The baby sling has enjoyed great popularity as a popular baby accessory – chiming perfectly in recent years with birthing and parenting choices focusing on so-called “natural” approaches – that can mean anything from giving birth in water to ensuring bottles are bpa-free. (I put natural in quotes here because my daughter was born in a hospital by c-section and, frankly, I found nothing “unnatural” about her safe birth at all.) Sales of slings have boomed in recent years and they are essential kit if you want to do a spot of attachment parenting.

Now the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a warning that slings may pose a risk of suffocation. It has posted diagrams to show how to safely carry a child in a sling – make sure the face and nose are visible and that the chin isn’t tucked into the neck to restrict breathing.

It’s a good point to make: that there is a smart way to use slings and just because women have used them Africa or other cultures less corrupted by the mountains of baby products than we are, parents need to use good judgment. This means making sure your baby isn’t so cuddled down and squished into the sling that it’s can’t breathe.

Let’s keep it in perspective – the CPSC pointed out that the 14 children whose deaths were associated with sling-style carriers over the past 20 years (yes, you read that right) were either a low birth weight twin, were born prematurely, or had breathing issues like a cold.

No need to chuck yours out. Check out the diagrams. Perhaps wait until your baby is a bit older with better control of its head, one expert advised. But if your child is sniffling and coughing, is small, or his or her head is being put at an angle that reduces airflow, be on the safe side and skip the sling.

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