Urgent warning to parents after another baby sling death

There have now been two deaths as a result of baby slings in Australia, the most recent happening in March this year. The baby girl was injured in the sling in Brisbane and died five days later. As a result of this most recent death, the Queensland coroner is said to be recommending new safety guidelines be introduced.

"The coroner is investigating the death and will decide what further investigations to undertake once the cause of death is determined," the spokesman said.

The first Australian death from a baby sling was a two-day-old boy in Adelaide who suffocated in September 2010. The mother had placed the sling under her shirt and jumper. When she checked on him he was cold and lifeless.

The cause of both these deaths is thought to be 'accidental suffocation'.

The deaths led senior South Australian pathologist Roger Byard to write to the Medical Journal of Australia, warning of the hazards posed by baby slings.

"Infants may be placed in a position where there is excessive flexion of the neck or obstruction of the mouth and nose that may cause suffocation,'' Professor Byard wrote. "The soft and rounded sleeping surfaces may promote a potentially dangerous posture that impedes normal respiration. Constant monitoring of infants in slings is advised to ensure that the infant's head is facing outwards, with no covering of the face."

Baby sling use, also known as 'baby wearing', is growing rapidly and it's time regulations caught up. The products can be traced back to most cultures as far back as the 1900s, with traditional baby slings being fashioned out of large pieces of material. This new wave of baby slings comes ready to use. They are useful when caring for babies aged four months and under when most infants crave regular comfort from their parents. Unfortunately it is during these first four months that babies are most susceptible to injury and death as a result of baby sling use.

There have now been approximately 15 deaths world-wide from baby sling use and multiple injuries. As baby sling use grows in popularity there's concern these numbers will rise. Millions of mothers around the world now use baby slings.


The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is considering mandatory safety standards for all baby slings. Currently consumers can access safety information through the ACCC website but the actual products don't have any legal requirement to provide them. Baby slings aren't properly regulated around the world and many types are often recalled only after incidents are reported.

A campaign is being planned for 2014 to warn parents about the risks of baby slings. A spokesman said, "Although the suffocation risk of incorrect use of baby slings is quite small, it can be easily reduced by some simple safe-use techniques by parents."

In 2010 more than one million baby slings were recalled in the US after they were linked to three infant deaths. The products in question used fabric that was too soft.

ACCC deputy chairman Peter Kell has released the following statement:

The ACCC is working with the product safety regulators in the US, Canada and Europe on the development of the safety standard for baby slings as a result of concerns in a variety of countries about the risk that they pose, in particular for very young infants.

The results of the investigation into baby deaths in the US found that newborns can suffocate due to the position some baby slings force the child into. The slings fabric can press against a baby's nose and mouth, blocking their breathing and causing suffocation in minutes if not seconds.

Babies of are more vulnerable to injury and death in baby slings, especially those children who don't have strong neck and can't control their heads. It can be as simple as the baby being in a chin-to-chest position for their breathing to be restricted. Also some sling designs can cause the baby to turn in towards their parent which can cause smothering. The baby won't be able to cry for help. They simply go to sleep and never wake up.

The good news is that these death's are easily preventable with the following steps being recommended:

* Ask for a demonstration of the baby sling from the place of purchase;
* Ask your paediatrician if your baby is suitable to be placed in a sling. Majority of the deaths world-wide have involved babies of premature or low birth weight, or those who had breathing issues such as a cold;
* Check to make sure your baby's head is facing up;

* If nursing while the baby is in the sling make sure the infants face isn't pressed into the mother's body;

* Check the baby frequently;

* Don't place the sling under clothing of any kind;

* Ensure any sling you buy comes with detailed instructions for use;
* Take your baby with you when buying the sling to ensure you choose the right product;
* Hold the baby with at least one arm at all times;
* Be careful that your activities while wearing the sling don't loosen it or change the baby's position.
Have you used a baby sling?