A 12m old child sleeping comfortably on her father’s back in a soft structured carrier (known also as a buckle carrier)? The child was sleeping. The hood was up, supporting her neck. It was less than 30 degrees Celsius, and there was a breeze. And yet the police (who are unlikely to have had ANY training in early childhood care to or to know about baby safety) declared the carrier to be a sids risk and demanded that the baby be removed and that from now on the parent use a pram.
I'm going to repost the TICKS poster to remind us all about safe babywearing practice. This poster talks only about front wearing, but when back carrying, many of the same rules apply. However, rather than keeping your child in view one should aim to use other senses to check that the baby is healthy and happy. And it is a good idea to check in passing windows/mirrors that your child is still in a good position. Or to use a slingview mirror. Like the one attached to the carrier in the picture.

for more information on safe babywearing please look here.
NOTE: After reading the comments here and elsewhere I want to clarify the advice about keeping baby in view. As many people have pointed out, most babies spend much time in cots, prams and carseats out of their parents view. The advice on the TICKS poster is relevent because every death that has occured in a sling has occured when a baby was being worn in a deep pouch, on the front, in a way that precluded anyone from being able to see the baby's face. In a safe back carry the child's face may not be visible to the person wearing, however it will be visible in mirrors and to others.


  1. On one level I suppose it's good that people want to look out for strangers' children. However, as a baby wearer, all the negative comments I've had from people who don't know what they're talking about get pretty annoying. It's fine to ask about it, but I get a bit thrown by questions like "is it safe?" If I thought it wasn't why would I be carrying my child that way?! And no, I DON'T find using a pram easier or I would be using one. Babywearing, done sensibly according to basic safety guidelines is convenient and rewarding for both parent and child.

  2. try telling most people in Africa or Asia that baby carrying is unsafe. What training have the police for such an idiotic intervention.

  3. In view at all times?

  4. Your safe techniques contravene what this dad did - and I don't think that back-carrying an infant is in any way unsafe when done safely.

  5. This is 2012 - imagine the outcry when slings were just started to be used in 1980 when I had my first baby. I would ruin her posture, she would be spoiled by my spending too much time with her, how would I know she was uncomfortable?, I could go on but wont. That daughter and subsequent siblings are all strong, tall, intelligent and independent! Back off police and do-gooders and look for small children and animals left locked in cars - they are the ones in danger!

  6. "In view at all times?"

    From the picture it looks like he was wearing a mirror attached to the sling which he could use to check on the child at any time.

  7. an update on the original situation, again from the parents:
    There is a need for education. Organise sling meets to show the public what a range there is and how to wear safely. This is what will make change.

    Remember our goal is to improve babywearing knowledge/awareness in the hope that no other parent will go through what Andrew did on Sunday :) and trust that Andrew (who is a Justice Officer with honours in criminology) will resolve any misunderstandings between himself and the three officers involved appropriately, through formal channels the police and vic gov have available to the public.