Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Warning about baby slings

NEWS from CPSC (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission)
Office of Information and Public Affairs
Washington, DC 20207

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 12, 2010 Release #10-165

CPSC Recall Hotline: (800) 638-2772
CPSC Media Contact: (301) 504-7908

Infant Deaths Prompt CPSC Warning About Sling Carriers for Babies

WASHINGTON, D.C.- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is advising parents and caregivers to be cautious when using infant slings for babies younger than four months of age. In researching incident reports from the past 20 years, CPSC identified and is investigating at least 14 deaths associated with sling-style infant carriers, including
three in 2009. Twelve of the deaths involved babies younger than four months of age.

Slings can pose two different types of suffocation hazards to babies. In the first few months of life, babies cannot control their heads because of weak neck muscles. The sling's fabric can press against an infant's nose and mouth, blocking the baby's breathing and rapidly suffocating a
baby within a minute or two. Additionally, where a sling keeps the infant in a curled position bending the chin toward the chest, the airways can be restricted, limiting the oxygen supply. The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate.

Many of the babies who died in slings were either a low birth weight twin, were born prematurely, or had breathing issues such as a cold. Therefore, CPSC urges parents of preemies, twins, babies in fragile health and those with low weight to use extra care and consult their pediatricians about using slings.

Two months ago, the Commission added slings to the list of durable infant products that require a mandatory standard. Additionally, CPSC staff is actively investigating these products to determine what additional action may be appropriate. Until a mandatory standard is
developed, CPSC is working with ASTM International to quickly complete an effective voluntary standard for infant sling carriers.

CPSC recommends that parents and caregivers make sure the infant's face is not covered and is visible at all times to the sling's wearer. If nursing the baby in a sling, change the baby's position after feeding so the baby's head is facing up and is clear of the sling and the mother's
body. Parents and caregivers should be vigilant about frequently checking their baby in a sling.

CPSC is interested in receiving incident or injury reports that are directly related to infant slings. You can do this by visiting www.cpsc.gov/cgibin/incident.aspx or call CPSC's Hotline at (800)

Slings can be handy for wearing your baby, but some cautions are in order. As with all children's devices designed to make our lives easier, it is important to monitor the baby constantly to avoid tragedy. Below is a Baby Balboa Adjustable Sling worn in a safer position.
This sling can be used as a cradle, but that position is less safe due to suffocation hazards.

Slings have been implicated in falls, where the baby slipped out. The following picture shows the Infantino SlingRider that was recalled for poorly designed adjustable connector. It has also been implicated with one suffocation death. Seven other similar deaths in sling carriers have been reported with various styles used. It is possible that other factors also played into these cases such as being overly dressed for inside conditions. British Columbia reported 3 such deaths in a five year period - one in a manufactured sling; one in a makeshift sling fashioned from a large scarf and one in a Snugli that was worn incorrectly. In 2005 Minnesota had a death of a 2 week old while in a sling called a "Mayan wrap" . Cause of death was "positional asphyxia, manner undetermined".Used in the cradle hold position, suffocation, especially with the newborn, whose poor neck muscle strength and control of the head can result from the baby in the sling slipping into the "C" position (chin to chest) causing compression and cutting off air supply. They may also get smothered in the fabric folds or mother's clothing, unable to move into a safer position. This of course, is the reason we discourage blankets in the crib. For information on the recall click here.

It appears that having the baby face the parent in a more upright position is safer (Moby wrap is an example). The slings themselves are not unsafe; but the baby needs to be observed and kept in a safe position.

About a dozen sling or front-wearing baby carriers have been recalled since 1997, but they all also involved concerns about the babies falling from the slings because of problems with the fasteners, stitching and shoulder straps.

Tiffany Speck, of Kansas City, Mo., also has been warning about slings where the baby falls into a chin-to-chest position.

"You wouldn't want to put a baby in there," said Speck, a nurse who teaches classes on wearing slings properly. "The baby is curling, head toward toe, and what happens is the baby occludes its own airway."

...She recommends that babies in slings remain in an upright position, with the baby's tummy facing the mother's. (Jennifer C. Kerr, Associated Press Writer)

Safety is always a priority with babies, so use caution with all devices. A similar death occurred with a baby in a hammock, used for sleeping, but that baby was also dressed too warmly - a known risk factor for SIDS.

Car seats should always be used according to the manufacturer's directions with a snug fit, the baby not being placed on a blanket or with coats and sweaters. Secure the child snugly then place the blanket for warmth and never perch it on top of a shopping cart's baby seat. Recent recalls have also warned us of the dangers of strollers where the child's fingers can be pinched. It can be hard to prevent every potential accident but being aware of the dangers can help reduce the risks of childhood.

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