The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is warning parents and caregivers to use extra caution when carrying infants younger than 4 months old in slings and make sure that an infant’s face is visible to baby wearers at all times.
When researching incident reports of sling use for the past 20 years, CPSC identified at least 14 babies who died since 1998 inside sling-style infant carriers. Three of those deaths were in 2009.
In the first few months of life, babies cannot control their heads because of weak neck muscles. When they are placed with their faces below the rim of a sling, they are not able to lift their heads to breathe. This can lead to two hazardous situations.
First, one particular risk occurs when the baby’s head is turned toward the adult. An infant’s nose and mouth can be pressed against the carrier and become blocked, preventing the baby from breathing. Suffocation can happen quickly, within a minute or two.
Second, when a baby lies in a sling, the fabric can push the baby’s head forward to its chest. Infants can’t lift their heads and free themselves to breathe. This curled, chin-to-chest position can partially restrict a baby’s airways, causing a baby to lose consciousness. The baby cannot cry out for help.
CPSC urges parents and caregivers to keep these dangers in mind when selecting wearable carriers for babies. If you use any type of wearable carrier, make sure the infant’s face is not covered and is visible to you at all times. Be vigilant about checking on your baby often when your baby is in a carrier.
Many of the babies who died in slings were either a twin or were low birth weight or premature babies, or babies with other health issues, such as a cold. Therefore, CPSC is urging parents of those children to use extra caution and consult their pediatricians about using slings.
To prevent babies from falling out of wearable baby carriers, adults who use them should double check that latches and ties are tight and make sure that babies are secure before they bend over or reach for things.
Two months ago, the CPSC commission classified slings as a durable infant product. This classification is a first step toward developing a mandatory safety standard for slings.