Posts tagged ‘babies’

14 January, 2016

How safe are baby slings for a newborn? A mother shares her tragic experience.

Marianne Matthews, from Harrow, was celebrating the birth of her first child Eric when, within weeks, he had died after having been carried in a baby sling. Marianne explains what happened.

I write this blog in memory of my first child Eric, and with the hope that this message will help prevent more tragedies like ours.

Baby Sling story Eric Matthews first days with parents Marianne and Bob Matthews

Parents Marianne and Bob Matthews with Eric when he was first born.

Eric was four-weeks-old when he became unconscious while I was carrying him in a stretchy wrap baby sling – soft fabric that wraps around the chest and waist and holds baby, allowing a parent to keep their hands free as they go about their everyday tasks.

As a new parent, you get marketed at relentlessly with baby products. I wasn’t fully aware of the risks involving baby slings, and you never think these kinds of tragedies are something that will happen to you. The dangers of slings were not mentioned in the antenatal classes we attended, or in any of the baby books we read. Maybe because baby slings are newly popular, safety warnings aren’t yet part of the standard information given to expectant parents.

I bought a stretchy wrap sling online. It came with minimal instructions and had no safety label.

baby carrier baby sling

The safest method is in a carrier that keeps the baby solidly against the parent’s body, in an upright position.

It was Christmas Eve 2013 and Eric was quite unsettled so I put him in the sling and took him out for a walk to the local shop. He started to get a bit hungry and I tried to breastfeed him whilst carrying him. I then decided to go home. At the time I thought Eric was just falling asleep.

Everything happened so quickly and quietly I didn’t realise that something was very wrong. He had either choked or got into difficulties. By the time I got back, he had stopped breathing.

We called 999 and tried to resuscitate him. Sadly Eric never regained consciousness, and passed away in our arms a week later on New Year’s Day 2014.

We loved Eric so much and wonder how things went so wrong. Eric was our first child, and as new parents, we were finding out what to do for the first time. Our inexperience was to have tragic consequences, sometimes love just isn’t enough.

Eric is now a big brother, our little girl Sola Eden was born in October 2014, and she really is a miracle for me and my husband Bob, especially as we had her when we were still grieving. I have learned a lot from Eric. I’ll never use a baby sling again. Safety is an absolute priority.

Baby sling story Marianne Matthews with husband Bob and daughter Sola Eden

Marianne and Bob Matthews have celebrated the birth of daughter Sola Eden since the tragedy.

My advice is not to use a baby sling for a newborn baby – wait a few weeks until they are stronger and have more neck control. Don’t be tempted to multi-task by feeding a baby in a sling and check for safety standards and warnings before choosing a product.

The part that concerns me most is that some slings are marketed as ‘breastfeeding slings’. In my opinion, the feeding position is unsafe for baby (particularly a newborn) to be carried in, as they need to be kept upright to keep their airways clear. A baby trying to feed may make similar sounds to a baby struggling for breath, or make no sounds at all, and tragedy can occur in a minute or so. Added to this, the use of a sling while out and about may mean there are more distractions, and parents may not be fully aware of what’s happening.

I hope other parents find our story helpful, and it can in some way prevent another avoidable death like Eric’s from happening.

Marianne Matthews.

You can read more on RoSPA’s detailed advice on baby slings at the RoSPA website.

amber teething necklace baby

RoSPA is aware of risks attached to these products because a sling’s fabric can press against a baby’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s airways and causing suffocation within a minute or two.  Suffocation can also occur where the baby is cradled in a curved or “C-like” position in a sling, nestling below the parent’s chest or near their stomach.

Because babies do not have strong neck control, this means that their heads are more likely to flop forward, chin-to-chest, restricting the infant’s ability to breathe. RoSPA advocates products that keep babies upright and allow parents to see their baby and to ensure that the face isn’t restricted. Your baby is safest travelling with you in a pram or pushchair in which they are lying flat, on their back, in a parent-facing position.

5 June, 2013

Let the buggy take the strain!

After the worst winter in recent memory we are all keen to get out and about in the sun. For those of us with new babies this can bring its own challenges as they can be heavy!

One of my previous blogs looked at baby slings and in this one I offer advice on the safe use of buggies and pushchairs.

Two mothers

It is fair to say that modern pushchairs and buggies are made to very high standards and provide a very high level of safety for babies, although injuries to children in the past have been caused by faulty brakes, flammable materials, unstable carriages and finger entrapments.

When buying new or second-hand, look for reference to a safety standard, typically BS 7409 or BSEN 1888:2003.  High street retailers are very good about ensuring that the products they supply meet the latest safety standards. Of course, as my blog on second-hand goods explained, not every parent can afford to buy products new.

RoSPA supports the supply of second-hand buggies and prams but advises parents to exercise caution before doing so.  For example, Maclaren recalled more than a million pushchairs in the US due to finger entrapment hazards a few years ago.  Here in the UK, safety packs were offered to parents. It is important to always check that the product you are buying is safe in this context and that it is marked as complying with the standard(s).

There are also some general rules for all parents who already own buggies and pushchairs:

  • Keep your child harnessed in at all times and never leave them unattended
  • If making adjustments, keep the child well away from moving parts
  • Buggies and pushchairs require regular maintenance
  • Overloading can be dangerous – don’t put coats and bags on top of the buggy as these can cause it to tip over
  • Handles are not for carrying shopping bags – these can also cause instability
  • If using a “buggy board” for older children to stand on while you push, please ensure that it is suitable for the buggy and fitted correctly
  • Incorrect folding can damage the product
  • Avoid using non-approved accessories which can cause damage
  • ALWAYS read the instructions before assembling and using the product.

Baby with soother

If family members or friends kindly pass on buggies or pushchairs that are no longer needed, parents also need to check that all harnesses have five straps.

Also, be aware that non-reclining seats are not suitable for children under six-months-old.

And before you put your child in a buggy or pushchair:

  • Check the brakes (lock and unlock them and then push)
  • Check that the product is properly unfolded and “locked” together correctly
  • Check that there is no damage, including sharp edges and torn fabric.

Most important of all, have fun out there this summer with your children and make the most of these special times when they are always with you – they grow up fast!

For more child safety tips, please go to the RoSPA website at: www.rospa.com/childsafety/

Philip LeShirley, RoSPA Product Safety Adviser

27 November, 2012

Don’t be too relaxed around nappy sacks

Nappy sacks – flimsy plastic bags used to dispose of soiled nappies – are a relatively recent phenomena for parents.

nappy sacks dangers suffocation choking RoSPA

Parents are advised to never place nappy sacks in a baby’s cot or pram, and to keep them a safe distance away from babies’ and young children’s inquisitive hands at all times.

But these sacks have been implicated in causing the suffocation and choking of babies who are less than one year old, prompting a campaign by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) to warn parents in England and Scotland on the possible dangers.

This issue was first brought to light in September 2010 when a baby died from asphyxia due to a nappy sack. Beth Beynon, child accident prevention co-ordinator for NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (NHS CIOS), heard about the case through the local Safeguarding Children Board and was part of the NHS team which immediately set about gathering information to develop an understanding of the circumstances and to identify whether similar deaths had occurred elsewhere.

This exercise highlighted that asphyxia from nappy sacks had caused up to 10 known deaths in babies across England and Wales alone.  However, none of these cases had come to the attention of national accident prevention bodies, nor had they been logged on the national Trading Standards database. Each area had assumed their incidents were one-off, isolated cases. Sadly, since then two more deaths have been added to the list bringing the total to 12.

The typical scenario associated with the deaths involves sacks which are stored within the baby’s reach, close to the baby’s cot – including under the mattress usually for convenience. In some of the cases, the nappy sacks had been left near to or in the cot for ease of changing the baby’s nappy in the night.

Babies are at particular risk because despite naturally grasping items and putting them in their mouths, they find it difficult to let go or remove them when in trouble. Once in their mouths, the nappy sack can lead to obstruction of the nose and mouth and prevent babies from inhaling fresh air. The flimsiness of nappy sacks also makes them small enough to fit into little mouths, plus they do not rustle in the same way as plastic bags and can be easily breathed in by babies without parents realising.

Informal feedback from parents and carers and professionals demonstrated that the risk to young babies is compounded by the fact that widespread usage of nappy sacks is a relatively recent phenomenon. Parents and carers are generally aware of the dangers posed by plastic bags, but do not make the same link to nappy sacks and so they are less likely to take the same safety precautions.

The risk of this potential hazard is increased by the lack of mandatory suffocation warning advice on the packaging and the product’s frequent availability as loose bags in a packet, as opposed to supplied on a roll.

Parents are advised to never place nappy sacks in a baby’s cot or pram, and to keep them a safe distance away from babies’ and young children’s inquisitive hands at all times.

Thousands of RoSPA posters and leaflets, warning families of the dangers of leaving plastic nappy sacks lying near babies, are currently being distributed to GP surgeries, parent and toddler groups and other family centres. Any organisations involved with children’s services in England and Scotland can apply for these nappy sack safety leaflets by visiting RoSPA’s nappy sack safety advice page.

Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser

24 May, 2012

Baby slings – advice and information for parents

Babies are the most wonderful gift but they can be heavy! In situations where buggies and pushchairs are not suitable, parents are often faced with the prospect of having to carry their baby, which can lead to back pain and fatigue. Parents ideally want their babies as close to them as possible and often choose the aid of a baby sling to support their little one in a comforting way, meaning parents then have their hands free to go about their daily tasks.

baby carrier baby sling

The safest method of baby wearing is in a carrier that keeps the newborn baby solidly against the parent’s body, in an upright position. Parents should ensure that they keep their baby’s chin off their chest, thereby keeping the airway free for breathing.

While RoSPA fully under stands the attraction of using baby slings, we are very concerned about a worrying number of fatalities recorded by parents using certain types of baby slings to carry their children.

These slings are made of soft fabrics that wrap around the chest so that on-the-go parents can carry their babies or use it as another way to bond, keeping close contact between the child and the parent. They have become increasingly popular in recent years and slings have also been promoted by baby experts as a way to help babies feel secure and calm or as an alternative aid for mothers to use for breastfeeding.

It is important to mention that not all slings are dangerous and they have been in use for thousands of years. The safest method of baby wearing is in a carrier that keeps the newborn baby solidly against the parent’s body, in an upright position. Parents should ensure that they keep their baby’s chin off their chest, thereby keeping the airway free for breathing.

RoSPA is not calling for a ban on these products, nor urging parents not to use them.  Instead we are advising parents to be careful with their selection of the type of sling and to be aware that there are risks attached. RoSPA advocates products that keep babies upright and allow parents to see their baby and to ensure that the face isn’t restricted.

The Consortium of UK Sling Manufacturers and Retailers provided the following advice to baby sling wearers: Keep your baby close and keep your baby safe. When you’re wearing a sling or carrier, don’t forget the T.I.C.K.S:

  • Tight
  • In view at all times
  • Close enough to kiss
  • Keep chin off the chest
  • Supported back.

But what many parents may not be aware of is that at least 16 deaths across the world have been reported as a result of using baby slings. The US authorities have advised parents to be cautious when using infant slings for babies younger than four months. Slings can pose a suffocation hazard in two different ways:

  • A sling’s fabric can press against a baby’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and causing suffocation within a minute or two
  • The other scenario involves slings where the baby is cradled in a curved or “C-like” position, nestling the baby below the parent’s chest or near their stomach. This can cause a baby who doesn’t have strong neck control to flop its head forward, chin-to-chest, restricting the infant’s ability to breathe. In scenarios like this, babies may not be able to cry for help and could slowly suffocate, according to the US authorities.

Did you know that in 2010, over a million baby slings were recalled in the US by a manufacturer over fears that they could cause suffocation? It followed three deaths linked to The SlingRider and Wendy Bellissimo ranges, made by Infantino. As a result, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urged parents to stop using the slings for babies under four months. The CPSC also stipulated that all products should be sold with clear safety instructions.

In the US, the case of one-week-old Derrik Fowler, in Oregon, is used by many safety advocates as an example of the suffocation risks associated with slings. Derek died in a sling of positional asphyxia or suffocation, according to court records. Derrik was carried in a “bag style” sling, in which the fabric wraps around the parent’s neck and cradles the child in a curved position.

RoSPA hopes that this advice is useful to new parents. If consumers have concerns about any products they have seen advertised, they should contact the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline on 08454 04 05 06.

Philip Le Shirley, RoSPA’s product safety adviser.

20 March, 2012

Amber teething necklaces – is your child at risk?

It is a common conundrum for parents all around the world – what is the best method to help soothe my baby? While there are many ways and means out there which are both safe and effective, from gentle rocking to a tuneful lullaby, RoSPA has noticed a worrying new trend emerging among parents who are opting to use amber bead teething necklaces.

Amber teething necklace

An example of an amber teething necklace.

These eye-catching beads are made from natural Baltic amber and are placed around a baby’s neck to help soothe the pain of teething. While there is evidence to show that these beads can have an analgesic effect, there are some very serious hazards associated with the product which we wish to make parents aware of.

Baltic amber contains between three and eight per cent succinic acid. Those that subscribe to this method of soothing argue that the acid, which has been shown to stimulate neural system recovery and bolster the immune system, is released from the beads and into the baby. The succinc acid is said to have an analgesic effect, reducing the pain of teething.

While RoSPA is not in a position to comment on the accuracy of these claims, in the past concerns have been raised about amber teething necklaces representing a choking hazard. The main concern relates to the beads and clasps which can become detached. There are also inherent strangulation hazards associated with having any type of cord placed around a child’s neck, especially babies. Some proponents have argued that the risk of strangulation is mitigated by only allowing the baby to wear the necklace when he/she is awake and under supervision. RoSPA does not support his view. Aside from the fact that babies spend a substantive part of their time sleeping, RoSPA does not advocate any cord being placed around any baby’s neck at any time. Our ongoing work on the risks posed by blind cords highlights the terrible tragedies of infant strangulation and the speed at which it can happen.

amber teething necklace baby

Amber teething necklaces are placed around a baby’s neck to help soothe the pain of teething – but it could pose a choking hazard.

RoSPA is fully aware of the stress parents can be under when their babies start teething, but there are many other options out there to help soothe teething pain, such as the use of medically approved creams applied directly to the gums. Other methods include teethers and teething toys which are often filled with a liquid and are sometimes kept refrigerated before being given to a baby to chew on. In all cases, RoSPA advises parents to seek advice from health workers (even before the baby is born) on the best and safest ways of soothing teething pain.

There have been cases of amber teething necklaces being taken off the UK and European market some years ago due to choking hazards. In RoSPA’s view, the biggest problem is that these necklaces are widely available on the internet, but the fact that these products are being offered for sale and delivery to your home does not mean that they are safe for your baby.

If consumers have concerns about any products they have seen advertised, contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline, on 08454 04 05 06.

Philip Le Shirley, RoSPA’s product safety adviser.

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