Hands up if you use a baby sling? Of course, having two hands free to put up is one of the awesome things about using a sling. That, and the huge source of comfort they bring to little ones. It’s no wonder they have soared in popularity – but using them incorrectly can have tragic consequences.
Three Australian infants have suffocated to death in baby slings in the past five years, spurring Queensland’s Office of Trading to release a new video and checklist to show parents how to safely use them. Product safety unit manager Dave Strachan says his team started looking into the issue following a coroner’s investigation into the death of a Queensland baby in 2010.
“The problem seems to be that parents are not fully aware of how to use them safely,” he says. “It’s not that they are unsafe products, but the way they are being used is perhaps putting babies in an unsafe situation.”
He says babies are at risk of suffocation if their face gets pushed against the wearer’s body or the material of the sling. Premature or low birthweight babies, or children with breathing difficulties, are at greatest risk.
Mr Strachan says slings are popular because they are relatively simple to use and allow parents to free up their hands. “We don’t know how many people use slings, but we believe it’s increasing exponentially each year,” he says. “Part of it has been driven by celebrities, who use them commonly and tend to set the pace for these things.”
Office of Fair Trading research found parents were desperate for information on how to use them safely and were turning to the internet to find out, which led to the “Carry with Care” video released on YouTube last week. As you can see below, the video shows how to position baby and keep them safe in the sling.
Mr Strachan says it is vital that the child’s mouth and nose are always uncovered, and ideally the baby is in a vertical position. Parents should choose a sling that comes with detailed instructions and ask for an in-store demonstration. It’s also a good idea to take your baby when choosing a sling to make sure it’s a good fit for both of you.
Baby wearers can follow the T.I.C.K.S checklist for sling safety:
TIGHT: Keep the sling tight, with but positioned high and upright with head support.
IN VIEW: You should always be able to see your bub’s face just by looking down. Make sure their face, nose and mouth are uncovered.
CLOSE ENOUGH TO KISS: Lean forward and make sure you can easily kiss your baby on the top of their head.
KEEP CHIN OFF THE CHEST: Make sure your baby’s chin is up and away from his or her body, not curled into its chest.
SUPPORTED BACK: Your baby should be supported in a natural position, with tummy and chest against you. When you bend over, do it from the knees and support your baby with one hand behind their back.
Check out the video below or download a flyer or poster demonstrating the T.I.C.K.S. rule at the Office of Fair Trading website.