April 9, 2014 – Slings and carriers allow parents and caregivers to keep infants close by as they go about their daily routine. Unfortunately, the misuse of slings and carriers, as well as unsubstantiated information from media, has misled well-intentioned parents down the wrong path.
10,000 baby slings were recalled in 2010 after they were linked to the deaths of three babies in the United States.
31 incidents including 2 deaths by suffocation were reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSA) from September 2012 to July 2013 relating to soft infant and toddler carriers. The primary hazards associated with soft baby carriers are the parent falling while carrying the baby or the baby falling out of the carrier.
On September 29th, 2014, the following mandatory standards for soft carriers go into effect for all products manufactured and imported after this date.
- Warning labels on carriers will state the risks and dangers of using carriers especially for infants four months and younger.
- All straps, stitching, seams, buckles and belts will require testing for durability and strength.
- Fasteners are required to withstand an 80 pound load
- Leg openings will prevent passage of a 14.75” – 5 pound sphere
- Carriers will have to meet flammability requirements for apparel that are consistent with slings and other wearable carriers.
From 1986 to March 31st, 2014, Health Canada received 26 incident reports relating to soft infant, non-framed carriers and slings, including four deaths caused by suffocation.
“Consumers should always check with the retailer or manufacturer to make sure the sling/carrier meets the most recent version of the applicable ASTM standard; either ASTM F2907 for slings or ASTM F2236 for soft infant carriers, or ASTM F2549 for framed backpack carriers,” says Sara Lauer of the Communications and Public Affairs Branch with Health Canada.
“New versions for all three standards were published in 2014 and can be directly purchased from ASTM International.”
ASTM International published a voluntary standard for soft infant carriers. Health Canada has participated in the development of many safety standards including the ASTM F2907 voluntary safety standard for baby slings, intended to keep babies safe by setting out performance and labelling requirements for manufacturers.
ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, is a renowned leader in the development and delivery of international voluntary consensus standards. To date, about 12,000 ASTM standards are used around the world to improve product quality, enhance safety, facilitate market access and trade, and build consumer confidence.
“ASTM’s leadership in international standards development is driven by the contributions of its members: more than 30,000 of the world’s top technical experts and business professionals representing 150 countries. Working in an open and transparent process and using ASTM’s advanced electronic infrastructure, ASTM members deliver the test methods, specifications, guides, and practices that support industries and governments worldwide.” - Excerpt from ASTM International website.
“Health Canada encourages manufacturers, retailers and consumers to sell and use products which meet or surpass known safety standards, in order to minimize the risk to users,” says Sara Lauer.
“If a product is found to pose an unreasonable hazard, the Department can take appropriate compliance and enforcement action under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, which could include issuing orders for recalls or other corrective measures, or even prosecution,” Lauer added.
Health Canada promotes, and will continue to promote, the safe use of baby slings and soft infant carriers. Information on baby sling and carrier safety is available on the http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/kids-enfants/infant-care-soins-bebe/slings-porte_bebes-eng.php">Healthy Canadians website. Encouraging industry to adopt voluntary safety standards and providing consumer education on how to safely use soft infant carriers and baby slings, will help reduce the numbers of incidents.
Last March, The Brisbane Times stated that one in 20 babies carried in a sling suffered injury. Since 2010, three babies died from suffocation and recently the death of a three-week-old girl in Brisbane impelled authorities to create a safety awareness campaign to eradicate the ongoing confusion as to how to position babies safely in the popular carriers. The campaign, that will launch this summer, includes a video, brochures, posters and social media.
The death of a two-day old baby boy while being carried in a cloth sling prompted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to consider mandatory standards. Presently there are no Australian or international manufacturing safety standards for baby slings.
''The ACCC is working with the product safety regulators in the US, Canada and Europe on the development of the safety standard for baby slings as a result of concerns in a variety of countries about the risk that they pose, in particular for very young infants,'' said Peter Kell, the Deputy Chairman of the ACCC.
Eric Matthews was 36 days old when he died on January 1st, 2014, from asphyxiation. Dr. Richard Brittain, coroner for the case, ruled that the death was caused by the baby being carried in a fabric sling during a 10-minute walk on Christmas Eve and stated, “…there is nothing to suggest that the use of the sling was inappropriate or incorrect.”
There have been at least six related deaths in the U.K.
Safety Measures for Carriers and Slings
- Your baby's head and face should be visible and within reach of hugs and kisses at all times.
- Hold your baby in an upright position.
- Make sure your baby's face is not pressed into the fabric of the carrier, your body or clothing.
- Make sure your baby's chin is not pressed into his/her chest.
- Ensure your baby's legs are not folded against his/her stomach because this position can interfere with your baby's breathing.
- Continually adjust the sling and carrier to support your baby's back.
- When you bend forward, hold your baby so he/she does not fall out of the carrier or sling.
- Check your baby frequently.
'Incorrect' Sling and Carrier Positions
'Correct' Sling and Carrier Positions
Precautions for Slings and Carriers
- Never leave your baby unattended in a baby sling or carrier.
- Continually examine the seams, corners, fasteners and buckles of the sling and carrier to ensure they remain in good condition.
- If your sling or carrier is attached with knots make sure they are tight. If your sling or carrier has rings, make sure the fabric cannot slip through.
- Be careful when placing or removing a baby from a sling or carrier. Do not hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
- When you wear a sling or carrier, do not zip your coat around the baby because this increases the risk of suffocation and overheating.
- The airways of a baby less than four months of age are still developing so make sure your baby's airway is not compromised or restricted.
- Do not use a baby sling or carrier during activities such as cooking, running, cycling or drinking hot beverages. These actions can lead to injury.
Before you Purchase a Baby Sling or Carrier
- Choose a model that is clearly detailed and has easy to understand instructions. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and keep them in a safe place for future use.
- Purchase a product that is well suited for the size of your baby making sure your baby's head is always above the sling/carrier and that your baby's face is clearly visible.
- Check with the retailer or manufacturer to ensure that the sling/baby carrier meets the safety specification standard ASTM F2907-12, titled Consumer Safety Specification for Sling Carriers.
Baby Slings and Carriers – Canadian Government
Courthouse News: Safety Standard for Soft Infant and Toddler Carriers: Final rule, published March 28, 2014, effective Sept. 29, 2014 and apply to product manufactured or imported on or after that date. The Consumer Product Safety Commission establishes a safety standard for soft infant and toddler carriers in response to the direction under Section 104(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.
Health Canada Reminds Parents to Exercise Caution When Using Infant Slings and Soft Infant Carriers – Government of Canada – Healthy Canadians – includes REPORT A CONCERN HERE