Are Baby Slings Safe?
The short answer is "Yes." Slings have been safely used for thousands of years.
There are safe ways to carry a baby in a sling from birth up. Use the following guidelines to safely carry any baby or child in a ring sling, or any carrier, for that matter.
1. Baby's belly is towards the adult: "Tummy to Mummy"
2. Baby is in the "frog" or "M" position, with their butt lower than their knees.
3. Baby's head is close enough to kiss
4. Baby's face is visible at all times.
Wearing a baby in a ring sling is easy and convenient.
When you wear your baby in a sling, you can walk anywhere freely without worrying about navigating steps, crowds or narrow aisles with a stroller. Baby wearing can help block out excess stimuli and protect an overstimulated baby; It allows for discreet nursing in public places; It goes on with just a flip of the wrist, and it comes off just as easily when you are ready. Rings slings are free of straps and buckles making them simple and durable. Ring slings can also double as a changing pad, a blanket, and a cushion when you are away from home.
A ring sling positions parent and baby in their most biologically natural position.
Babies are programmed to seek comfort at mother's breast. Her chest is the perfect habitat for a newborn baby who can hear her heart beat, feel her breath, smell her scent and feel the security and protection of her arms. Food and shelter are all in this place and babies instantly relax and calm, when placed on their parent's chest.
This tummy-to-mummy position is ideal for keeping baby's spine in a forward curve until they start to develop their back arching and arm reaching of the Landau Reflex. It is the ideal position for keeping a baby's airway open. It is an ideal place for baby's to be supervised and rapidly attended to when they communicate their need for food, dry clothing, warmth or cooling, or simply asking for loving attention and comfort.
This baby on chest position is ideal for a parent to relax and feel confident that their baby is doing well. All it takes is a quick peak at their sleeping baby's face to soothe a parent's worry.
A baby sling keeps baby and parent close while keeping a parent's hands and arms free for chores, reading, or tending to older siblings. A baby sling is the perfect way for a mom to slip out of the house for a breath of air, or a quick walk, while her baby sleeps. Babywearing can even lengthen baby's naps since they feel secure and comfy, knowing mom is right there.
When worn safely, ring slings are extremely safe.
According the the Consumer Products Safety Commission, in the past 18 years, only 14 babies have died in slings. While they don't give details on the deaths, we know from all the many parent education sources that there are several ways that parents misunderstand the limitations of a newborn.
The first is that babies, and especially newborns, are not fully developed. They need appropriate head and neck support. If their head is not supported adequately, it can fall forward as they sleep and compress their airway. This can happen in any carrier, carseat, stroller, bouncy seat and recliner that babies are placed in. So, when we wear a baby in a sling, we place them high up on our chest, on the bony area above the breast, where there is plenty of support for their body, neck and head.
The second is the risk of suffocation by something that is covering their face. This is the main reason why babies ought to be sleeping on their backs. If the sling is worn too loosely and the baby slips down, off their parent's chest into the sling, the sling can trap the baby against their parent's clothing, or other soft areas of their body.
A third risk might also be strangulation. We know that babies should never be covered with a loose blanket. If the baby is left unattended in the sling, it presents the same problems as using a blanket. Baby can become entangled in the sling and either be hurt, or suffocate.
And interestingly, of the 14 deaths studied by the CPSC, 3 of the babies died in on kind of sling, the Infantino Sling Rider, which was recalled in 2010. Over 1 million slings from this company were taken off the market. This sling style is a "bag sling" and it is different from a "ring sling".
This is a picture of the Infantino Sling Rider which was recalled.
You can see that it is very different from a ring sling. The problem with bag slings is that babies can easily move into unsafe positions, like these shown in the diagram.
This diagram from the Consumer Products Safety Commission shows how a sling can be unsafe for an infant. If a sling is not worn correctly, babies can slide into positions where their face is covered, or their airway collapses. They can also move in positions where the adult can't easily check on them, see their face, and feel them breathing.
The following video shows how to safely wear a baby in a Mobywrap sling from birth up.