Parents reminded of sling safety after baby's death

Baby Eric Matthews with his mother and father.
Baby Eric Matthews with his mother and father.  Photo: RoSPA

Parents are being urged to ensure their baby carrier is safe and being used properly after a four-week-old boy died while being held by his mother in one.

UK organisation the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) shared the story of baby Eric Matthews in the hope that it will prevent other parents from losing their own child.

"Broadly speaking, baby slings are safe," they wrote on their Facebook page. "However, some are badly designed and can be deadly."

Eric's mum Marianne wrote a blog post explaining what happened to Eric:

"Eric was four weeks old when he became unconscious while I was carrying him in a stretchy wrap sling – soft fabric that wraps around the chest and waist and holds baby, allowing a parent to keep their hands free as they go about their everyday tasks," she wrote.

Marianne explained that she had decided to take Eric for a walk to the local shop, but that he became unsettled, so she breastfed him as she walked.

"I then decided to go home," she wrote. "At the time I thought Eric was just falling asleep."

But Eric wasn't falling asleep - he was losing consciousness. Sadly, Eric was never to regain consciousness, dying a week later.

"We loved Eric so much and wonder how things went so wrong," wrote Marianne.

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"Eric was our first child, and as new parents, we were finding out what to do for the first time. Our inexperience was to have tragic consequences, sometimes love just isn't enough."

Choice Australia says on its website the babies at highest risk are those that are premature, aged under four months, with low birth weight, or existing breathing difficulties, including something as mild as a head cold.

"In these cases a pouch or wrap may be a better option," advises Choice.

"Regardless of the type of carrier or sling, always avoid positioning your baby with their face pressed against the fabric or your body, or lying with a curved back with chin tucked against their chest."

The Queensland Office of Fair Trading advises parents use the T.I.C.K.S rule for baby sling safety.

Tight: The sling should be tight with your baby positioned high and upright with head support. Any loose fabric may cause your baby to slump down, restricting its breathing.

In view at all times: You should always be able to see your baby's face by simply looking down. Ensure your baby's face, nose and mouth remain uncovered by the sling and/or your body.

Close enough to kiss: Your baby should be close enough to your chin that by tipping your head forward you can easily kiss your baby on top of its head.

Keep chin off chest: Ensure your baby's chin is up and away from its body. Your baby should never be curled so that its chin is forced onto its chest as this can restrict breathing. Regularly check your baby. Babies can be in distress without making any noise or movement.

Supported back: Your baby's back should be supported in a natural position with its tummy and chest against you. When bending over, support your baby with one hand behind its back and bend at the knees, not at the waist.