In 2009, there were three infant deaths associated with sling-style infant carriers. Going back 20 years there have been 14 other deaths. Twelve of the seventeen deaths involved babies younger than 4 months of age. As a result, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) earlier this month warned parents and caregivers to be cautious when when using sling carriers for babies younger than four months of age.
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 sling carriers because 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. More specific recommendations include 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 frequently check on their baby in a sling.
The CPSC press release states that sling carriers 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 infants 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.
Two months ago, the Commission added slings to the list of durable infant products that require a mandatory standard. Until a mandatory standard is developed, CPSC is working with the American Society for Test Materials (ASTM) International, a nonprofit organization that sets voluntary industry safety standards for everything from toys to the steel used in commercial buildings, to quickly complete an effective voluntary standard for infant sling carriers. Late last year, ASTM approved a revision to crib standards that recommend drop-side cribs no longer be sold. Suffolk and Nassau Counties on Long Island have banned these types of cribs. A statewide ban has also been proposed.
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