Baby Sling and Carrier Safety
Care must be taken when using baby slings and carriers as there are currently no Australian Standards for the manufacture of these products sold in Australia. Baby slings and carriers can be dangerous if not used correctly or if the wrong size or type is used. This video has been developed to help you understand and recognise the possible risks, and how to use baby slings and carriers safely. Make sure to follow these safety instructions when using any type of sling and carrier with your baby.
When it comes to baby slings and carriers always remember to keep your baby Visible and KissableTM. That means...CHIN UP, FACE VISIBLE, NOSE AND MOUTH FREE
*Visible and Kissable is a trademark of BCIA, registered in the USA.
What are Baby Slings and Carriers?
- Baby slings are pouches or strips of fabric secured over your shoulders and usually worn across your front.
- Baby carriers are soft padded carriers worn on your front, back or hip
There are many different types of slings and carriers for sale and not all are safe to use with your baby. They can be dangerous if not used correctly or when the wrong size or type is used.
Risks and Dangers
Babies have suffocated in bag style slings and at least one type has been recalled because they were dangerous.
In a sling or carrier babies can’t physically move out of dangerous positions that block their airways. This puts them at risk of suffocating if their face is pressed against the fabric or wearer’s body, or if they are in a ‘C’ shape position with their chin on their chest.
Babies most at risk
- Babies who are most at risk include:
- premature babies
- babies with a low birth weight
- babies who have breathing problems
- babies younger than 4 months old
- babies with low muscle tone, or other medical problems.
Be careful when using slings for all babies and speak to your paediatrician or your baby’s physiotherapist before using a sling with a premature baby.
Buying a baby sling or carrier
When buying a baby sling or carrier, you should look for the following:
- Make sure the product comes with clear and detailed instructions for use.
- Take your baby with you and ask a staff member to show you how to fit the sling to you correctly.
- Make sure the product you buy is a good fit for all of the people who will be using it – it should be able to be safely adjusted to fit each person.
- The sling should not cover your baby’s face or put them in a foetal position.
- Avoid slings that mention being womb-like or cocoon shape.
- Be careful when buying or using second hand slings or buying online because it will be harder to check the quality and how the product fits you.
- Check the material, stitching and fastenings to make sure they are good quality and in good condition.
After you have secured your baby safely, use the T.I.C.K.S. checklist to make sure you are using your sling or carrier correctly:
T is for Tight: Slings should be tight enough to hug your baby close to you
I is for In view at all times: You should always be able to see your baby’s face by simply glancing down
C is for Close enough to kiss: By tipping your head forward you should be able to kiss your baby on the head
K is for Keep chin off chest: A baby should never be curled so that their chin is forced onto their chest as this can restrict their breathing. As a guide, you should be able to fit 1 – 2 finger widths between baby’s chin and chest.
S is for Supported back: Your baby’s back should be supported in a natural position so their tummy and chest are against you.
Safe and healthy positioning of baby
When fitting your sling or carrier on yourself, make sure you hold your baby with at least one arm at all times until they are firmly positioned in the sling or carrier.
Make sure your baby's hips are in an ‘M’ position, so their thighs are straddling your body. Carrying your baby with their hips together can increase their risk of hip dysplasia which is a problem that can cause your baby’s hip joint to be unstable.
Position your baby in an upright position with the natural curve of their spine and the back of their neck supported.
Do not place your baby on your back in a carrier or sling until they can get into and maintain a sitting position on their own. Most baby carriers are not supportive enough to safely carry your baby on your back earlier than this.
Safe use and regularly checking on baby
Take your baby out of the sling or carrier straightaway if you observe any of the following:
- Their face is covered, chin tucked in or they are curled in a 'C' position
- They are grunting, wheezing, or taking laboured, rapid or whistling breaths
- There is a grey or blue tinge to their skin
- They are fussy, restless or squirming
Your baby may be in difficulty without making any noise or movement so it is important to regularly check your baby when they are in a sling or carrier.
Safe and healthy wearing
When carrying your baby in a sling or carrier:
- Walk and stand tall with your knees bent a little bit to take some of the weight.
- Take short steps to assist with balance, as slings can alter your centre of gravity.
- Keep your shoulders low and back. Shoulder straps and chest clips should cross between your shoulder blades.
When the sling or carrier is being shared between caregivers, always take the time to make adjustments for their comfort as well as baby’s safety.
Never place your baby in a sling underneath clothing or with any material covering their face.
Be careful of things that could be dangerous when carrying your baby in a sling such as holding hot drinks, running after another child or any activity that distracts you from regularly checking on your baby.
Your movement may loosen the sling and change the position of your baby. Check for wear and tear to the product like ripped seams, frayed straps or loose fasteners each time before you use it.
Using a sling or carrier correctly and safely, and breastfeeding a baby are two very different skills that are best learned separately. Only consider combining these skills once you are confident and proficient in both.
Babies can easily get into a dangerous position or situation when attempting to breastfeed in a sling or carrier as their face can become smothered/covered. Breastfeeding a baby in a sling or carrier is not a hands-free activity as baby still requires head support.
For more information on baby slings and carriers visit our resources tab