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Balboa Baby sling

Unlike soft structured carriers, slings and wraps aren’t currently certified by the JPMA. The CPSC has added them to the list of durable infant products that require mandatory standards, but until those are developed, the commission is working with ASTM International (originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials) to develop voluntary standards, which should be finished by the end of the year, said McNeilly, who is a member on the subcommittee responsible for drafting the standard. “I would say most manufacturers are already compliant with the basic standard,” she noted. “They may have to change their labeling or manual a little bit to comply specifically, but most [manufacturers] are not going to have to change their product. The industry is already very concerned [about safety] and has been using really high-quality product and materials for years.” Many in the babywearing community echo McNeilly’s message that slings and wraps are just as safe—if not safer—than many other baby products. In fact, some vendors have started posting instructional videos and other safety measures on their websites. And after a safety standard is developed, manufacturers who pass the testing requirements will be able to receive certification from the JPMA—a designation that should go a long way towards easing parents’ concerns. In the meantime, how can retailers convince customers that slings and wraps are a safe, comfortable and practical way to carry young children? We asked several successful retailers and industry experts to share their top tips.

Joanna McNeilly, owner of Metro Minis in New York, agreed that the practice isn’t just a passing fad. Her store’s Babywearing 101 class has been packed with a dozen parents every week, and she credits the basic benefits of the practice for its enduring appeal. “It’s a biological norm for babies to be carried,” she explained, citing the advantages. “When children are carried, the mother and baby are in a symbiotic relationship, and they exchange hormones with each other that make each other happier.” Plus, she added, when carriers are worn properly, babies cry less and spend more time in a quiet, alert state—the best for learning and brain development. Aside from the benefits for baby, parents love the obvious perk of having their hands free while keeping their precious cargo close. “Wearable baby products like soft carriers and slings continue to grow in popularity with parents and caregivers because they provide comfort and security for the baby while allowing mom or dad some freedom,” noted Amy Chezem, communications director for the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (JPMA), which has been promoting sling safety by publicizing guidelines developed by the CPSC. According to those guidelines, parents and caregivers should exercise caution when using slings for infants younger than four months, especially if the infant is a preemie, low birth weight twin, or has breathing issues—conditions that increase the risk of suffocation. The CPSC also released an image depicting the proper way to carry a baby in a sling, with its chin up, face visible, and nose and mouth free—not covered by fabric.

1. UP YOUR OPTIONS Keeping a large variety of slings and wraps in stock and providing knowledgeable, personalized attention are two of the most common ways you can keep your customers at ease, said Giselle Baturay, owner of Granola Babies in Costa Mesa, Calif. “What will work for one person is not going to work for the next person,” she explained, noting that finding the right fit for a customer’s size, baby and lifestyle is a delicate balancing act that often requires a lot of in-store trial and error. “A lot of times I’ll hear a mom say [a carrier] didn’t work, and I want to ask, ‘When you went shopping for jeans and you tried on a pair that didn’t work, did you give up on jeans?’” At Vachon’s boutique, every employee is required to read the manufacturers’ manuals and watch the instructional DVDs for each product. When a customer is selecting a sling, “usually we put it on ourselves and show them how to use it with a weighted doll,” she says. Then the customer practices with the product, to ensure that mom is comfortable and the baby is secure. In addition, Vachon keeps the CPSC guidelines on hand for her employees to read and properly explain to customers. 2. OFFER OUTSIDE HELP For parents who are having trouble bundling their little one into a wrap or sling, some shops, like Metro Minis, host their own weekly classes taught by experienced instructors. Other retailers, like Babymoon Boutique, offer a monthly demonstration of the store’s products. Baturay steers her shoppers towards a local babywearing group or an online community. “A lot of times, they’re just using it incorrectly,” she explained, “and that’s where getting that local or online support really, really comes in handy.” >55 E A R N S H AW S . C O M • O C T O B E R 2 0 1 0 3 3

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