"We know of too many deaths in these slings and we now know the hazard scenarios for very small babies, so the time has come to alert parents and caregivers," CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in an address to the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. "We want to empower them to make a decision that is best for the safety of their baby, while realizing that slings play a role in the bonding of baby and mother in many cultures."
The CPSC has issued at least four recalls of the slings for falling apart, including one that followed eight infants falling out -- four of whom ended up in emergency rooms. But it is not the risk of falls that has increased the focus on the slings -- which cradle infants in fabric worn around an adult's neck. It is the risk of suffocation.
An Oregon mother sued Infantino -- the manufacturer in the recall involving the eight falls -- after her 6-day-old son smothered in one of the slings last year. More than 40 sling-related injuries are suspected over the past decade -- including seven deaths.
Some parents swear by the slings as not only a convenience but a way to bond with an infant by "wearing" them as part of the "attachment parenting" credo. It is also a common practice in other parts of the world, such as in Africa and Asia. Safety advocates, on the other hand, point to the sometimes awkward positions infants can end up in and the risks of the fabric covering the nose and mouth.