Following 14 infant suffocation deaths associated with sling-style carriers over the past 20 years (and a recent warning about the dangers of babywearing for certain babies), the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is reiterating a message to parents and caregivers to use slings and wraps safely. The message is not intended to characterize slings as dangerous to babies, but simply to make parents and caregivers aware of specific situations that can endanger babies.
Suffocation or asphyxiation (which can happen within minutes) can occur in a sling or wrap when a baby’s face, especially its nose and mouth, is pressed against an adult’s body, blocking its breathing. At particular risk of suffocation are infants younger than four months of age, premature, low-birthweight babies, and babies with colds or respiratory problems. The CPSC says that parents and caregivers should be extra vigilant when using a sling, including consulting their pediatrician.
The CPSC recommends that parents and caregivers:
- Ensure that the baby’s face or eyes are visible in the sling, ideally by placing the baby’s face at or above the sling or wrap’s rim (as shown here). This is especially true after a nursing session, when it is also recommended that the baby’s position in the sling be changed.
- Be vigilant about frequently checking the baby in a sling, making sure that its face is clear of fabric and the mother’s body.
A new voluntary consensus standard for slings is being worked on by ASTM International, which is a step toward providing manufacturers with an effective safety standard.
For additional photos of improper and potentially dangerous positions for babywearing, check out the full warning about babywearing from the CPSC.