More than one million baby slings made by San Diego-based company Infantino are being recalled in Canada and the U.S. after the products were linked to three infant deaths in 2009.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said babies could suffocate in the soft fabric slings. The agency is urging parents to immediately stop using the slings for babies younger than four months of age.
The recall involves one million of the company's SlingRider and Wendy Bellissimo slings in the U.S. and 15,000 in Canada. It follows warnings earlier this month from the CPSC and Health Canada that sling-style baby carriers pose a suffocation risk to newborns.
The CPSC has received several incident reports, including the deaths of a seven-week-old infant in Philadelphia.; a six-day-old in Salem, Ore.; and a three-month-old baby in Cincinnati, Ohio.
No deaths or accidents have been reported in Canada regarding Infantino carriers.
However, earlier this month, Health Canada issued an advisory for parents to "exercise caution" when using any type of infant sling or soft infant carrier because of the risk of the baby falling out or suffocating. Since 1995, Health Canada has received reports of nine incidents, including two deaths. The cause of those deaths was not specified.
This is the second recall for Infantino in three years. About 100,000 SlingRider carriers were recalled in 2007 for problems with the plastic sliders on the sling's strap. In that recall, the risk was that the baby could fall out of the carrier.
Infantino president Jack Vresics said the company will offer a free replacement baby carrier, activity gym or shopping-cart cover to any affected consumer.
Slings are made of soft fabrics that wrap around the chest so that on-the-go parents can carry their babies or just stay close as they bond with their infants. They have become increasingly popular in recent years.
Slings have also been promoted by baby experts as a way to calm fussy babies or for nursing moms who can breast-feed infants in the sling.
The CPSC said it has investigated at least 13 deaths associated with sling-style infant carriers over the last 20 years. One other case involving a fatality is still being investigated. Twelve of the deaths involved babies younger than four months of age, the agency said.
In 2008, Consumer Reports raised concerns about slings and some two dozen serious injuries, such as skull fractures — mostly when a child fell out of the carrier.
There are no safety standards for infant sling carriers, although the CPSC has recommended new requirements. The global standards organization, ASTM International, is developing voluntary guidelines for soft slings, in conjunction with the CPSC and Health Canada.