How to Keep Babies Safe While Babywearing

Baby-wearing… the new trend in parenting. Convenient, snuggly, but is it safe? Baby-wearing is the practice of carrying a baby or toddler in a carrier. Though it may be new to some of us, baby wearing has been done for centuries and has many benefits. Baby-wearing allows caregivers to accomplish daily tasks while the baby is safe and happy, supports breastfeeding and bonding, and studies show that carried babies cry less. Babies who are held close are more able to regulate their own physiological functions (breathing, heart rate, temperature) in response to their caregiver. Baby-wearing is recommended not just as a response to crying, but to prevent crying and promote parent-infant attachment and the baby’s development.

So why now has the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued warning statements about the suffocation hazard posed by slings? Between January 2003 and September 2016, 159 incidents were reported to CPSC involving infant carriers, 17 were fatal, 142 were nonfatal.  Of the 142 nonfatal incidents, 67 reports involved injuries and 10 involved hospitalizations. These incidents resulted from unsafe baby-wearing and improper sling use, primarily of babies less than 4 months of age. This is because in the first few months of life, babies cannot control their heads because of still developing neck muscles. Unsafe use of a sling can hold the baby in a position that blocks the baby’s breathing and rapidly suffocates a baby within a minute or two. Also, a sling keeps the infant in a curled position bending the chin toward the chest, the airway can be restricted, limiting the oxygen supply. The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate.

Which slings are safe? Any sling should hold the baby the way he would be held in the caregiver’s arms. For example, a ring sling is typically used with the baby in a vertical position against the caregivers chest, just like the baby would be held in arms, or with the baby at a diagonal angle across the body, as the baby would be held while breastfeeding. The caregiver should always be able to see the baby’s head and face, without opening the fabric to do so, and he should always be able to breathe freely and easily, with his neck straight and his head in a neutral position (not curled forward onto his chest).

What you shouldn’t do:

Do not hold the baby down horizontally against your hip, or squished up underneath the breasts. Slings with an elasticized opening, a triangular cross section, and a stiff base sometimes create a false sense of security, there’s even a harness to keep your baby in one position.

What you should do:

Make sure the infant’s face is not covered and is visible at all times. If nursing the baby in a sling, change the baby’s position after feeding so the baby’s head is facing up and is clear of the sling and the mother’s body.

Be vigilant about frequently checking the baby in a sling, always making sure nothing is blocking baby’s nose and mouth, and the baby’s chin is away from her chest.

Practice the T.I.C.K.S. Rule for Safe Baby-wearing

  • Tight
  • In view at all times
  • Close enough to kiss
  • Keep chin off the chest
  • Supported Back

Avoid baby duffles, recalled products, or other unapproved carriers. For a complete list of unapproved infant slings or carriers, see the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

Keep your baby close and keep your baby SAFE!