Tote Your Baby in a Sling—Safely

Wearing your baby in a baby sling can help them stay calm while giving your arms a rest. If not used correctly, however, babywearing can put your baby at risk for serious injury. It's very important that you read all of the safety materials that come with your baby sling or carrier and become familiar with the recommendations of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The biggest risk

The biggest risk of using a sling is suffocation. Babies don't have enough neck strength to lift their own heads. An infant's chin can curl forward and touch the chest. This could cut off oxygen to the baby. The baby can also press their face against the fabric. This blocks oxygen to the nose and mouth. If this happens, your infant could suffocate to death.

Infants who are premature, low-birth-weight twins or triplets, or ill are at a greater risk of death with the use of carriers and slings. Parents of preemies, low-birth-weight babies, twins, triplets, or ill infants should talk with their child's healthcare provider before using any infant carrier.

Advice for safe carrying

The CPSC has this advice for parents who want to keep their hands free and their babies close:

  • Carry your baby so that you can see their mouth and nose at all times. Make sure that the baby's chin is not curled forward into their chest.

  • Don't place any blankets or covers over the baby's head.

  • Carry your baby high so that you can see their face.

  • Don't let your baby's chin touch their chest.

  • Make sure the baby's face is not pressed close against you. 

  • Choose your activities wisely! Many people like using baby carriers and slings so that they can do other activities. Don't do anything you wouldn't do with a baby in your arms. Never do activities that could put your baby at risk. These include jogging, jumping on a trampoline, participating in sports, riding a bike, driving, cooking near a hot surface, or other dangerous activities with your baby in a carrier.

  • Never wear your baby in a car. Babies should always be in an approved car seat. And never wear your baby in a boat. Babies should wear the correct personal flotation devices.

  • Make sure to follow the guidelines in the sling or carrier packaging. Some carriers are intended for older children who are able to hold up their heads.

  • Make it a habit to regularly examine your carrier before putting your baby into it.

  • Protect your baby from the environment. Make sure that their legs are covered and warm in cool weather. When their legs are uncovered, make sure that sunscreen is applied if you will be outside.

  • As your baby gets older, they might be interested in items that are close. Be very careful that nothing unsafe is within reach.

  • To learn how to use your new carrier or sling, practice with a doll or ask for help. You can also use a mirror to make sure that your baby appears safe and secure.

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2021
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.