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Infantino baby sling recall: Are any baby slings safe?

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Courtesy of US Consumer Product Safety Commission

(Read caption) US Consumer Product Safety Commission advises parents using an infant sling to make sure the infant’s face is not covered and is visible at all times. Correct sling usage is seen here.

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The recall of two baby sling models made by Infantino of San Diego, Calif., is highlighting the dangers of sling-style carriers across the market.

Infantino and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced Wednesday that the company is recalling about 1 million affected slings after three infants suffocated in the slings in 2009.

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In the first few months of life, children lack the strength to turn their head if their nose and mouth become covered by the sling or pressed against the carrier. Moreover, children’s airflow could be restricted if they are put in the sling in such a position that their chin rests on their chest.

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These problems could be present in slings not currently involved in the recall.

Any sling that puts children in that curved, chin-on-chest position is not safe, says Alan Korn, executive director and general counsel of Safe Kids USA.

“I would pass on them,” Mr. Korn says. He recommends parents and caregivers opt instead for a carrier that keeps the child upright, strapped either to the front or back of the adult.

That may be less appealing to parents who choose the slings for the intimacy of carrying their child close to the body.

“People were buying these products thinking this was a safe way to carry a child, that it was close to the mother, more natural,” says Korn. “But in the end, these slings result in a dangerous way to carry children and parents need to stop using them immediately.”

But the CPSC insists that all slings do not pose the same hazards as the recalled models.

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"There are safe ways to use slings," says Patty Davis, a spokesperson with the CSPC. "They’ve been used safely for centuries."

The two Infantino slings are dangerous because they are "deep pocket slings where there's no way for the baby’s face to be clear of fabric in pouch," says Ms. Davis.

Wednesday’s recall is not the first time the CPSC has turned its attention to baby slings.

In mid-March the organization warned that babies could suffocate in slings if not positioned properly. The CPSC advises parents who use the sling to be vigilant about checking their child when carrying him or her in any sling and to make sure that the child's face is clearly visible at all times.

Infantino is no longer offering sling products. Instead, it has a variety of carriers that keep the child upright, as Korn recommends.

"Infantino has also been working closely with CPSC and other agencies, as well as the international agency ASTM to develop safety standards for baby slings to ensure that these products are safe and that they are used appropriately," Infantino President Jack Vresics said in a press release Wednesday. "We will continue to play a leadership role in the industry and to cooperate closely with CPSC as it continues its investigation of all baby slings."

ASTM International is a voluntary standards-development group based in West Conshohocken, Pa.

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, which is currently working with ASTM to develop a set of safety standards for infant slings, offers these tips to parents:

  • Make sure the baby’s face is visible at all times.
  • The baby’s head should not be covered by any fabric.
  • Parents and caregivers should be able to look at the baby’s entire face when they are using the sling.
  • Be sure that the baby is not hunched with chin touching chest.
  • The baby’s face should not be pressed tight against wearer.

Parents looking for more information about the Infantino recall, including what to do if you think you have a recalled sling, should see the Monitor’s article on the recall here.