Baby Slings: A Warning and What to Do

Today, the Commission is warning families and caregivers about hazards associated with the use of baby slings.  While forms of slings have been used for hundreds of years, they have become especially popular in recent years as a way to keep your baby close and connected to you.  Tragically, a number of babies have died while being carried in slings.  Therefore, the agency is warning the public about this risk and emphasizing the proper use of these products. 

This raises a problem that we grapple with at the agency on a regular basis—that is, how to sort through all the details of a tragic incident to determine if the product actually caused the death or the death was caused by something else while the product was being used.  We do not know the complete answer to this question with respect to baby slings. We do know, however, that slings can pose two different types of suffocation hazards to babies.  We also know many of the babies who died in slings were of a low birth weight, were born prematurely, or had breathing issues such as a cold. (see press release)

The other question we struggle with regularly is how much information do we need to make a general warning like the one we are issuing today.  We have an obligation to warn the public about risks, and tell them how to avoid those risks.  The agency is providing this warning so that families and caregivers can be made aware of incidents that we have received and are provided advice from the agency’s technical experts so they can make an educated decision about how to properly use these products.    

In the case of baby slings, information that we were considering a warning was publicly discussed several days before the warning came out without any detail about how parents and caregivers could avoid the risk.  Many news stories were written about the future warning that we would be issuing.  The concern is that this kind of situation can alarm parents without arming them with the needed information about the risk and how to avoid it.

The CPSC has a public trust to protect consumers from unreasonable risk.  That trust includes providing warnings about proper use of products.  Ours is a twofold responsibility: when we give a warning, we should also give advice about how to deal with it.

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4 Responses to “Baby Slings: A Warning and What to Do”


  1. 1 Regina Quincy March 18, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Baby wearing has also helped thousands of pre-mature babies thrive, ie Kangaroo care. It would be greatly appreciated if when issuing a warning of this kind to be very specific of brands and types and also tell of the benefits as well as the warning instructions. As a parent of three and consumer of new native slings from birth till 3yrs of age I am very thankful for the new native slings and everything they have done for our family. My children and us continue to enjoy a very close relationship based on trust established from day one because of baby wearing.

  2. 2 Susie March 14, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    “In the case of baby slings, information that we were considering a warning was publicly discussed several days before the warning came out without any detail about how parents and caregivers could avoid the risk. Many news stories were written about the future warning that we would be issuing. The concern is that this kind of situation can alarm parents without arming them with the needed information about the risk and how to avoid it.”

    The news stories were in response to public statements made by Inez Tenenbaum on Tuesday (i.e., early in the news week), and the stories continued in anticipation of the warning until the warning finally came on a Friday, at the end of the news week and after the story had already played and played. Yes, that DOES raise concerns. The vague “we’re going to issue a warning” seems to have received more coverage than the actual warning. And the actual warning has been mis-characterized over and over. Good Moring America said that the CPSC was warning parents NOT TO USE slings with infants under four months of age.

    And please, how many infants have to die in the Infantino Slingrider before the CPSC will mandate a recall? It is impossible to comply with the instructions given in the CPSC warning when using that carrier because the caregiver cannot see the baby’s face and ensure an open airway. (It is not really a “sling” as babywearers use the term; it’s more of a duffle bag with a harness in it to help keep the baby from falling out.)

    Finally, can we know what “slings” were involved in the 14 deaths being investigated? Some things identified in reports (including reports from the CPSC) as “slings” have actually turned out to be frontpacks or other carriers covered by the existing ASTM standard rather than one-shoulder slings or wraparound slings. It’s hard to educate and protect consumers when the information is so muddled. Because there is no standard definition of “sling,” the only way we can know what’s going on is to have the brand names of the carriers being investigated. Please publish them.

    Thank you for your work on behalf of consumers and your open communication here.

  3. 3 Emily March 13, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    I really, really wish that the media and the CPSC would be specific about what TYPE of baby slings are a problem. There are many slings that are quite safe, and then there are one or two types that clearly are not. Most seasoned babywearers know the difference and would never recommend the non-safe slings. I absolutely agree that unsafe slings should be brought to light (and probably not sold at all). But it isn’t fair to paint all slings with the same broad brush.

  4. 4 Krista Cathey March 13, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    As a retailer of baby slings and carriers, I appreciate the CPSC’s purpose to protect the consumer. As a store, we only want to sell products that we know are safe for our families. We depend on organizations like the Consumer Product Safety Commission and JPMA to provide us with safety information. We use this information in our purchasing decisions and to pass along to consumers. We have so many customers that wear their babies and we are big proponents of the benefits of baby wearing. My hope is that parents will read and understand that this is a warning to be cautious and not a recall. We will be educating our customers on the Chin Up, Face Visible, Nose and Mouth Free position that is recommended. Thank you for what you do.


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