Infant sleep positioners used to be a common baby registry item. I remember buying one when my oldest daughter was born. After all, safe sleep
recommendations told me I needed to be sure she went to sleep on her back. What better way to keep her positioned properly than with a product designed for just that purpose? Unfortunately, we know now that infant sleep positioners can be dangerous to babies.
What Are They?
An infant sleep positioner is a product that is made to hold baby on his or her back or side during sleep. Some are foam wedges or tubes attached to a mat that baby sleeps on, while others were padded plastic tubes with mesh on the sides. Some had a wedge-shaped mat underneath, with side bolsters attached to the wedge. All of them were designed to form bolsters on either side of the baby to prevent rolling.
What's the Problem?
In 2010, CPSC and FDA released a safety warning
about infant sleep positioners
. Thirteen babies have died while sleeping on a positioner, either because their face was pressed against the side, or because they rolled and became entrapped between the sleep positioner and the side of a crib or bassinet. Besides those reported deaths, CPSC has received dozens of reports of babies who were placed on their backs or sides to sleep in an infant sleep positioner, but were later found in an unsafe position. Infant sleep positioners are not necessary and may introduce a suffocation or entrapment hazard into the crib. A bare crib, with just a well-fitting crib mattress
and a fitted sheet
, is the safest sleep space for baby.
After the federal safety warnings, most major manufacturers stopped making infant sleep positioners, and they became hard to find in stores. However, some are still available online. You may also see these products at garage sales or second-hand shops. Most were not formally recalled, so a recall search may not indicate that there's a safety problem.
While many of these infant sleep positioners were sold with packaging that indicated they reduce the risk of SIDS, there's no evidence that shows that to be true, according to the FDA. Placing your baby on his or her back for sleep is highly recommended for SIDS prevention, but newborns don't need a special product to hold them in that position. Once your baby is old enough to roll over, placing baby on his or her back to sleep is still safest, but you don't need to keep repositioning every time baby rolls over to find a comfortable position. Again, adding a product to try to prevent rolling just introduces a hazard.
Any time you add something to baby's crib, you increase the risk of suffocation or other hazards. You shouldn't try to use Boppy pillows or other types of pillows in the crib to keep baby in position. Rolled blankets or other homemade bolsters also create a suffocation hazard. Bouncers, baby seats or other small bassinets
shouldn't be placed inside the crib. In 2010, the Nap Nanny infant recliner was recalled because, in part, parents used it inside a crib, against the manufacturers recommendations, and babies became trapped between the recliner and the side of the crib.
A crib wedge is a completely different category of sleep positioner, and is not included in the CPSC or FDA safety warnings. Crib wedges go underneath the crib mattress to elevate one end, which can help with reflux or some breathing issues. If your baby needs this type of positioner, you should discuss its use with your pediatrician.