WASHINGTON - More than 1 million baby slings made by Infantino were recalled Wednesday after claims linking them to three infant deaths.
The 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.
The recall involves 1 million Infantino SlingRide" and Wendy Bellissimo slings in the United States and 15,000 in Canada.
The Infantino SlingRider, is a soft fabric baby carrier with a padded shoulder strap that is worn by parents and caregivers to carry an infant weighing up to 20 pounds.
Infantino is printed on the plastic slider located on the strap. Infantino, SlingRider and the item number are printed on an instruction and warning label inside the baby sling carrier.
Wendy Bellissimo branded sling carriers were sold exclusively at Babies R Us and have a sewn-in label on the inside of the sling strap that says in part "Wendy Bellissimo Media, Inc." and lists Item numbers 3937500H7 and 3937501H7.
Infantino Llc sold the slings in the United States and Canada between January 2003 and March 2010 at various retailers nationwide, including Walmart, Burlington Coat Factory, Target, Babies R Us and BJ's Wholesale. The slilngs also were sold on Amazon.com, for between $25 and $30.
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 affected consumers.
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 in 2009 and were linked to Infantino slings, including a 7-week-old infant in Philadelphia, Pa.; a 6-day-old in Salem, Ore.; and a 3-month-old in Cincinnati, Ohio. 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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
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.