Baby slings are soft fabric carriers that are tied or attached to your body and are used to carry babies or young children. They do not have a solid back or frame like other types of baby carriers.
You should take care when using slings to carry babies as there have been incidents of babies suffocating while in a sling. Babies are at risk if they are not placed in the right way in the sling because they are not yet old enough to move out of a dangerous position that can block their airway.
There are 2 positions that increase the risk of suffocation:
- The baby is lying in the sling with a curved back, with its chin resting on its chest
- The baby is lying with the face pressed against the fabric of the sling or the wearer’s body.
Babies who are premature, have low birth weight or breathing difficulties are at greater risk. You should talk to a doctor before using a sling with a premature or sick baby.
Carry with care: How to keep your baby safe in a sling is a short film which shows you how to position your baby safely in a sling.
Choosing a sling
- Choose a sling that comes with detailed instructions on how to use it.
- Take your baby with you when choosing a sling to ensure you choose a sling that is the right size for you and your baby.
- Ask for a demonstration on how to use the sling, according to the instructions that come with it.
- Be very careful about buying a sling that looks a bag or pouch. These can totally cover the baby and increase the suffocation risk because you cannot see the baby and its chin may be resting on its chest without you knowing. Office of Fair Trading does not recommend the use of these types of slings.
- Follow the T.I.C.K.S rule for baby sling safety.
The T.I.C.K.S rule for baby sling safety
The sling should be tight with your baby positioned high and upright with head support. Any loose fabric may cause your baby to slump down, restricting its breathing.
In view at all times
You should always be able to see your baby’s face by simply looking down. Ensure your baby’s face, nose and mouth remain uncovered by the sling and/or your body.
Close enough to kiss
Your baby should be close enough to your chin that by tipping your head forward you can easily kiss your baby on top of its head.
Keep chin off chest
Ensure your baby’s chin is up and away from its body. Your baby should never be curled so that its chin is forced onto its chest as this can restrict breathing. Regularly check your baby. Babies can be in distress without making any noise or movement.
Your baby’s back should be supported in a natural position with its tummy and chest against you. When bending over, support your baby with one hand behind its back and bend at the knees, not at the waist.
Other things to remember when wearing a sling
- Ask someone to help you when using the sling for the first time.
- Pay attention to your baby. The baby being unsettled may indicate a breathing difficulty. However, a baby might also have breathing difficulty and make no obvious sound or movement.
- Be alert to your own safety—slings can affect the way you move, particularly on stairs. Be alert for things that may fall on the baby for example, hot drinks.
- Be aware your activity may loosen the sling or the baby inside the sling.
A qualified baby wearing consultant can help you learn how to wear your sling safely. More information is available from the Babywearing School Australia.