Parents Urged to Monitor Babies in Slings

National Infant Mortality Awareness Month

Though immensely popular in recent years, slings can pose a suffocation hazard for babies and can even cause infant death if used incorrectly.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the sling’s fabric can press against a baby’s nose and mouth blocking the airway. Slings can also cradle babies in a curved or “C-like” position, causing the baby’s neck to flop its head foward, chin-to-chest, restricting the infant’s breathing.

Babies who are under 4 months old, are low birthweight babies, are born prematurely or have other breathing issues are at greater risk of suffocation.

But as long as safety guidelines are followed, slings can be a safe way for busy parents to keep their babies close. Parents are urged to research slings, be careful with sling selection and know the potential risks.

Tips for choosing a safe baby sling:

  • Carriers should mimmic the way you hold your baby naturally in your arms – upright/vertical against your chest (as you would hold him standing) or at a diagonal angle accross your body (as you would hold him while breastfeeding or reclining).
  • Be sure that the sling you choose does not cover your baby’s face. You should be able to see your baby without opening the sling fabric.
  • The carrier should keep the baby high and tight against your chest, not low on your hips.
  • Look to see that the chin isn’t touching the chest or the face isn’t pressed against the wearer.
  • Pay special attention to newborns in baby slings, as they often lack the muscle strength to keep their heads upright.

There have been at least 14 documented infant deaths due to slings in the past 14 years as of 2010. A recent death of a two-day-old boy in Australia brings this topic back into the limelight, and governmental organizations in the U.S., Europe and Australia are working to develop international babywearing safety standards.