The CPSC issued a warning associated with the improper use of baby sling carriers last week, after three suffocation deaths in 2009 and fourteen over the course of 20 years. Although I think “baby wearing” is a great way for mom or dad to bond with baby, I don’t think there is any surprise that a suffocation hazard exists if the slings are not used properly or if the child is too young.
As the CPSC points out,newborns younger than four months are not able to support or reposition their heads, so if placed in a sling facing the parent or if the sling fabric forces the babies chin towards their chest, the possibility of suffocation increases significantly. Being parents of a newborn, we’ve considered several baby carrier options; including soft infant carriers and baby slings but we don’t feel our daughter has adequate muscle strength for their use just yet.
These were unforseen circumstances that led to the deaths of these babies and I can’t imagine how the parents of these children must feel. However, neither parents nor manufacturers are at fault here and we can all learn a valuable lesson from these tragic cases. Heeding the advice of the CPSC and warning parents of the possible tragic consequences of improper use is the only way to prevent future occurence. Many parents, especially new parents, don’t fully understand the threat of suffocation if the slings are not properly used.
The CPSC has provided a video public service announcement which explains in more detail the hazards associated with product misuse or ill-positioning of children, when in sling carriers. The carriers themselves are not hazardous, but manufacturers should consider including similar instructions and videos with their products, so that those who are unfamiliar with their proper use are better informed and further tragedies avoided. It is our responsibility as manufacturers of consumer products to warn consumers about hazards associated with product misuse and take extraordinary measures to educate them of the proper use of our products. This is especially true as it pertains to juvenile products, specifically those intended for infants.