Baby Slings and Sling Carriers

Baby slings have come under fire for causing fourteen suffocation deaths and dozens of injuries within a twenty year period from 1994 to 2014. Nonetheless, opinion remains divided on whether the slings and carriers are safe for use. Associations such as Babywearing International and Safekids.org claim that the slings are safe as long as parents use common sense, and provide practical tips to prevent suffocation or injury. However, Consumer Reports advises against the use of the slings altogether, pointing out that there are plenty of safer options, such as front-mount soft baby carriers, hip carriers, backpack carriers, and strollers.

The Dangers of Baby Slings

Baby slings or wraps, as they are also called, have become popular because they allow parents to carry the baby close while keeping their hands free. A baby sling is made of cloth and is "slung" around the adult's shoulder like a giant handbag. However, these slings and sling carriers pose a serious risk that a child may fall to the ground or be suffocated.

In 2010 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a warning that babies, particularly newborns who are unable to control their head due to weak neck muscles, can suffocate when the sling's fabric is pressed against their nose and mouth. Babies are also at risk if the sling cradles them into a curling position, bending the chin toward the chest, as this will constrict the airway and limit the oxygen supply. The CPSC provides helpful instructional graphics to show the correct (and incorrect) placement of a baby in a sling.

Another risk is that the sling fasteners fail to hold the weight of the baby and he or she falls to the ground, causing serious injury. Many slings have failed due to the bending or breaking of aluminum or plastic rings, and dozens of babies have suffered skull fractures, head injuries, and contusions and abrasions.

Baby Sling Recalls

In 2007-2008, both the Ellaroo Ring Sling baby carrier and the Infantino SlingRider were recalled because the aluminum and plastic rings/sliders could bend or break, causing the baby to fall to the ground. In March 2010, one million Infantino SlingRider and Wendy Bellissimo infant slings were recalled after three babies suffocated. The CPSC advised parents to immediately stop using the slings for infants less than four months old.

In June 2010, another infant died due to suffocation by a Sprout Stuff infant ring sling. To view all baby sling recalls from 2007 to the present, visit the CPSC.gov website. To ensure you're purchasing a baby sling that meets the international ASTM safety standard, look for the "JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) Certified" logo.

When a consumer product causes an injury, the injured person can bring a product liability claim as a legal remedy. The claim may be based on the theory that there was an unintended defect in the design or manufacturing of the product, or that the manufacturer failed to warn users of hidden dangers. If you believe your child has been injured by a baby sling, you should contact an attorney specializing in product liability claims.

Tips to Properly and Safely Use a Baby Sling

If, despite the dangers listed above, you decide to use a baby sling, here are some practical tips to help keep your baby safe:

  • Wait until your baby is a few months old before placing him or her into a sling. After a few months, the baby's neck muscles will have strengthened and there will be a decreased risk of suffocation.
  • Rehearse. Don't just buy a sling and place your baby inside. Practice first, with a teddy bear or doll.
  • Ask someone to help you the first few times you test the sling. With two sets of eyes, your baby will be twice as safe.
  • Make sure your baby's back is straight and supported.
  • Check the sling regularly to ensure your baby isn't curled up with its chin tight against the chest, and that nothing obstructs his or her face.
  • Be cautious as you move about because sudden movements or bending over can cause injury to the baby.
  • Don't buy a second-hand sling because it may have been subject to a recall.
  • Register your sling so you'll be immediately notified if it's recalled by the manufacturer.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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