Tote Your Baby in a Sling — Safely

Baby slings seem to be everywhere these days. That's why a government warning about these popular carriers came as such a shock to parents. Carrying your baby in a fabric sling carrier could put his or her life in jeopardy, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) warned in March 2010. Fortunately, there are things you can do to ensure a safe ride for your little one.

The biggest risk

Sling carriers have caused 14 infants to suffocate in the past 20 years, according to the CPSC. Twelve of these babies were younger than 4 months of age, and many were premature, low-birth-weight twins, or had breathing problems. Parents of preemies, low-birth-weight babies, twins, or ill infants should consult their pediatricians before using any infant carrier.

You may wonder how something that seems as natural as a sling could be dangerous. One hazard occurs when the sling's fabric presses against a baby's nose and mouth, blocking breathing. Young infants can't control their heads because their neck muscles are still weak.

A baby in a sling may also be in a curled position with the chin touching the chest. That restricts the air passage, limiting the baby's oxygen supply and preventing him or her from crying.

Advice for safe carrying

The CPSC has this advice for parents who want to keep their hands free and their babies close:

  • Your baby's face should be showing, and his or her nose and mouth should be free.

  • Carry your baby high so that you can see his or her face.

  • Never leave your baby's face covered.

  • Don't let your baby's chin touch his or her chest.

  • Make sure the baby's face is not pressed close against you.