This week is South African Babywearing Week 2017 #BWSA2017. According to the Facebook event, "The purpose of the event is to raise awareness of babywearing in South Africa and to help babywearers to wear their babies safely." I am a huge advocate of babywearing. Be absolutely clear though: babywearing is not an alternative to using a car seat.
Why babywearing is great
The benefits for baby and the baby wearer are numerous. Keeping baby close and secure is the best thing for baby's development and babywearing allows you to carry on with normal day to day life. Kangaroo care, babywearing, in public hospitals has proven to help premature babies to thrive.
Why it's a bad, bad idea in the car
I can understand the temptation to keep baby wrapped close to you at all times because of these benefits. But the dynamics of a car accident don't change. A baby or child between an adult body and a seatbelt will be crushed to death.
Most parents understand that it is never safe to hold a baby or child in your arms or on your lap in a car. Physics research has shown that passengers have less than half a second to react in a crash or even if the driver has to slam on brakes.
When a car crashes or suddenly stops, the body takes on the weight of the speed you were travelling at, multiplied by the actual weight. So while anybody could hold onto something weighing 5kg... If your baby weighs 5kg and you crash at only 60km per hour, your baby weighs 300kg. Nobody can hold onto something weighing 300kgs.
Why seat belts aren't enough
Some people believe that wearing a seatbelt over them and their child solves this. The sad fact is... In a crash, your baby or child would be crushed to death between the seatbelt and your body. The force against your baby is 1,500kg: roughly that of 21 adults, each weighing 70kg, standing on top of your child. Or an entire rugby team or the weight of your average car.
The wrap or sling won't make a difference at all in this equation. It will be holding your baby in place between you and that seat belt.
"Car seats can be expensive. They are a pain to move in and out of a car. Car seats are awkward to carry. They can wreak havoc on your back, neck and shoulders. Unwrapping a finally sleeping baby from babywearing and transferring them into a car seat is easily equated with disarming a bomb... on a rollercoaster... with both arms tied behind your back," says Mandy Lee Miller, creator and director of the #CarseatFullstop initiative.
"You are tired and sore and you just want to get yourself and your baby, and probably your other kids too, home in the fastest, least traumatic way possible."
"I know that overwhelmed feeling too well. I am a mommy of a toddler. Who still rear-faces, and will until her car seat doesn't allow it anymore around 25kgs. I have had to transfer her sleep-heavy little body to her car seat in the rain after a month of sleepless nights. I have faced the consequences of that transfer waking her... Her screaming while the tears pour down my face as I drove home. What I haven't had to do is face the consequences of not making that choice. I have talked to and listened to and cried with mommies who have though. It isn't worth it."
Babywearing is wonderful. It is a tradition that has been around for thousands of years. African mommies have been wearing babies for as long as we have records. Daddies, grandparents, even older siblings can now use babywearing to bond with the babies in their world.
Wear your baby! Keep them close to you, safe and warm. You are doing the best you can for your baby. And when it comes time to get into the car, transfer them to their car seat.
Just as you are designed to hold and support your baby; a car seat is designed to hold and support your baby in a car. The materials used are chosen and tested to make sure that your little one is completely surrounded by protection in the case of a crash.
How important is buckling your child up? Send us your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org and we could publish them.