Last week, I wrote about the possibility that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) would soon be issuing a warning on the use of baby slings. At the time, it was unclear whether the CPSC would "name names" and issue a warning only against the few slings that have been associated with injuries and fatalities, or if they would issue a broader warning against the use of slings in general. Now that it's official, I can answer many of the questions that popped up from last week's post.

The CPSC statement is a general warning "advising parents and caregivers to be cautious when using infant slings for babies younger than 4 months of age." According to the statement, over the past 20 years the CPSC "has identified and is investigating at least 14 deaths associated with sling-style infant carriers, including three in 2009. Twelve of the deaths involved babies younger than 4 months of age."

The CPSC statement outlined the ways in which baby slings can pose a danger to babies:

"Slings can pose two different types of suffocation hazards to babies. In the first few months of life, babies cannot control their heads because of weak neck muscles. The sling’s fabric can press against an infant’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and rapidly suffocating a baby within a minute or two. Additionally, where a sling keeps the infant in a curled position bending the chin toward the chest, the airways can be restricted, limiting the oxygen supply. The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate."
Contrary to speculation, the CPSC warning did not focus solely on the Infantino "SlingRider," a baby sling that has been recalled in the past due to breaking straps. The SlingRider is also one of the slings associated with the sling suffocation cases that the CPSC is investigating.

But the CPSC's statement was clearly a warning to use caution when using baby slings, particularly for babies who are premies, have low birth weight or are generally not in good health. From the CPSC statement:

"Many of the babies who died in slings were either a low birth weight twin, were born prematurely, or had breathing issues such as a cold. Therefore, CPSC urges parents of preemies, twins, babies in fragile health and those with low weight to use extra care and consult their pediatricians about using slings."
The CPSC advises parents and caregivers to make sure the baby’s face is not covered when in the baby sling. If nursing the baby in a sling, the agency recommends that mothers 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. The statement cautions parents and caregivers to "be vigilant about frequently checking their baby in a sling.