Infant Sleep Positioners Dangerous, Says the FDA

Sasha Brown-Worsham

After 12 deaths and 13 years, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today warned consumers to immediately cease use of their infant sleep positioners.

The infants were between the ages of 1 and 4 months and they died when they suffocated in sleep positioners or became trapped and suffocated between a sleep positioner and the side of a crib or bassinet.

The whole idea of a sleep positioner is to keep children from inadvertently landing on their tummies to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but the FDA never cleared an infant sleep positioner to prevent or reduce the risk of SIDS. 

In addition to the reported deaths, CPSC has received dozens of reports of infants who were placed on their backs or sides in sleep positioners, only to be found later in potentially hazardous positions within or next to the sleep positioners.

“The deaths and dangerous situations resulting from the use of infant sleep positioners are a serious concern to CPSC,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “We urge parents and caregivers to take our warning seriously and stop using these sleep positioners, so that children can have a safer sleep.”

The two main types of infant sleep positioner are flat mats with side bolsters or inclined (wedge) mats with side bolsters.

Parents also use sleep positioners to aid digestion and ease gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) as well as to prevent flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly), but the FDA believes:

Any benefit from using these devices to ease GERD or prevent plagiocephaly is outweighed by the risk of suffocation.

Parents are urged to:

  • STOP using sleep positioners. Using a positioner to hold an infant on his or her back or side for sleep is dangerous and unnecessary.
  • NEVER put pillows, infant sleep positioners, comforters, or quilts under a baby or in a crib.
  • ALWAYS place an infant on his or her back at night and during nap time. To reduce the risk of SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing infants to sleep on their backs and not their sides.

Do you use a sleep positioner?


Image via FDA

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