Baby slings seem to be everywhere these days - and for good reason! Wearing your baby can help him or her stay calm while giving your arms a rest. If not used correctly, however, baby wearing can put your baby at risk for serious injury. According to the consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), 14 infants have suffocated in sling carriers over the past 20 years. Twelve of these babies were younger than 4 months of age, and many were premature, were low-birth-weight twins, or had breathing problems. It's very important that you read all of the safety materials that come with your baby sling/carrier and become familiar with the recommendations of the CPSC.
The biggest risk of using a sling is suffocation. Babies do not have enough neck strength to lift their own heads. An infant's chin can curl forward and touch the chest - essentially cutting off oxygen to the baby. The baby can also press his or her face against the fabric, blocking oxygen to the nose and mouth. If this happens, your infant could suffocate to death.
Infants who are premature, low-birth-weight twins/triplets, or ill, are at a greater risk of death with use of carriers and slings. Parents of preemies, low-birth-weight babies, twins, or ill infants should consult their child's health care provider before using any infant carrier.
The CPSC has this advice for parents who want to keep their hands free and their babies close:
Carry your baby so that you can see the mouth and nose at all times. Make sure that the baby's chin is not curled forward into his or her chest.
Do not place any blankets or covers over the baby's head.
Carry your baby high so that you can see his or her face.
Don't let your baby's chin touch his or her chest.
Make sure the baby's face is not pressed close against you.
Choose your activities wisely! Many people like using baby carriers and slings so that they can do other activities. So not do anything you wouldn't do with a baby in your arms. Never do activities that could put your baby at risk, such as jogging, jumping on a trampoline, participating in sports, riding a bike, driving, cooking near a hot surface, or other dangerous activities with your baby in a carrier.
Never wear your baby in a car (babies should always be in an approved car seat), and never wear your baby in a boat (babies should wear appropriate personal flotation devices).
Make sure to follow the guidelines in the sling/carrier packaging. Some carriers are intended for older children that are able to hold up their heads.
Make it a habit to regularly examine your carrier before putting your baby into it.
Protect your baby from the environment. Make sure that the legs are covered and warm in cool weather. When the legs are uncovered, make sure that sunscreen is applied if you will be outside.
As your baby gets older, he or she might be interested in items that are close. Be very careful that nothing unsafe is within reach.
To learn how to use your new carrier/sling, practice with a doll or ask for help. You can also use a mirror to make sure that your baby appears safe and secure.