Baby slings – safety concerns update

After the baby sling safety warning in America earlier this year, here’s the essential info UK parents need to know…

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Baby slings have been in the spotlight recently, following a product recall and safety warning in the USA. Scarily, there’s been talk of your baby being at risk of suffocation. So what’s the story?

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On March 12, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a safety warning about slings. The CPSC didn’t name names, or recall any products, but advised parents to be careful when using infant slings, specifically for babies under 4 months of age. This is because of the risk of suffocation. On March 24, this changed to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Infantino urging parents to stop using Infantino’s SlingRider and Wendy Bellissimo sling models.

On a general note, the CPSC explained baby slings could be a suffocation hazard because:

  1. Your very young baby doesn’t have strong enough neck muscles to control their own head. The fabric of the sling could press against their nose and mouth, block their breathing and lead to suffocation.
  2. Slings that put your baby in a curled “C” position can see your baby’s chin go towards their chest, which can restrict their airways, limit the amount of oxygen they’re getting and possibly result in suffocation.

If using a baby sling, the CPSC recommended:

  • Make sure your baby’s face isn’t covered
  • Make sure you can always see your baby’s face
  • If you’re feeding your baby in the sling, change your baby’s position once they’ve finished feeding, so their head is facing up and is clear of the sling and your body
  • You frequently check on your baby
  • If your baby is premature, a twin, has “fragile health” or is a low weight, be extra careful and see your doctor about using a baby sling

Using a sling is popular for loads of reasons. Whether it’s because you actively follow the idea that baby wearing is beneficial for your baby’s development or just because it offers a hands-free way to soothe a fussing, fractious baby, a sling will appeal to plenty of you. And according to Victoria Simmons, a UK mum of two who runs an online baby shop specialising in baby slings and carriers, the key things are to make sure you’re wearing your baby correctly and to avoid bag-style slings.

“There’s really only one kind of sling which the American CPSC warning relates to and which is completely unsafe for babies – the bag style sling,” said Victoria of Baby-Bean.com. The feeling is that a bag-style sling puts your baby in the “C” position, and can often have too much fabric with an elastic edge, which could cover your baby’s face. Bag-style slings may also cause your baby’s face to turn inwards, and your body could possibly smother your baby.

Victoria offers these safety tips, to help you keep your baby safe:

  • You should always be able to see your baby’s face without needing to open the fabric
  • The carrier should fit your body and keep your baby high and tight against your chest, not around your waist or hips
  • Your baby should be close enough to kiss.
  • You should ensure that your baby’s body and head are well supported and that their chin does not slump onto their chest

“I think this announcement is an important opportunity to raise awareness among British parents of the importance of choosing your baby sling wisely, and buying from companies that understand and care about your child’s safety,” commented Victoria.

Useful baby sling safety links

  • The Baby Wearer includes useful links on correctly positioning your baby, including a pdf with instructions.
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