Just like cribs, strollers and bouncy chairs, baby slings have been subject to scrutiny from safety organizations like JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) and CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission). Everything we use to help care for our children has the potential to harm them, just as every time you get in a car you have the potential of an accident. But when you get in a car, you buckle your seat belt, you obey traffic laws, you drive at safe speeds. It should be the same when using your baby sling.
The most recent baby sling warning from the CPSC was released Friday, March 12, 2010 and brought to light an important subject. If you are a client of Sprout Soup, you may have heard us talk about sling safety, especially if you come in to try our carriers while you are pregnant or if you bring your new baby in. Our number one rule for new babies is no cradle carry. We want to see your new baby upright and against your chest in a tummy to tummy position. Babies love to be near your face where you can lean down and kiss their head; on your chest where they can hear the beating of your heart. This position is possible in many different carriers, like the Moby Wrap, Beco Butterfly and even ring slings like the Maya Wrap. This is the safest position for your new baby.
So what makes a sling un-safe? Some carriers are unsafe due to design. The Infantino SlingRider is one of these carriers. The Infantino is also sometimes called a “bag sling” because it functions like a shoulder bag that baby is placed inside. These carriers are usually worn low on the body, with the baby resting somewhere around the wearer’s waistline. Baby can easily slide down into the sling, becoming cramped or rolled into a ball with their chin pressed to their chest. This is a safety concern for small babies who do not have strong neck muscles and whose airway can easily be compressed when in this position.
How do you know if your baby’s position is safe in the sling? First, make sure you can see your baby. Don’t allow your baby to sink down into a sling where they are covered by fabric or where they will be resting around your waist. Keep your baby high and on your chest. Second, look at your baby’s chin. Watch out for “chin-to-chest.” What this means is the baby’s chin is pressed into his chest, which restricts the airway. You should be able to see your baby’s neck (perhaps underneath the rolls of luscious baby fat!), or baby’s head will be tilted up, away from their chest. You can even verify safe positioning by seeing if you can place a finger between baby’s chin and chest. Finally, upright positioning is the safest, but a safe cradle carry can be achieved by keeping the baby high and at a 45 degree angle with the ground, instead of horizontal in the sling with their back parallel to the ground.
So is there a reason to panic about baby slings? Certain slings, yes. We believe there are some slings, like the Infantino SlingRider, which should not be on the market. Two infant deaths occurred last year in Infantino SlingRider carriers. The company refuses to admit that their sling is unsafe. Other slings which have bulky padding and don’t allow the wearer to adjust the position so baby can either be held upright or at least high and at a 45 degree angle can also be unsafe.
Unpadded slings, and our favorite infant carrier, stretchy wraps, allow baby to be worn tummy to tummy, the safest position possible. These slings are also adjustable to fit a variety of people and still hold the baby high and upright. Slings are only unsafe when used improperly. Please use the information on this page to consider your baby sling and make sure it is safe and you are using it properly.