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Infant Deaths Spur Baby Sling Warning

Don't Put Infants Under 4 Months in Baby Slings, Consumer Product Safety Commission Warns

By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

March 12, 2010 - After a spate of infant suffocation deaths, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is warning parents to think twice before putting infants under 4 months of age into baby slings.

The CPSC is conducting a full investigation of the once-again-trendy baby carriers. There's been no recall, but CPSC head Inez Tenenbaum said earlier this week that a warning was coming.

Now it's here. The warning comes on the heels of three infant deaths in 2009 and at least 14 deaths over the past two decades. Twelve of the infants were less than 4 months old.

Babies under 4 months of age have weak neck muscles and can't control their heads. If the sling fabric blocks the child's nose and mouth, it can suffocate the child in just one or two minutes.

Perhaps more horribly, if the sling holds the child in a curled position with its chin bent toward its chest, the child has difficulty breathing and suffocates slowly.

At highest risk are kids who have a breathing problem -- such as a cold -- or kids born with low birth weight.

While it has not banned the slings, it warns parents to use them correctly when toting infants over age 4 months.

Here's the CSPC's advice:

  • Place the child chin up with its face clearly visible and its nose and mouth free of the fabric.
  • Check on the child often.
  • If nursing a child in a sling, change the baby's position after feeding so its head is facing up and clear of both the sling and the mother's body.
  • Do not allow the sling to cover the baby's face.
  • Do not carry the child too low in the sling.
  • Do not carry the child hunched with its chin touching its chest.
  • Do not carry the baby with its face pressed tight against the wearer of the sling.

If you've had an incident or injury while using a baby sling, the CSPC wants to hear from you at 800-638-2772.

SOURCES:
News release, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission web site.
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