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Baby Deaths Prompt Warnings About Sling Dangers

By jeannesager |

slingBaby wearing parents are set to get a major warning from the federal government that their method of carrying their kids could put their babies at risk.

The head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission told MSNBC her organization is expected to announce a generalized alert warning parents of the risks of suffocation and the children who have died while in the slings.

A review of the CPSC’s most recent data makes it difficult to assess just how many injuries and deaths can be attributed to the fabric slings – baby carrier injuries are lumped in with car seats, backpack carriers and other means of toting baby. There were seventeen total “carrier related” deaths between 2002 and 2004, not including motor vehicle accidents, and more than fourteen thousand injuries have been reported. Again, that’s carrier-related injuries, not sling specific.

But Inez Tenenbaum of the CPSC specifically linked the slings to deaths in her statements this week, noting, “We know of too many deaths in these slings and we now know the hazard scenarios for very small babies.”

There have been repeated warnings from both the CPSC and Consumer Reports over the years, including recalls on slings (chiefly for problems with stitching and fasteners) and a report last fall on Consumer Reports that rated the popular product as one not to buy for baby. The non-profit watchdog requested the CPSC tighten its regulations last fall when a six-day-old died in a sling. The cause of death was listed as “accidental compression asphyxia/suffocation.”

They’re still a favorite of parents – and one need look no further than the hot comments here on Babble when we revealed Consumer Reports’ not to buy list. Does the government weighing in change your opinion?

Image: seoullife.net

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About jeannesager

jeannesager

jeannesager

Jeanne Sager is a freelance writer and photographer living in upstate New York with her husband and daughter, Jillian. She maintains a blog of her award-winning columns at jeannesager.blogspot.com.

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0 thoughts on “Baby Deaths Prompt Warnings About Sling Dangers

  1. Anonimon says:

    I would want to know if there was a type of sling that was deemed “dangerous.” I find it a bit hard to believe that women have been carrying children in slings for literally thousands of years, but now they are saying that it is dangerous. I would definitely need more specificity before I hung up my sling.

  2. ann05 says:

    Let me get this straight, there’s no evidence that slings in particular are bad for babies, but they’re going to go ahead and declare them as such?

  3. Babywearer says:

    Different slings and different holds incur different risks. I couldn’t imagine using a cradle hold with a newborn in an Infantino sling like the one carried. No wonder it suffocated.

  4. GP says:

    It’s unfortunate that all slings are gonna get a bad rap because of this. I read the AP story and I can see what they mean about the C-shape and such. I found a ring sling or Moby/mei tai kind of wrap worked best for smaller/younger infants and keeping them in a good position. Nothing is going to take the place of mom being smart and diligent and not spacing out about her kid. Unfortunately, also, maybe with the increased popularity of slings and the characteristic carelessness of people today, they’re just not being used correctly…

  5. Megg says:

    When my daughter was a small baby I researched slings and borrowed a few different ones from friends before deciding which one to buy.

    I have to say that apart from the one I bought I was very nervous about how a little baby folds up inside a sling when lying down and tried to find out more about the risk of a baby’s airway being closed off in such a position. It seemed like a really obvious danger. And while I found some mention of this danger on the sling websites, it wasn’t as emphasised as I would have expected.

    In that respect I’m not at all surprised that there is, and should be, a warning about the use of slings.

    Having said that I chose the Maya Wrap ring sling and for younger babies it says to carry them in an upright position, which to me seems safer than when they are lying somewhat horizontally. My baby was about 4 months when I started using this sling and soon was using it to hold her on my hip, so I didn’t really spend time with her in it as a very little baby. But I plan on using it for our next baby, but as I said, only because the baby seems safer in this upright position. I wouldn’t use a sling where the baby is lying down, ostensibly folded up by the sling. (Also, we live in a hot country where this would be dangerous from an overheating point of view, too)

  6. Laure68 says:

    I didn’t use a sling, so I cannot really comment on this. But I want to respond to Anonimom and the comment that “women have been carrying children in slings for literally thousands of years”. There is a belief that, if something has been around for a long time it must be safe. Nothing could be further than the truth. Our standard for safety has gone up greatly. (To use a more recent example, I never used a seat belt when I was a kid and never got into an accident, but that does not make it a good idea.) Things that would have been acceptable in the past just are not acceptable today.

    Again, I’m not saying anything specific about the sling. If it is safe, that knowledge lies in the data, not in the fact that it has been used for a long time.

  7. Laure68 says:

    Sorry, I meant “nothing could be further from the truth.”

  8. Rebecca says:

    IIRC, most of the hubbub has been about one or two specific slings sold at big box stores that are considered dangerous.

  9. Angi says:

    I tried one out and didn’t like it. I was always worried the baby couldn’t breath. I think there needs to be more research on this like many baby products that have come into major use in the past ten years.

  10. ez says:

    It really depends on the sling. The one pictured — the Infantino sling — is frankly dangerous and should be removed from the market. The amazon.com reviews provide a detailed explanation of its dangers, but basically it has a hard insert that ends at the top of the baby’s back, forcing its head down onto its chest, which can cut off its air supply — commonly known as “positional asphyxiation” and believed to be a cause of SIDS. In addition, the fabric folds across to close the sling, obstructing one’s view of the baby and creating a dead air pocket — also linked to SIDS. Unlike a traditional wrap or even a well-constructed sling like the Hotsling, which hugs the babe against one’s body, this Infantino item is more like a handbag and swings freely, putting the baby in further danger of getting whacked into something.

    Laure68, there has been a goodly amount of research on the use of these traditional slings, and that research states that a well-constructed Maya or Moby wrap, properly used, is in fact very safe for a newborn, and that frequent sling use is linked to a reduction in reflux, colic, and other “problems” new babies often experience. For a good general overview, check out Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block, which references such studies of indigenous peoples and applies and compares them to modern parenting techniques. For deeper study, a bibliography is included.

  11. LindaLou says:

    Comments learning to use a ring sling properly is an art and takes some time. Sorry, but the *sling* pictures aboce looks like a baby handbag, not a sling. I always had my babies upright and secured against my front with their head up by my shoulder. It seems like common sense that with any carrier, yuo’d make sure the babies nose and mouth weren’t covered. Damn, people are stupid. Slings are lif saver for moms who have infants that refuse to be set down.

  12. magnoliama says:

    My neighbor loaned me her Infantino and I couldn’t return it fast enough! It was horrid. It was completely uncomfortable and I was convinced my daughter was going to fall out. I only tested it at home and never actually used it because it didn’t feel safe. We did get a ton of use out of our Moby wrap and Kangaroo Carrier when our daughter was an infant. When she was older we adored the Ergo and used it multiple times a day. I can’t believe that the POS known as the Infantino is being used to measure the safety of all slings. That’s like saying a Yugo represents all cars!

  13. [...] Safety Commission, told MSNBC that her organization intended to formally warn parents of the dangers of carrying babies in slings.  Today, the agency took that general warning a step further by recalling 1 million Infantino [...]

  14. PegHead says:

    I’ve written a blog about the insanity of CPSC’s over-reaction:

    http://craftycrofts.blogspot.com/2010/03/would-you-put-your-baby-in-duffel-bag.html

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