A few years ago, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced some general recommendations for the use of popular “babywearing” items like slings and wraps. The announcement came on the heels of more than 12 reported infant deaths caused by suffocation over the previous decades.
Unfortunately, many health agencies and consumer groups interpreted the guidelines as a warning to steer clear of all such gear. Thankfully, supporters of slings, wraps, and other items that allow parents to strap an infant to their bodies can be used safely—provided parents take care to follow some general safety strategies.
Know When Slings and Wraps Should Not Be Used
The first step toward safe use of these items is to know when they shouldn’t be used. The situations below have been identified as high-risk circumstances. Do not try to carry your baby in a sling or wrap if any of these cases apply:
- Your baby is younger than 4 months old (corrected for prematurity and low birth weight)
- Your baby has a cold or respiratory problem (such as asthma)
- Your baby cannot hold his or her head up without help
- Your baby is a twin—do not attempt to carry both twins in slings or wraps at once, even if they are in separate slings
Know the Safest Strategies for Babywearing
Provided the above situations do not apply to you, slings and wraps can be convenient, comfortable ways to carry your baby and may help with bonding. Follow the tips below to reduce your child’s risk of suffocation and make babywearing a safe experience for you and your baby.
- Position your baby so that you can see each other’s eyes.
- Make sure your baby’s face is at or above the rim of the sling or wrap.
- Clear any fabric or portion of your body (especially after nursing) from your baby’s face.
- Avoid allowing the baby to rest in a curled position.
- Position your baby’s head so that the chin is not resting on his or her chest.
- Do not wrap the baby with his or her face against your body.
Provided you are careful to make sure that your baby has a clear pathway for air to circulate. Any position or interference that can block the baby’s ability to breathe can increase his or her chances of suffocation.
It takes just a matter of minutes for an infant to smother, so check your baby often and reposition as necessary.
With a few simple nods to safety, parents can rest easy knowing that they are looking out for their babies’ wellbeing and still enjoying a pleasant, convenient bonding experience. Babywear well!