WASHINGTON – More than 1 million baby slings made by Infantino were recalled Wednesday after claims linking them to three infant deaths.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said babies could suffocate in the soft fabric slings. The agency urged parents to immediately stop using the slings for babies under 4 months old.
The recall involves 1 million Infantino "SlingRider" and "Wendy Bellissimo" slings in the United States and 15,000 in Canada.
Infantino President Jack Vresics said the company has been working closely with the commission on its sling concerns.
"Our top priority is the safety of infants whose parents and caregivers use our products," Vresics said in a statement. He said the company would offer a free replacement baby carrier, activity gym or shopping cart cover to any affected consumer.
The slings wrap around the chest so on-the-go parents can carry their babies or just stay close as they bond with their infants.
Earlier this month, CPSC issued a broad warning about sling-style baby carriers, saying they pose a potential suffocation risk to infants, especially babies under 4 months. Babies who had a low birth weight, were born prematurely or had breathing problems such as colds were also at risk.
At the time, the commission did not single out a specific type of sling or manufacturer. It said it had identified or was investigating at least 14 deaths in the last 20 years associated with baby slings.
In Wednesday's announcement, CPSC said three of the deaths occurred last year and were linked to Infantino slings. It did not say exactly how the babies died.
In its general sling warning earlier this month, CPSC said infants can suffocate in two different ways:
—A sling's fabric can press against a baby's nose and mouth, blocking the baby's breathing and suffocating a baby within a minute or two.
—The other scenario involves slings where the baby is cradled in a curved or "C-like" position, nestling the baby below the mother's chest or near her belly. That curved position can cause a baby who doesn't have strong neck control to flop its head forward, chin-to-chest, restricting the infant's ability to breathe. "The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate," warned the commission.
Slings have been promoted by baby experts as a way to calm fussy babies or for nursing moms who can breast-feed their little ones in the sling.
Consumer Reports raised concerns about slings back in 2008, and had called on CPSC to issue a recall of the Infantino SlingRider. Safety advocates criticized the curved position that the baby can fall into while inside the sling.
Baby experts and breast-feeding advocates insist that not all slings are dangerous. They say carriers that keep a newborn baby solidly against the mother's body in an upright position are safe.
The Infantino slings being recalled were sold from 2003 through 2010 at several retailers, including Target, Babies R Us and Burlington Coat Factory. Consumers can call Infantino at 866-860-1361 to receive a free replacement product.
There are no federal safety rules for baby slings.
Infantino says it's working with CPSC and ASTM International, an organization that sets voluntary safety standards, to develop a standard for slings.
The CPSC specializes in product safety, and often negotiates agreements with manufacturers for recalls, when necessary.