First The New York Times wondered whether newly hip baby slings were safe. Then, on Wednesday, two brands of baby slings were recalled. But some highly unscientific anecdotal evidence suggests that the baby sling isn't going away so fast.
Not having a child myself, I haven't had much exposure to slings, but I did used to live around the corner from Keri Russell, and every so often I'd see her toting her baby son, River, in a baby sling that looked like a piece of cloth. She seemed so happy and carefree! Whenever I saw her I would think, This is what "cool moms" do, they carry their babies around in slings and act like it ain't no thing. But since I no longer live in Keri Russell's neighborhood, and my reporting needed a larger sample size, this afternoon I headed to Park Slope, the much-derided epicenter of touchy-feely, hippie-yuppie, upper-middle-class, mostly white, self-righteous, PC parenting. Surely, I thought, the parents in Park Slope—perhaps best known for an epic listserve fight over whether a child's winter hat should be described as a "boy's hat"—would have opinions about the Baby Sling Brouhaha of 2010! They would all, I assumed, have their babies safely in prams.
First, I looked at the UrbanBaby message boards, and they were (predictably!) slightly horrifying. First someone posts that the slings have a suffocation risk, but in a somewhat hostile manner ("Attachment parents: You guys see the baby sling warning in today's headlines? Suffocation hazzard [sic] with several deaths attributed to carrying newborns in them. Just FYI"), and then someone responding,
"I guess, but I used a sling like this last year before the warning came out. I guess they could suffocate if you are COMPLETELY NOT PAYING ATTENTION to your baby and its position!"
Anyway! My plan was to go to the 3rd Street Playground, in Prospect Park, which—at least according to Amy Sohn's Prospect Park West—is the epicenter of Park Slope parental craziness, but I got there and—what the hell, the playground was empty and there was all sorts of yellow caution tape around it! Argh. Fortunately, there was a mother sitting on a bench just outside the entrance to the park, with what looked like a small baby on her lap, and a stroller next to her.
I introduced myself as a writer for Jezebel and asked if she had heard about the sling controversy and what she thought about it.
"It's funny, because my husband and I are usually sling people," she said. Today, for some reason, she had taken her 17-week-old son out in the stroller. "When the articles started coming out about it, we were in San Diego, and we were like, people are going to think we're horrible. The day the article came out in the Times we were a little self-conscious."
The mom, who is 36 and lives in Park Slope, said she doesn't have the model that was recalled, and reiterated that she's a "big believer in slings."
The baby turned to me and smiled. I remarked that he seemed to be a very content baby. "Oh, he's a really mellow child," she said. "We do co-sleeping too. We're not total attachment parents but we lean towards that."
Another UrbanBaby poster had written that she (we're assuming) carries her baby around in a Bjorn and had "been getting so many comments from passers-by about how dangerous 'those carriers' are," and so I wondered whether Park Slope Mom had gotten the evil eye from anyone in her neighborhood.
"I didn't notice any looks here," she said. "And on Tuesday, I took him into the city for the whole day. We went to City Bakery, we went to the bookstore, and no one said anything or looked at me strangely."