Baby sleep guru hits back at disturbing claim

By Wade O'Leary on 05 February 2016
Baby crying
baby sleep guru

UPDATED: A high-profile baby sleep consultant has hit back after being accused of giving ‘very disturbing’ advice on swaddling infants in child car seats in the shopping portal of her website.

Kidsafe Queensland attacked the Save Our Sleep website in a blistering social media post on the weekend, saying that parents should not ‘under any circumstances’ wrap their baby before placing them in a car seat as suggested by a link advertising the BabyOrigami wrap.

NRMA recommends parents follow National Guidelines which say that any kind of wrap is not recommended for a baby in a child restraint.

The Facebook post also criticised the use of a ‘Houdini strap’ in the image illustrating the ad, claiming it could lead to a baby being ejected from the seat in the event of an accident, and cited the death of an infant who was fatally thrown from her capsule while swaddled.

But Tizzie Hall, author of the parental guide Save Our Sleep, defended the advice and dismissed the Kidsafe Queensland assertion that ‘arms and legs MUST be sticking out of the harness straps’.

“If the Houdini strap didn’t break in the event of an accident, then I wouldn’t recommend it: that’s what it’s designed to do,” she said.

“I worked in Romania with kids who were disabled and who were missing parts of limbs and it didn’t make a difference to how safe they were in their seats – it’s like saying an amputee can’t wear a seatbelt.”

Ms Hall told NRMA that she believes wrapping babies in a lightweight swaddle before putting them in their seat actually makes them more secure.

“If you don’t wrap a baby beforehand, they tend to curl their arms up and it means they can end up not being properly secured in their seat,” she said.

“That’s because some parents simply aren’t prepared to tighten the seatbelts enough because they’re scared of hurting their children, but they leave slack in the belts as a result.”

This is in contrast to the National Guidelines, which are developed by Kidsafe and Neuroscience Research Australia and approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

“Soft padding, including blankets or wraps (including infant swaddling) inside the harness is likely to introduce slack into the harness, increasing the risk of injury,” the final point of Consensus-Based Recommendation 3.5 reads.

But the guidelines do not constitute an Australian Standard, which in turn has to be mandated by state and federal governments before becoming law.

Australian Standards are enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission but Ms Hall says the ACCC relented on their request that she remove the advice from her website after she presented research she had carried out, which included visiting a crash-testing laboratory in Germany.

“The ACCC got in touch with me years ago and asked me to remove the advice from my website but, after I sent them the information I gathered, they instead asked me to change the wording,” she said.

“I had to make it clear that I recommended wrapping with a light cotton wrap only, not with a blanket.

“They made it clear they still weren’t happy with my advice but I didn’t have to take it down.”

Ms Hall also hit out at the discussion of a baby's death in a car accident in relation to her advice.

The eight-week-old died when she was thrown from a car after it rolled and hit a tree near Kilcoy, north of Brisbane in December 2011.

She was wrapped in a blanket before being placed in a child restraint, which had been given to her mother without the accompanying instruction manual that warned against swaddling a baby in such a way.

While the wrapping of the baby in a blanket before being placed in her seat is noted in the coronial inquiry, excessive speed was found to be a major factor in the crash.

The driver was estimated to be travelling at up to 118km/h in a 40km/h zone when the accident happened.

“They effectively linked me to (the baby's) death when that had nothing to do with me,” Ms Hall said.

“I got emails from people thinking I was responsible for that baby’s death.

“She had been wrapped in a blanket and the driver of the car was going way over the speed limit.”

As well as following the National Guidelines, NRMA recommends:

  • Checking that any straps or belts are not twisted
  • Listening for the click when buckling your child in
  • Ensure the harness fits firmly – two fingers should fit snugly between your child and the harness

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