Intro

All content of this blog is my own opinion only. It does not represent the views of any organisation or association I may work for, or be associated with. Nothing within this blog should be considered as medical advice and you should always consult your Doctor.

Can Bad Parenting Advice Result in Death?

The baby industry isn't really regulated, meaning pretty much anyone can set themselves up as an expert; without a single qualification, advice can be served to the masses via all forms of media.  This is most profitable when the advice is "parent pleasing" - i.e. typically promising abnormally long sleep spells, unnaturally structured feeding patterns and so on.  Parents can regain the order of their "pre-baby lives", just by following their simple rules (although they don't like the word rule, they prefer terms like "technique").  Any potential risk to baby is quietly swept under the carpet in favour of parental benefits.

Some of these "techniques" are considered harmful, whilst others feel it just comes down to choice and difference of opinion.

But what about when parenting advice goes beyond this.  What about when it's something that could pose a significant risk to life?

A prime example of this is swaddling advice from self proclaimed "International baby whisperer", Tizzie Hall.

You may recall I have taken issue with her advice before here and here. Despite a detailed and clear response from FSID, Tizzie was not prepared to re-consider her position.  Questions and comments from concerned parents on her Facebook page were heavily moderated, and numerous people complained of being banned..

Below is from her website:

What Tizzie fails to mention is that chest clips aren't standard in "some countries", e.g. the whole of Europe, because the USA chest strap is very controversial in terms of safety.  This website explains in detail why a chest strap shouldn't be used with a 5 point harness.

It's for these reasons the Houdini strap (shown in the above picture), an item intended to prevent toddlers taking their arms out - is designed to snap when significant forces are applied.  For a baby swaddled as above, should the chest strap break, is there the potential for baby to be propelled from the seat?

Kidsafe Queensland, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to preventing unintentional childhood injuries believes so:
"DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES wrap your baby like this in a swaddle or blanket and place in a child car seat or a pram/stroller. Arms and legs MUST be sticking out of the harness straps. The Houdini strap is not recommended and is designed to break apart in a crash therefore your baby could be ejected from the child car restraint or could jack knife out. See the case of Qld baby Isobella who was ejected right out of the car because she was swaddled then placed in her baby safety capsule. She died at just 4 months of age. The parents simply did not know of the danger they were placing her in.”
Car Seats for the Littles Inc, an organisation staffed by Child Passenger Safety Technicians to sharing injury-prevention information say:
"As a general rule, products sold separately from your child restraint should not be used, due to the fact that these products may affect the safety of your restraint in a crash. Even a seemingly minor change to your restraint could alter the way is designed and tested to perform in a crash, resulting in serious injury or death."
Even the manufacturer's instructions warn parents that third party "add on" products may be unsafe, plus they may invalidate the warranty.  Britax for example state:
"The use of non-Britax Child Safety, Inc covers, inserts, toys, accessories, or tightening devices is not approved by Britax. Their use could cause this restraint to fail Federal Safety Standards or perform worse in a crash. Their use automatically voids the Britax warranty." see more here.
But let's be realistic, who cares about a warranty if their baby has life changing injuries or worse?

The press have at least picked up on the image both in the UK and Internationally.  The Daily Mail featured this story: http://www.donotlink.com/fufe concluding:
"Ms Hall has declined to comment when contacted by Daily Mail Australia".
With a heavily censored social media presence, and followers trotting out statements like:
"And here we go again! Leave the women alone. If you don't agree with her advice, stop following her page for god sakes. So over 'hero' parents attacking Tizzie. Just cause you think YOUR right, doesn't mean you are." [sic]
and
"Use her advice or don't. Ah the keyboard warriors attack Tizzie. Well done, hope you feel better for getting that off your chest...now do us all a favour, unlike the page and move along."
I have to wonder, where do things go from here?

Apparently Tizzie intends to defend her practice with claims that carseats are safe for amputees after all, and that in the case above of the little Isobella, the driver were speeding anyway. I kinda thought that was the point of crash tests, that it was a worst case high impact collision - after all the baby can't tell the driver to slow down.

 But she's even more cryptic on her fanpage. In response to a mum posting:
"this article makes it clear that it goes against the Australian standards and guidelines and its not good practise to recommend against those standards" [sic]
Tizzie replies:
"It is a hard one Anne-Marie, I would love to come out with more information as to why I say to swaddle a baby but it would scare too many parents. Maybe you could call your car seat company and ask them what weight and what age baby can go in a baby capsual and see what they say ask them what age and weight they are tested for. Soon this debate will be over because they are starting to bring in safer car seats for prem babies and newborns with the correct testing done on the new ones. Tizzie" [sic]
Parents can't handle it?

I'm not sure why some random person feels they are in a position to contradict world safety experts, and give conflicting advice without even warning parents it's controversial.  If you're so certain, surely the answer is to take your research and test results to leading safety consultants, and engage appropriately so people take you seriously? That way your message could reach millions rather than a few thousand.

I've never seen insurance for "baby experts", but I imagine if it exists Tizzie's underwriters are squirming right about now. In Australia, standards are enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, who have previously engaged with Tizzie on the issue. Perhaps they could shed more light on how safe they feel this practice to be?  
"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." here
What are your thoughts?

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