Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dangers of Bag Slings

All baby carriers have the potential of being unsafe if not put on correctly. However, if a carrier’s construction is such that it is impossible to get a correct positioning that does not compromise the worn baby’s breathing, is not worth taking the risk with.

Recently in the news, a family whose 6 days old infant suffocated in an Infantino Slingrider last spring, filed a lawsuit against the company. The case has brought attention to the dangers of bag type slings, a topic M’Liss Stelzer, former registered nurse, has been researching for quite some time.

M’liss covers the various design flaws in her research:,

1. Bag slings are roughly triangle shaped; flat bottom and two sides that slant upwards toward the elastic top. This “triangle” means that the pouch fabric is always angled very close to the sides of baby’s face. If baby rotates even slightly he ends up with his nose within a ¼” of the side, or even pressed against the side of the pouch. Once baby has his head pressed against the side of the carrier and/or against the parent's body there is a risk of him becoming oxygen deprived or even suffocating.

2. It is difficult for the parent to closely monitor their infant unless the top of the sling is pulled open. Bag slings are generally deep, plus they sag when baby is placed in it, further increasing the depth of the carrier. The gathered top, and the fact that the sling hangs so low, obstructs the parent’s view of baby. If a newborn were to have difficulty breathing, and/or rotate until his nose and mouth was pressed against the side of the carrier, the parent may not be aware of the baby’s respiratory distress for some time. Compounding this problem is the difficulty of feeling the baby's distress through the thick fabric of the sling.

3. Although there are bag slings designed with large mesh panels placed near the infant’s head, others are not. There is a possibility that, with only a very small opening at the top of a non-mesh sling, an infant may not receive an adequate amount of fresh air. There is the concern that carbon dioxide levels could rise the longer the infant remains in the sling.
4. The design of a bag sling causes baby to curl chin to chest, larger babies more so because their heads are positioned further up in the carrier. This position kinks baby's airway causing the baby to work harder to breathe.

“In October of 2006 I emailed Infantino with my concerns,” write M’liss. “I included a file with all the information I have concerning adverse events or infant deaths in fabric carriers, a copy of my "Correct Positioning" article as well as photos illustrating the differences in positioning in fabric carriers like pouches, RSs, MTs and wraps versus their product. In the spring/summer of 2007 I resumed researching the SlingRider and all additional sling tests and photos were emailed to Infantino as soon as they were obtained. In June 2007 I mailed all pertinent information to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“Infantino has added a mesh panel to the upper half of the SlingRider. This should improve airflow to the newborn but does not, IMO, address other problems inherent to the design.
“The CPSC, to my knowledge, has not taken any action.”

Many parents do not realize that “grunting” is NOT normal, as was the case with one of her guest parents. Grunting means the baby is having trouble breathing, either in or outside a baby carrier. It happens most commonly if the child is laying in a position that pusher her chin to chest. "The analogy I use, to help explain the difference, is that a newborn’s airway is like a straw and when the “straw” is kinked it is a lot harder to get air through," writes M’liss. "Once the baby’s breathing becomes more labored the baby starts forcing air through the 'kinked straw'/airway and that is why the whistle or grunting noises are with every, or almost every, breath. "

Compare the SlingRider with a shallow fabric pouch or adjustable open-tailed sling (or mei tai or wrap). In these types of carriers an infant is easily monitored and visualized. Also, a newborn's head is effectively sandwiched between the sides of these carriers, preventing the infant from rotating his/her head into the sides of the carrier.

"Using a bag sling is, in my opinion, just playing russian roulette." --M'liss

More of M’liss article and observations from her research are found at http://www.blogger.com/www.%20babyslingsafety.blogspot.com

M'liss Stelzer is a former registered nurse and now a babywearing educator and now mother of two.
Author "Correct Positioning", September 2006
Author "Babywearing Bliss", Mothering magazine January - February 2007
Instructor Chicago Babywearing Conference, June 2008

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