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Deaths prompt warning on baby slings

Associated Press / March 13, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Those chic baby slings that many parents are sporting these days can be dangerous, even deadly, the government warned yesterday.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it has investigated at least 13 deaths associated with sling-style infant carriers over the last 20 years, including three deaths last year. One other case involving a fatality is still being investigated. Twelve of the deaths involved babies younger than four months, the agency said.

The commission is advising parents and caregivers to be cautious when using infant slings for babies younger than four months.

It said that several of the babies who died in slings were either born prematurely or as a low-weight twin or had respiratory problems.

In its warning, the commission said that slings can pose a suffocation hazard in two ways.

■ A sling’s fabric can press against a baby’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and suffocating a baby within a minute or two, the agency said.

■ The other scenario involves slings where the baby is cradled in a curved or “C-like’’ position, nestling the baby below mom’s chest or near her belly. That curved position can cause a baby who doesn’t have strong neck control to flop its head forward, chin-to-chest, restricting the infant’s ability to breathe. “The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate,’’ said the commission’s warning.

Slings are made of soft fabrics that wrap around the chest so that on-the-go parents can carry their babies or just stay close as they bond with their infants. Slings also have been promoted by baby experts as a way to calm fussy babies or for nursing moms.

In 2008, Consumer Reports raised concerns about slings and noted some two dozen serious injuries.