Over 1.3 million young children go to the emergency department every year because of injuries related to nursery products like baby carriers, cribs, mattresses, strollers, baby walkers and high chairs. Baby carriers are the most frequent cause of those visits; over half of injuries to babies younger than 6 months old are related to baby carriers.
Many falls from carriers happen because children aren’t buckled in properly. Sometimes it’s because the parent or caregiver doesn’t take the time to make sure the child is securely fastened in. Children fall out of carriers that are being carried—such as from the house to the car. Children fall out of carriers that are placed in a shopping cart or stroller. Falls can happen when the carrier is placed on higher surfaces, such as a counter, table, chest of drawers or the top of the car.
Compared to other nursery products, baby carriers were over five times more likely to be related to a caregiver fall, according to a recent study. If the caregiver trips and falls while toting a baby in a carrier, she risks falling on top of the child or causing more injury by adding momentum to the fall.
Sometimes product defects cause falls. In fact, of all the products recalled in the US, nursery products top the recall list. For example, Osprey recalled a child backpack carrier a few months ago because of a design flaw—a child seated in the carrier could slip through the leg openings. Chimparoo baby carriers were recalled because the side strap could loosen unexpectedly and cause the child to fall out. Other problems include handles that can loosen over time and cause you to drop the carrier.
Injuries from falls in babies and young children can be very serious. One example is traumatic brain injury, caused by a bump or blow to the head that damages the brain. Sometimes the injury can cause problems with thinking, speech or emotions. Really severe injury can cause permanent brain damage or even death.
Researchers report that traumatic brain injuries in the home have increased more than 200 percent in children younger than 5 years old. Baby carriers are associated with more head or neck injuries compared to other nursery products. One reason is that younger children are predisposed to head injury, because their heads are large in proportion of their bodies. This affects children’s center of gravity. They tend to fall head first and can’t catch themselves with their arms as well as older children.
What You Can Do
1. Always fasten buckles immediately after placing your child in a carrier. Don’t put this off!
2. Make sure the child is securely fastened in. You may need to tighten the straps. Don’t leave any buckles unfastened.
3. Don’t put the carrier on high surfaces, such as the top of the car.
4. Don’t put the carrier on slippery surfaces, such as the top of a glass table.
5. Don’t set the carrier on soft surfaces, such as a sofa or bed. The carrier could tip over and cause the child to suffocate.
6. Make sure the carrier’s handles are locked into position before picking up the carrier. Also, inspect the handles from time to time to make sure they aren’t loose or damaged.
7. Keep traffic areas of your home free of tripping hazards.
8. Avoid carrying a child in a carrier down a flight of stairs. If you must, use one hand to hold onto the hand railing.
9. Check the recall list before you buy a stroller or baby carrier, especially if you get one secondhand. Even if a friend or relative has been using it, check the recall list just to be safe. The product could have been recalled after they purchased it.
Brenda Schoolfield is a freelance medical writer who splits her time between Austin and Seattle.