Safety warning on baby slings

Calls for education campaign for safe use of baby slings following suffocation.
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01.Baby sling safety campaign

baby asleep in baby sling

Parents are being urged to educate themselves about the potential risks of baby slings after a study by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) found that almost one in 20 babies had been injured or narrowly avoided injury while being carried in a baby sling.

This research, as well as the deaths of three babies who suffocated while being carried in slings, has prompted calls for a national education campaign to promote safe use.

While 'baby wearing' using a sling is an increasingly popular choice for parents (and slings are often seen being worn by celebrity parents) the products available are varied, unregulated, and there is no Australian standard.

What the study found

The QUT study, which surveyed almost 800 parents around Australia revealed that many parents were unsure of where to find credible information on the slings and how to use them safely. Dr Kirsten Vallmuur, from QUT's Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety says that of the 95% of parents surveyed who said they used or intended to use a baby sling, the majority considered it safe to use the sling from when the baby is a newborn.

"This is concerning because product safety experts don't recommend baby slings for premature or low birth weight babies." 

Dr Vallmuur also says the most common non-fatal injuries involved the baby slipping out of the sling and falling, the parent falling, and the baby being injured while being positioned or removed from the carrier. And the main safety concern is babies being placed in a C-like position which restricts their ability to breathe and could cause suffocation.

However, if used safely and correctly, there are benefits to using a sling, such as ease of breastfeeding, forming attachment to the infant as well as a practical, comfortable and convenient way of carrying the baby.

Safety tips for using baby slings

  • Keep the child's face and especially nose and mouth uncovered at all times.
  • Avoid the child being curled into the 'C' position where the child's chin touches the chest and blocks the airways.
  • Use caution and seek medical advice if using baby sling carriers for premature infants, babies with a low birth weight, or who have a cold.
  • Regularly check the baby to ensure they have not slipped into the pouch (if the sling is a pouch-type), covering their nose and mouth.
  • Reposition the child after breast feeding to keep the nose and mouth clear.
  • Some slings may be a safer option than others, such as those that carry the child in the vertical position.
For more information, head to the latest CHOICE  review of baby slings and carriers.



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