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New Warning on Baby Slings

[notice]UPDATE: June 14, 2013 – There continue to be a number of child deaths each year associated with baby slings. They are sufficient in number that I want to remind you, if you use one, to frequently check on your little one. Ensure her head has not fallen forward on her chest constricting her airways. This is especially a problem with newborns. Thanks.[/notice]

I posted a blog last week about product recalls, and here’s a new warning worth mentioning to my fellow parents of small infants. The government warned Friday that those chic baby slings that hip moms and dads are sporting these days can be dangerous, even deadly for their little ones. The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it has investigated at least 13 deaths associated with sling-style infant carriers over the last 20 years, including three deaths last year. One other case involving a fatality is still being investigated.

Baby in sling type baby carrier

Twelve of the deaths involved babies younger than four months of age, the agency said. While relatively speaking 13 deaths in 20 years is not a huge number of deaths, and cannot conclusively be tied to the use of a sling, it does seem to at least merit extra caution should you choose to use one. The commission is advising parents and caregivers to be cautious when using infant slings for babies younger than four months. It said that many of the babies who died in slings were a low birth weight twin, were born prematurely, or had a cold.

In its warning, CPSC said that slings can pose a suffocation hazard in two different ways.

  1. A sling’s fabric can press against a baby’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and suffocating a baby within a minute or two, the agency said.
  2. The other scenario involves slings where the baby is cradled in a curved or “C-like” position, nestling the baby below mom’s chest or near her belly. That curved position can cause a baby who doesn’t have strong neck control to flop its head forward, chin-to-chest, restricting the infant’s ability to breathe. “The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate,” warned the commission.

In our case we used both a sling and a BabyBjörn® style carrier. I was never very adept at getting our baby girl situated in the sling, though it seemed like it would be comforting for the baby all cozied up to your body… assuming your baby was old and large enough, ensured its head was free and neck straight. My preference (next to just holding her in my arms) was the BabyBjörn in which the baby rides on your chest with its head free. When our baby was young she could ride facing my chest (with adjustable neck support), and when older she could face outward exploring her world.

Me and my baby girl in her BabyBjörn

Me and my baby girl in her BabyBjörn

Did you use some sort of carrier? Which if any do you recommend?

(I should note that my endorsement of BabyBjörn is sadly in no way compensated.)

8 comments

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  1. Shannon

    Look how cute she is! I just want to pinch her tiny cheeks and give her kisses!!! Important blog info too! Yay for baby Bjorns!

  2. aDaddyBlog

    I know. 😉 It is a rather gratuitous posting of the wee one in a super cute outfit. I’m going to be home in just over an hour to give her those kisses while her mommy takes a much deserved bubble bath. Oh, and yes, I really do like the BabyBjörn… specifically the “Syngergy” model which has extra back support and good breathability… important in Texas summer heat.

  3. Kate

    Just my arms! Little dude wouldn’t let me put him in anything! But I did have the BabyBjorn–I just boxed it up & am saving it for when/if we have another kiddo! Found you at the UBP! I see you’re from Dallas, watch the cowboys? My husband is a HUGE fan!

    1. aDaddyBlog

      Hi, Kate. We can practically see the new Cowboy’s Stadium from our home. I drive right by it every day. That said, other than a U2 concert I’ve not set foot inside since it was built. LOL. I do love the BabyBjorn, though my daughter has sadly outgrown it now. Nothing is better than Mommy’s (and Daddy’s) arms. Have a great day!

  4. Sam

    If you’re looking for life after the Baby Bjorn(aka anytime babies are heavier than about 15lbs :-) you should look into an Ergo or a Beco(for starters)…they are great, soft-structured carriers that you can use to wear your baby on your front, back, and hip(at least with an Ergo). There are many more carriers similar to them as well. Here’s a few links to check them out: http://www.slingsilove.com/buckle-carriers/cat_24.html and http://www.ergobabycarrier.com/ I myself am partial to wraps, but I do love my Ergo as well. Another great site for LOTS of information on baby wearing is http://www.thebabywearer.com

  5. aDaddyBlog

    Hey, Sam. Thanks so much for the tip on Ergo carriers. I’ll def check them out. It’s not too manly to say, but as she gets bigger it’s starting to hurt my shoulders and elbows to carry her. I LOVE holding her, but some sort of carrier would be nice. The babybjorn was great when she was smaller. Have a great day!

  6. Anne

    I think you are trying to warn people about baby slings but I’m not sure why. And it’s pretty bad advice too. I understand, I think, that you want to “warn” people about something. But you are misguided, and I fear that people who read this blog piece, as well as they read the instruction book that came with the baby sling they bought, and believe you, will have something that is actually beyond beneficial for not only a baby but the person holding the child in the sling taken away from them. And because you did not state which type of slings, brands, s.e.m.’s, or even any statistics, I’m afraid someone will think your words are true for all slings.
    Truly it is such a scary world. Your advice about baby slings would be really great if there was facts to back up your words.
    While there are factual recalls and many concerns surrounding the newer “bag” style carriers, perhaps even “investigated” deaths, there is not any evidence that supports that baby slings are so dangerous that we need to live in fear. Even if the “at least 13 investigated deaths” were found attributable to every type of sling ever made, these stats would not show as a percentage. On the contrary, while slings are having a huge comeback as an appealing fashion statement, and also as an excellent way to move around while keeping a baby close; baby slings have actually been around doing more than the latter for thousands of years. 1,000’s! They faded out in more cosmopolitan times because it was seen as sign of poverty. And there are studies, really old and really new ones, that have an over abundant amt. of evidence showing that not only are slings beneficial to babies, but actually the most optimum way to carry a baby.
    It would behoove everyone if you would do more research before people become scared of something that is beneficial for a baby. Or better educate them on not using the bag style carriers, and here’s the way to use the other 50 + types of slings.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thanks, Anne. Your points are very well taken, and I hope my readers will consider them in making their decision as to the products they use to carry their child. I’m not saying don’t use slings. I’m simply saying if you do, please frequently check on your little one. Ensure her head has not fallen forward on her chest constricting her airways. This is especially a problem with newborns. I’ve no personal interest in promoting one over another, but simply worry about those children (however statistically insignificant those 13 deaths were to you) that died due to improper use.

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