Baby slings not risk-free, U.S. agency warns

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
The Associated Press

The U.S. government is preparing a safety warning about baby slings after concern that infants being carried in them could suffocate if they curl into certain positions.

The head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Inez Tenenbaum, said Tuesday that her agency is getting ready to issue a general warning to the public, likely to go out this week.

“We know of too many deaths in these slings and we now know the hazard scenarios for very small babies,” said Tenenbaum. “So, the time has come to alert parents and caregivers.”

Tenenbaum spoke at a meeting of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, an industry trade group that certifies certain children’s products, including soft infant carriers, which allow the parents to “wear” their baby on their chest.

Slings have grown in popularity and are often recommended by baby experts as a way to boost infant bonding with parents.

Tenenbaum did not single out any specific baby slings or discuss the number of deaths linked to them. But there have been complaints about some baby carriers.

In 2008, Consumer Reports raised concerns about the soft fabric slings and some two dozen serious injuries, mostly when a child fell out of them. A followup blog warned about a suffocation risk and linked the slings to at least seven infant deaths.

Consumer Reports, published by Consumers Union, complained about one brand, the SlingRider by Infantino. The “bag style” sling wraps around the parent’s neck and cradles the child in a curved, or C-like, position, nestling the baby below mom’s chest or near her belly.

Tiffany Speck of Kansas City, Mo., a nurse who owns the company, BabySoSmart.com, and sells her own baby slings, has also warned about keeping an eye on an infant in a sling.

“The baby is curling, head toward toe, and what happens is the baby occludes its own airway,” said Speck, who teaches classes on wearing slings properly.

Speck recommends that babies in slings remain in an upright position, with the baby’s tummy facing the mother’s.

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