NSW: Warning on Baby Slings and Other Baby Products

Published: 
7 Apr 2013

NSW Fair Trading is reminding parents and all people of the risk to babies from certain consumer products, including: slings; baby walkers and bouncinettes; baby bath seats; car restraints; cots; high chairs; nursery furniture; portable cots and playpens; and, strollers and prams.

NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe encouraged people to check Fair Trading lists of banned babies and children's products, as well as those with set safety standards at www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au

Lists include: aquatic toys and flotation aids; babies' dummies; baby gift sets and rattle toys; battery operated toys; inflatable toys; magnetic toys; magnets in toys; monkey bikes; musical toys; nightwear; nursery products; plastic toys; plush toys; prams and strollers; projectile toys; pull cord toys; push or pull along toys; swimming aid vests; squeaky toys; wooden toys; and, water yo yo balls.

Commissioner Stowe said parents and carers should take particular care when using slings and pouches to carry babies.

Babies have suffocated while in slings. They are at risk if placed incorrectly in a sling because they do not have the physical capacity to move out of dangerous positions that block their airways.

Two positions present significant danger: 1. lying with a curved back, with the chin resting on the chest and 2. lying with the face pressed against the fabric of the sling or the wearer’s body.

Babies aged less than four months old, premature and low birth weight babies or babies having breathing difficulties appear to be at greater risk. Consult a paediatrician before using a sling with a premature baby.

Slings are baby carriers designed to help you carry a baby by easing the pressure on your arms and back. They are not hands-free devices. Slings do not have identified leg openings.

Several different types of wearable baby carriers are available. Fabric wrap, pouch or bag slings and framed carriers are some examples.

Ensure any sling you buy comes with detailed instructions for use. Take your baby with you when you buy a sling to ensure the product you buy is a safe fit for you and the baby—if a sling is too large or worn incorrectly, the baby may be in danger.

Ask for a demonstration of how to use the slings you are considering, according to the instructions that come with each sling. Never use products, such as bag or pouch slings, that are described as ‘womb-like’, or a‘cocoon’, or placing the baby in a ‘foetal position’.

These slings place the baby in a dangerous position with a curved back. A foetus doesn’t need a straight back to breathe, but a baby does.

Follow instructions for use. When using the sling for the first time, have someone to assist you. Lie the baby in a flat position with a straight back to ensure the baby’s chin does not rest on his or her chest.

Ensure the baby’s chin is up and away from their body, as any pressure on the chin can close the airway. Ensure you can see the baby’s face at all times and that the face remains uncovered by the sling or your body.

Put the baby in a slanted or upright position. This will give the baby a straight, flat back with head support, the chin up and the face clearly visible.

Hold the baby with at least one arm. Pay attention to the baby—being unsettled may indicate breathing difficulty, but a baby might have breathing difficulty and make no obvious sound or movement.

Be alert to your own safety—slings can affect the way you move, particularly on stairs. Be alert for things that may fall on the baby, for example hot drinks.

Be aware your activity may loosen the sling or the baby inside the sling.

Regularly check the baby.  Babies can be in difficulty without making a noise or movement.

Take the baby out of the sling or pouch immediately if you observe these signs:

  • face covered or chin tucked in;
  • head turned to the side;
  • curled into a ‘C’ position;
  • grunting, wheezing, whistling breaths;
  • laboured or rapid breathing;
  • a dusky or ‘blue’ tinge on the baby’s skin; and
  • fussiness’, restlessness or squirming.

For more information about safe sleeping, visit:

Commissioner Stowe said childhood could be a dangerous period.

Sadly there are some 20,000 children admitted to NSW hospitals each year because of injuries they have suffered. Some injuries involve everyday products most people take for granted as safe such as cots, strollers, high chairs and baby walkers. Choosing safe items and providing proper supervision are crucial in ensuring the safety of children in your care.

Mr Stowe recommended the Fair Trading and ACCC websites for information and advice on other product risks for babies:

Baby dummies
Australian babies' dummies may help comfort young children but poorly designed and manufactured dummies can present the following hazards to infants and toddlers:

  • choking – the dummy or teat may break apart and small pieces may get stuck in your child’s throat or the whole dummy may also become stuck in the child’s mouth and block their air supply;
  • strangulation – dummies attached to children’s clothes by a string or a ribbon can strangle the child if the string wraps around the child’s neck; and
  • cuts and abrasions – are the most common injuries when a child falls over with a dummy in their mouth.

Babies’ dummies must comply with certain safety requirements of Australian Standard AS 2432-1991. When you are shopping for baby dummies make sure they have:

  • a safe shield size and shape (must be at least 35mm wide);
  • ventilation holes;
  • secure teat attachment;
  • structural integrity; and
  • packaging and label warning together with the distributor’s details.

WARNING: Do not tie dummy around baby's neck as it presents a strangulation hazard.

While there are product safety requirements for baby dummies it is important that you perform the following safety checks to keep your baby safe:

  • check the dummy every time before use by pulling hard on the teat and tugging on the handle and ring to make sure they will not give way under pressure;
  • check the teat for wear and tear;
  • sterilise or wash the dummy regularly; and
  • supervise your baby with their dummy.

IMPORTANT: Never leave a baby with a dummy in their mouth if they cannot remove it by themselves. Never leave a dummy in direct sunlight as it may cause the rubber to melt or perish.

Baby walkers and bouncinettes

Be aware of the potential dangers associated with baby walkers. Fair Trading consistently reviews the sale of baby walkers.

Most injuries are to the head and are suffered by children less than 12 months of age. Baby walkers make children mobile much earlier than normal and allow them to cross a room in seconds. They can pull boiling kettles onto themselves, reach open fires and heaters or fall down stairs. It is vital children are closely supervised at all times when they are in baby walkers.

Before you decide to buy a baby walker consider other products which entertain babies but do not have wheels, such as playpens. Only buy baby walkers that comply with the mandatory product safety standard – US Standard – Standard Consumer Safety Specifications for infant walkers F977-00.

Buy a bouncinette that has waist and crotch straps and keep it at floor level and under constant supervision to prevent accidents. Children have fallen from high places such as tables and bench tops, after being left unattended in the bouncinette.

Baby bath seats and water safety

Children have drowned in the time it takes to step out of the bathroom to get a towel or answer the telephone. Every parent knows when it comes to playing in swimming pools, young children need to be closely supervised. Unfortunately, swimming pools are not the only drowning risk in the home. Young children can drown in bathtubs, buckets, eskies, toilets, spas, hot tubs and other containers of water.

Always observe the following water safety tips when babies are in or near water:

  • Never leave a baby alone in the bath for any reason - not even for a second. If you must leave for any reason at all, take the baby with you.
  • A baby bath seat or support doesn’t make it all right to leave. It is a bathing aid, not a safety device. Babies can slip or climb out of the bath seats or supports and drown.
  • Never use a baby bath seat or support in a non-skid, slip-resistant tub because the suction cups won’t stick to the bathtub, or they might detach suddenly.
  • Never leave a bucket containing even a small amount of water unattended. When you’re finished using a bucket, always empty it immediately.
  • Store buckets and eskies away from children.
  • Always secure safety covers and barriers to prevent children from gaining access to spas or hot tubs when not in use. Some non-rigid covers, like solar covers, can allow a small child to slip in the water with the cover appearing to still be in place.
  • Keep the toilet lid down to prevent access to the water. Consider using a toilet clip to stop young children from opening lids.
  • Learn CPR. It can be a lifesaver.

IMPORTANT – All baby bath seats and supports must carry a warning notice reminding parents not to leave their children unattended in a bath. The warning is attached to the goods to remind parents and carers that these goods have been implicated in drownings. Read the warning and take notice of the message. It is NEVER okay to leave a baby in the bath for ANY reason without the supervision of a responsible person. Report to Fair Trading if you see a bath support for sale that does not have this warning.

Car restraints
National car restraints laws introduced in 2010 require all children up to seven years of age to be fastened into the right restraint for their age and size.

Always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. In NSW there are Authorised Safety Restraint Fitting Stations that can inspect and fit a child car restraint. Call 13 22 13 for more information.

Here is a guide to which type of child car restraint you should use:
Up to 9kg (or 70cm in length)
Type: Infant restraint rearward facing.

8kg to 18kg
Type: Child seat forward facing.

14kg to 26kg
Type: Booster seat.  Children outgrow the booster seat when they outgrow their weight range or when their eyes are level with the top of the seat back or head rest when seated on the booster.

14kg to 32kg
Type: Child safety harness.
All car restraints for children must comply with Australian Standard AS/NZS 1754.

IMPORTANT – Do not buy or use a second-hand child restraint if it has been involved in an accident or shows signs of wear such as cracks, frayed straps or broken buckles.

Cots
Babies can spend a lot of time in cots so it’s important cots are safe. Most cot injuries are due to falls from the cot. Deaths have occurred when infants have fallen through or been caught in gaps found sometimes in old cots.
Some things to consider include:

  • look for cots that are manufactured to the Australian standard AS/NZS 2172:2003.
  • always make sure the mattress fits snugly to within 20mm at the sides and the end.
  • ensure a minimum distance of 500mm is maintained between the top of the mattress and the top of the cot sides.
  • make sure there are no horizontal bars or decorations which could be used to climb out of the cot.
  • make sure there are no protrusions which clothing can be caught on.
  • remove climbing aids such as large toys, cot bumpers and cushions from the cot. These can help the child climb out.
  • do not allow small objects that could cause your child to choke to be placed in the cot or anywhere accessible to the child.
  • the distance between the bars of the cot should be at least 5cm wide and no more than 9.5cm wide.

High chairs
Injuries involving high chairs are mainly due to falls and account for 25 per cent of nursery furniture accidents.
Note the following safety tips when purchasing or using a high chair:

  • for maximum safety, choose a high chair fitted with a suitable harness system.
  • check that folding high chairs cannot collapse accidentally during use.
  • before you purchase a table mounted high chair make sure your table is able to support it. Make sure the slip-resistant mounting devices are in good condition.
  • never leave your child unattended in a high chair and always ensure they are properly restrained using the safety straps.

Nursery furniture
Always ask if the furniture is made according to Australian/New Zealand design standards.
Some things to consider include:

  •  look for furniture that is free of rough surfaces, sharp edges, points and projections;
  •  make sure furniture is sturdily constructed so it will not collapse under a baby’s weight;
  •  test locking devices – they should function properly;
  •  look for hazards where it is easy for small fingers and limbs to get caught in gaps. Also places where the head and upper body can get caught and cause death by asphyxiation. Fingers can get caught in holes or openings between 5-12mm; arms and legs in gaps between 30-50mm and heads in gaps between 95-120mm.

Portable cots and playpens
Portable cots and playpens can be useful, but if assembled incorrectly they may collapse whilst a child is in them. Always ensure all locking devices are secure and working correctly when the item is assembled and that your child cannot release them and collapse the cot or playpen. Manufacturers are required to place a warning label on the cot regarding assembly and locking procedures.

Folding cots are required to meet certain requirements in Australian New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 2195:1999.
Regularly check for tears in the fabric as a teething child can chew off pieces and choke. Remove all toys from the cot when the child is sleeping.
Only use the mattress supplied by the manufacturer. 

IMPORTANT - Do not put additional pillows or mattresses in a portable cot as small children can easily become wedged between the mattresses and may suffocate. Do not use a portable cot if your child weighs more than 15kg.

Strollers/prams
Strollers and prams are involved in a significant number of childhood injuries caused by the child falling from the stroller/pram or the stroller/pram tipping backwards. The mandatory standard for prams and strollers includes the requirement for them to meet certain requirements in Australian New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 2088:2000. It requires prams and strollers sold in Australia to comply with provisions for:

  •  safety restraints;
  •  brakes;
  •  tether straps;
  •  safety labelling; and
  •  testing procedures.

Safety tips
To help ensure the safety of your child while using a stroller/pram, follow these safety tips:

  •  ensure your child is properly restrained in a harness;
  •  do not overload the stroller/pram or hang heavy bags from the handle;
  •  ensure you remove your child from the pram/stroller before adjusting it as your child's small fingers may get caught in the folding mechanism;
  •  do not leave children unattended in strollers/prams as they could try to climb out;
  •  always use the tether strap when the parking brake is not engaged; and
  •  always engage the braking system as soon as you stop pushing the stroller and before you take your hand off the stroller, particularly when using all terrain type strollers or three wheeler prams.

 For more information the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has produced a brochure on prams and strollers. Go to www.productsafety.gov.au

General safety tips
Some basic rules will help ensure the safety of your child around the home. Keep all nursery items clear of:

  • household hazards such as kitchen stoves and heaters; and
  • curtains and blind cords – they can pose a strangulation hazard.

Related information on the Fair Trading website:

Commissioner Stowe said each year, NSW Fair Trading inspectors conduct extensive surveys to ensure toys on sale do not have the potential to cause injury or even death to babies and young children. Toys with small parts are a particular worry.

Contact details

Media contact: 0423 606 394 (NSW Fair Trading)

For more information about Fair Trading go to: www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au

You can follow Fair Trading on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/FairTradingNSW and Twitter at: http://twitter.com/NSW_FairTrading