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How to safely use a baby sling

You have probably heard or read the recent warnings about the hazards of carrying an infant in a baby sling.  The news coverage has had many parents worried that they will be endangering their infants if they use a sling carrier.  The truth is, baby slings and infant carriers are perfectly safe and wonderful bonding tools for parents and their babies when used properly

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in the last twenty years there have been at least 14 reported deaths from sling-style infant carriers.  Twelve of the deaths involved infants younger than four months of age.  Many of those babies had low birth weight, were born prematurely or had breathing problems from a cold or other infliction. 

As a result, the CPSC recently issued a public warning and had this to say: 

Slings can pose two different types of suffocation hazards to babies. In the first few months of life, babies cannot control their heads because of weak neck muscles. The sling’s fabric can press against an infant’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and rapidly suffocating a baby within a minute or two. Additionally, where a sling keeps the infant in a curled position bending the chin toward the chest, the airways can be restricted, limiting the oxygen supply. The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate.

It is essential for a parent using a sling to always be aware of any obstructions over baby's mouth or nose and to make sure baby is in the proper position so that his chin is not pressed down to his chest.  This is especially critical in the first four months of life when baby has not developed the strength or muscle movement to control his head. 

The CPSC offers the following recommendations for the proper and safe use of infant carriers and slings:

...make sure the infant’s face is not covered and is visible at all times to the sling’s wearer. If nursing the baby in a sling, change the baby’s position after feeding so the baby’s head is facing up and is clear of the sling and the mother’s body. Parents and caregivers should be vigilant about frequently checking their baby in a sling.

The illustrations for proper infant positioning in slings is perhaps the most helpful:

The key is to be aware and mindful of the proper positioning and condition of your baby at all times while in a sling or infant carrier.  When used properly, you can feel at ease that your baby is safe and cozy, and happy to be so close to you.

Read more about the risks of suffocation in a baby sling HERE.

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  • Debi 5 years ago

    Excellent write-up, Erin! There are two sides to every story, and it is great to read the logical side!

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