New Warnings About Infant Sleep Positioners Every Mom Should Heed

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sleep positionerAfter hearing about the new warnings issued highlighting the dangers of infant sleep positioners, I'm even more relieved that I chose not to use one after having my son. Since 1997, 13 babies under the age of 4 months old have died after being placed in a sleep positioner -- and the cause of death for all of them was unintentional suffocation.

Of the 13 infants, nine of them were placed in a side-sleeping position using the foam device, and most of them wound up being found lying face down on their stomachs by caregivers who likely only had the best intentions by using the sleep positioners in the first place. (So sad.)

And that's what makes these deaths even more heartbreaking. Most parents use sleep positioners because they want to prevent their babies from rolling around in the middle of the night and possibly suffocating. I'm sure the last thought on their minds after deciding to use one is that they may be putting their baby in harm's way instead of helping him or her have a better night's sleep.

Even though I'd never heard of anyone having trouble while using one, I chose to forgo adding an infant sleep positioner to my baby registry right before I had my son, because something about them just didn't seem totally safe to me. Over and over again, I kept hearing about how dangerous it was to put anything into a crib with a sleeping baby because of the risk of suffocation.

In fact, I didn't even use crib bumpers because I was so worried about my son rolling into them and being accidentally smothered. I always found the idea of sleep positioners to be pretty scary, especially since babies have been sleeping just fine without them for years and years.

And I also thought about it this way -- I wouldn't want someone shoving me into a device that kept me in a certain position all night long, so why would I want to restrict my baby like that? (It really can't be too comfortable.)

Even though plenty of parents have used sleep positioners without any sort of incident, even the slightest risk of suffocation should be enough to convince them to stop using them once and for all. It just doesn't seem worth it to me.

Do you use a sleep positioner -- why or why not?


Image via ljheidel/Flickr

baby sleep, safety

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Sirena Robinson

There's a slight risk of suffocation if you swaddle, if you use a pillow, if you have a crib mattress instead of a hard bassinet mattress. Point is, every single thing has a risk. Lay them on their stomach, risk smothering them, lay them on their back, risk them choking on spit up. Nothing about parenting is safe. All we can do is our best. But this risk? 13 out of how many millions sold? I'd be willing to bet that this percentage is pretty insignificant. Parents are all doing their best, and the last thing we need to do to a parent that has lost their baby in a tragic accident is give them more reasons to second guess themselves. There are plenty of things we shouldn't be doing, but I don't think using a sleep positioner is one of them. And I say this as someone who never used one on my child. Not to say I wouldn't have, but she would only sleep in her swing, so it was never an issue.

abra819 abra819

So sad :( We swaddled and my babe slept in a swing.

nonmember avatar nicky

It's another stupid product that moms are made to feel like they need and they don't, like bumpers or the bumbo. Most infants lay on their backs don't move much in their sleep. Once they do, they more than likely have the head control to not suffocate themselves. Why do people use these again?

Pinkmani Pinkmani

It's so hard raising a kid. Not only are you responsible for what your kid does, you get criticised for everything you do - good or bad. 

miche... micheledo

13 deaths in 15 years is hardly concerning.  


Obviously it is serious to the individual families, and I cannot imagine their loss.  I'm so sorry for them.


But I bet there are MANY more common household objects that have caused a death a year in homes - stairs, toys, fork, blanket, bucket, etc.

Foley... Foleygirl24

we used one, because it made my son feel like he was being held, and helped him not be so startled by the moro reflex. it was the only way he would sleep those first few weeks. the one we used didn't have foam though, it was basically two bumpers (one of either side) made of wire mesh with a breathable padded fabric covering. we'll probably use it again when we have another child. i was more worried about putting him in bed swaddled because no matter how tight i did it, he would kick it off and then there would be a loose blanket in his crib.

Nikki O'Donnell West

I used a sleep positioner with both of my kids. It was foam on each side of their body to keep them from rolling over and suffocating. I think this product is a good idea but should be discontinued when the kids get a certain age. At some point they move too much and the positioners are no longer needed.

Genevieve Becker

I used and loved my sleep positioner. It helped with Audrey's acid reflux and also helped when she caught a little tiny cold as a wee one with her cough at nights. I only used it while she was swaddled tight and made sure she couldn't slip down and get smothered by the bumpers themselves. This and many of studies like these are very misleading. How many children were part of the study? What actual percentage of those 13 children represent? The death of a child is not one I take lightly, as I lost my 6yo nephew when I was 8mos pregnant and no parent should ever have to experience losing a child, but as someone who used the bumper on recommendations from three moms who found that it improved the quality of the life of their child, I just have to say, read the warning, consider it, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

nonmember avatar Saphraine

We used one of these because we had family bed and he was our first babe. Not knowing what life was going to be like with a baby in bed with us we used this to protect him from one of us rolling on top of him. He seemed to be quite comfortable and never had an issue. I think the issue her is the child was sleeeping on their side, this isn't made for that. It's to keep the baby on their backs so that they don't suffocate.
But I agree, we're all doing our best why read every article just to second guess yourself. You do what you feel like is best when you're a mother and that is all you can do!

Shellie Pearce

I use sleep positioners for my daughter. She's hypotonic (low muscle tone) and has to sleep elevated because of Pneumonia risk, aspiration, and respiratory distress issues. She has several special needs that require a positioning assist. There are proper and improper ways to use them. They should be placed underneath the crib sheet and should give at least a couple of inches of space between the child's body and the devices. Because of breathing troubles my daughter also uses a neck roll to assist in air intake. If these assists are used properly, they are great help to those with medical needs. If used improperly, they are of course deadly.

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