Babies can suffer a range of injuries from incorrectly used or damaged slings and carriers. Make sure the product you buy is suitable for both you and your baby, and is made of heavy duty, well-wearing materials.
Baby slings, carriers and backpacks strap onto an adult’s back or front from the shoulders to the hips or waist. They are designed to help carry your baby by easing the pressure on your arms and back.
If used incorrectly, baby slings and framed carriers can lead to:
- rapid suffocation if your baby's face is pressed against fabric or your body
- slow suffocation if your baby is lying in a 'c' shape position with chin on chest
- neck injuries, finger traps and pinching, especially infants younger than four months
Babies who are younger than four months, premature, low birth weight or having breathing difficulties appear to be at greater risk of injury in baby slings. Consult a paediatrician before using a sling with a premature baby.
Child safety experts do not recommend carrying children younger than four months in framed carriers.
- Ask for a demonstration and ensure the carrier comes with clear instructions.
- Buy a carrier or sling to match your baby’s size and weight, and ensure that you know how to correctly secure it and safely wrap and unwrap the baby within it.
- If you are buying a framed carrier, buy a carrier with a frame to suit your height and size. Try it on with the baby in it to ensure there is sufficient depth and support for your baby that also allows some head, leg and arm movement and for their weight to be distributed evenly.
- Look for restraining straps, including over the baby’s shoulders, to prevent the baby falling out. A broad hip or waist strap will take weight off your shoulders and stops sideways movement of the carrier. Look for straps that you can adjust with one hand.
- Look for sturdy materials and heavy duty fasteners.
- Look for safe folding frame joints that won’t trap or pinch fingers and check for sharp points, edges, or rough surfaces that may harm the baby. Ensure there is padding on the metal frame near the baby’s face to protect the baby from bumps.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and have someone assist you the first time you use the product.
- Before each use, check for ripped seams, missing or loose fasteners, and frayed seats or straps. Make repairs as soon as possible; otherwise discard the product.
- Ensure the baby's fingers are clear of the frame joints when folding the carrier.
- Always use the restraining straps, including ones that cover the baby’s shoulders—if you don’t, a jolt or accident could cause them to slip out and fall.
- Ensure you can see the baby’s face at all times and that it remains uncovered. If using a sling or wrap, ensure the baby has sufficient room to breathe and cannot move to a position where this is compromised.
- Always bend from the knees, never from the waist, to prevent the baby from falling out. If bending down, make sure the baby cannot reach other hazards, such as hot drinks on a bench.
- Never use products that are described as 'womb-like' or a 'cocoon'.
- Do not use framed carriers until a baby is at least four to five months old. By this age their neck should be able to withstand jolts and not sustain an injury.