Posts tagged ‘baby slings’

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.

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.

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