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'Baby-wearing' poses serious injury risks for infants, ED data show

From "".
October 13, 2021

By Jake Remaly, MDedge

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Baby-wearing – carrying a child against your body in a sling, soft carrier, or other device – is associated with benefits like reduced crying and increased breastfeeding, studies have shown.

But this practice also entails risks. Babies can fall out of carriers, or be injured when an adult carrying them falls, for example.

In the past decade, thousands of children were seen at EDs in the United States with injuries related to baby-wearing products, researchers estimated in a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

To characterize the epidemiology of these injuries, Samantha J. Rowe, MD, chief resident physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System between 2011 and 2020.

They included in their analysis data from patients aged 5 years and younger who sustained an injury associated with a baby-wearing product. Baby harnesses, carriers, slings, framed baby carriers, and soft baby carriers were among the devices included in the study. The researchers used 601 cases to generate national estimates.

An estimated 14,024 patients presented to EDs because of baby-wearing injuries, and 52% of the injuries occurred when a patient fell from the product.

Most injuries (61%) occurred in children aged 5 months and younger; 19.3% of these infants required hospitalization, most often for head injuries.

The investigators found that about 22% of the injuries were associated with a caregiver falling, noted Rachel Y. Moon, MD, who was not involved in the study.

"Carrying a baby changes your center of gravity – and can also obscure your vision of where you're walking, so adults who use these devices should be cognizant of this," said Dr. Moon, with the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Dr. Rowe often practiced baby-wearing with her daughter, and found that it was beneficial. And studies have demonstrated various benefits of baby-wearing, including improved thermoregulation and glycemic control.

Still, the new analysis illustrates the potential for baby-wearing products "to cause serious injury, especially in infants 5 months and younger," Dr. Rowe said. "We need to provide more education to caregivers on safe baby-wearing and continue to improve our safety standards for baby-wearing products."

Study coauthor Patrick T. Reeves, MD, with the Naval Medical Center at San Diego, offered additional guidance in a news release: "Like when buying a new pair of shoes, parents must be educated on the proper sizing, selection, and wear of baby carriers to prevent injury to themselves and their child."

Parents also need to ensure that the child's nose and mouth are not obstructed, Dr. Moon

In a recent article discussing the possible benefits of baby-wearing in terms of helping with breastfeeding, Dr. Moon also pointed out further safety considerations: "No matter which carrier is used, for safety reasons, we need to remind parents that the baby should be positioned so that the head is upright and the nose and mouth are not obstructed."

The researchers and Dr. Moon had no relevant financial disclosures.

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