Tools and Resources

Baby sling: Is it safe?

Is it safe to hold a baby in a baby sling?

A baby sling a one-shouldered baby carrier made of soft fabric can be a safe way to carry a baby, if you follow important safety guidelines. When used incorrectly, however, a baby sling can pose a suffocation hazard to an infant younger than age 4 months.

Babies have weak neck muscles and can't control their heads during the first few months after birth. If the baby sling's fabric presses against a baby's nose and mouth, the baby might not be able to breathe. This can quickly lead to suffocation. A baby sling can also keep a baby in a curled position bending the chin to the chest. This position can restrict the baby's airways and limit the baby's oxygen supply. In turn, this can prevent a baby from being able to cry for help and poses a risk of suffocation.

A baby is at higher risk of suffocating in a baby sling if he or she:

  • Was born prematurely or with a low birth weight less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces (2,500 grams)
  • Has breathing problems, such as a cold

If your baby meets one of these conditions, don't use a baby sling until you talk to your baby's doctor.

If you decide to use a baby sling, take steps to reduce the risks. For example:

  • Read the instructions. Double-check the baby sling's weight minimum before placing your newborn in it.
  • Keep your baby's airways unobstructed. Make sure your baby's face isn't covered by the baby sling and is visible to you at all times.
  • Be careful after breast-feeding. If you breast-feed your baby in a baby sling, make sure you change your baby's position afterward so that his or her head is facing up and is clear of the baby sling and your body.
  • Take caution when bending. Bend at the knees, rather than at the waist, if you pick up something while holding your baby in a baby sling. This will help keep your baby settled securely in the sling.
  • Check your baby frequently. Make sure he or she is in a safe position.
  • Keep an eye out for wear and tear. Repair any rips or tears in the sling's seams and fasteners.
  • Check for recalls. Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website to make sure your baby sling hasn't been recalled.
Updated: 12/15/2012

© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "," "EmbodyHealth," "Enhance your life," and the triple-shield Mayo Clinic logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Legal restrictions and terms of use applicable to content provided to this site by Clinic Health Information. Use thereof signifies your agreement to these terms of use.