Slings are carriers that allow an adult to carry an infant hands-free. But they can be dangerous for your baby if worn incorrectly or if the wrong type of sling is used. Red Nose Chief Midwife Jane Wiggill explains.
“Using a baby sling incorrectly is a suffocation risk, because babies do not have the physical ability to move out of dangerous positions that can block their airways,” Jane explains.
“This includes lying in a sling with a curved back, with their chin to chest; or lying with their face pressed against the fabric of the sling or the wearer’s body.”
Babies who are under four months of age, were born premature or low birth weight, or have breathing difficulties, are at greater risk of suffocation.
Currently, there are no Australian standards when it comes to using baby slings.
Red Nose Australia urges parents and carers to take care when using slings, and recommends following the below steps:
- Make sure you can see your baby’s face and that your baby’s airway is free at all times (not snuggled against fabric or the wearer’s body)
- Correctly position the baby in the sling, which means your baby’s back is supported in a natural position, so their tummy and chest are against you
- Ensure the baby’s chin does not rest on his or her chest
- Your baby’s back is supported in a natural position so their tummy and chest are against you.
- Regularly check your baby. You should be able to see your baby’s face at all times by simply glancing down
- When using a sling, follow the product instructions, and do not use products that are cocoon-like or womb shaped
Injuries can also occur from the baby falling from the sling when the caregiver trips and falls; the product malfunctions or its hardware breaks; or the baby slips and falls over the side.
Remember and follow the TICKS rules:
T — Tight: Slings should be tight enough to hug your baby close to you.
I — In view at all times: You should always be able to see your baby’s face by simply glancing down.
C — Close enough to kiss: By tipping your head forward you should be able to kiss your baby on the head.
K — Keep chin off the chest: A baby should never be curled so that their chin is forced onto their chest as this can restrict their breathing.
S — Supported back: The baby’s back should be supported in a natural position so their tummy and chest are against you.
For more information, see the Australian Government safety alert Baby slings, which you can access from the Product Safety website at https://www.productsafety.gov.au/news/baby-sling-safety