Babywearing, a hot parenting trend embraced by moms who want to strengthen the parent-child bond, is now a safety concern due to recent reports of sling-related deaths caused by suffocation and the recall of more than 1 million Infantino slings.
In recent years, many moms have purchased baby slings, using the snuggly devices in lieu of strollers, to breastfeed, and to keep babies close as they tackle other activities. The Infantino SlingRider and Wendy Bellissimo slings are the only sling brands specifically recalled. Owners of these slings should stop using them immediately. But the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that parents practice extra care when using any sling with a baby under 4 months of age.
"The CPSC warns that you should be especially careful with babies who are preemies, twins, in fragile health, or who have low birth weight," says Rebecca Felsenthal Stewart, health news editor at Parents magazine. "Before they can move their head on their own, they can get the fabric pressed against their face and quietly suffocate."
Younger babies who don't have the neck muscles to support their head may also slump into a curled position, where their chin bends toward the chest and restricts the flow of air.
"You can still use a sling, but you have to be careful," Felsenthal Stewart says. "There are babies who actually died, so parents need to be really careful about this and track the CPSC Web site."
Alan Korn, executive director of SafeKids.org, was even more cautious in his warning.
"I have a concern with using slings, even beyond 4 months of age, given that children develop at different stages and physical capabilities," he says. "So this is an example of where it's better to be overly cautious and just not use slings."
He seconded Felsenthal Stewart's recommendation that parents go to the CPSC Web site and sign up for recall notices.
Felsenthal Stewart says there have been past sling recalls, such as 2008 ring-style sling, where the aluminum rings could bend or break, causing the baby to fall.
Parents interested in babywearing have options. Front carriers, such as the Baby Bjorn brand, are not part of the recall or safety warnings. If you prefer a sling-style carrier, pediatrician Alanna Levine recommends frequently monitoring your child for movement.
"If you don't feel small movements of the arms and legs, or the chest wall in and out, check the baby," Levine says. "Also, look at the baby's color frequently. Pink is normal; a bluish discoloration, especially around the mouth and lips is not.
"Make sure your baby's neck isn't flexed too much or overly extended. It should be in a neutral position.
"For premature babies, I would talk to your pediatrician before using an infant sling. And do not use any of the slings on the recall list."
Want to know if your baby gear is safe? Keep your child safe by using the Toy and Product Recall Finder.
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