Baby slings are soft fabric carriers that are tied or attached to your body and are used to carry babies or young children. They are also known as wraps and pouches, but differ from backpack-style carriers because they do not have a solid back or frame.
When carrying your baby this way, remember this quick rule of thumb: keep your baby visible and kissable at all times.
Babies can be at risk if they have been placed incorrectly in a sling, or if they slouch or shift into an incorrect position, because they do not have the physical capacity to move out of dangerous positions that block their airways.
There have been incidents of babies suffocating while in a sling.
There are 4 main hazards associated with baby slings:
- The wearer trips and falls while the baby is in the sling.
- The baby falls through gaps in the sling.
- The sling breaks and the baby falls.
- The baby suffocates by
- lying with the face pressed against the fabric of the sling or the wearer’s body
- lying with a curved back, with the chin resting on the chest.
Regularly check your baby as they can be in distress without making any noise or movement.
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 that 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 one 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 like a bag or pouch. These can completely 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. We do not recommend using these types of slings.
- Follow the TICKS rule for baby sling safety:
- In view at all times
- Close enough to kiss
- Keep chin off chest
- Supported back
The TICKS 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 their 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
- Make sure your baby’s legs are not bunched up against their stomach as this can also restrict their breathing.
- Wear your baby snugly enough to support their back and hold onto your baby when you bend over so they don’t fall out of the sling.
- Don’t use a sling during activities that could lead to injury, such as while drinking hot drinks or cooking.
- Check your sling for wear and tear before every use.
- Look for ripped seams, torn straps and damaged hardware, including rings, buttons and clips.
- If your sling has knots, check that they are tied tightly.
- If your sling has rings, make sure the fabric can’t slip through them.
- Ask someone to help you when using the sling for the first time.
- Be careful when putting your baby into or getting them out of a sling. Ask for help if necessary.
- Be alert to your own safety—slings can affect the way you move, particularly on stairs.
- Be aware your activity may loosen the sling or the baby inside the sling.
- Never use products that are bag or pouch slings. These are often described as womb-like, cocoons or placing baby in a foetal position. These slings place the baby in a dangerous position with a curved back and fabric may cover their face.
Consumers can find qualified baby wear consultants to help with learning to wear a sling safely.