An article today in the Sydney Morning Herald about a 2 day old South Australian baby who died while being carried in a sling under his mother's clothing is an awful tragedy. In a letter to the Medical Journal of Australia, published today, two pathology experts say as tests found no other explanation for the Adelaide baby's death the cause was recorded as undetermined, but the sling was "considered a risk factor". This is the first known fatality of a baby in a sling recorded in Australia. There have been 16 deaths reported in the United States and Canada attributed to baby slings.
One thing to note here was that the poor mother was wearing the baby under the mother's shirt and jumper. Which in itself is dangerous, as being under all those clothes can also cause suffocation.
The ACCC has issued a saftey alert for baby slings and there may be soon be mandatory safety standards.
Having used slings for both my babies I am going to share what I know about the safe use of baby slings:
- Always be able to keep a visual contact with your baby. I never had my infant under clothing, the sling was always on the outside of my clothing (I even bought a second, bigger size sling so I could compensate for clothing)
- Avoid excessive neck flexion and nose/mouth pressing against the cloth or your skin. This can lead to suffocation. I found that the sling would often put them in that position and you would have to turn them slightly so they face more upwards rather than into your chest (though that chest facing position was good for breastfeeding if you wanted to breastfeed your baby in your sling)
- Be vigilant! I know it can be hard when you're busy with a few kids but I did try to make sure I could hear breathing or some kind of noise from the baby.
- Don't lean forward excessively with the baby - squat lift things - otherwise your baby could tumble out of the sling.
- Never eat hot food or hot drinks while carrying baby in a baby sling! You could spill it on the baby.
I used Jazsling and Peanut Shell slings for my kids. This picture shows the correct positioning of the baby in the sling. Facing outwards, outside of the clothing, and in easy visual contact with the parent. Jazslings are very light, and at the time quite cheap! They are a bit more pricey now, and you can also breastfeed with them, but I was never very successful at doing that.