There’s been a lot in the press recently about the use of baby sleep positioners and sleep aids. There are different varieties available to buy at present, but some retailers have removed them from their shelves and online stores due to an increase in reported infant deaths related to the use of these sleep positioners. So I aim to answer whether baby positioners are safe, and if any particular brands have been recalled. Are you using one? What are your thoughts? Answer in the comments.
I thought I’d set a few issues to rest and discuss them here, particularly if you have one or are considering buying one.
What are baby sleep positioners?
They are essentially specially designed cushions that sit on top of your mattress, that cocoon the baby to make them feel secure, and keep them in that position in the hope that they will stay asleep longer and not jolt themselves awake by rolling or splaying their limbs. Other names include baby nests, anti-roll devices, sleep aids. It mimics the feeling babies get when they’re curled up in your arms. They vary in size and design and of course price.
What caused the deaths from sleep positioners?
The FDA reported 12 cases in the past 13 years of babies who have died from suffocation with the devices, most after rolling to their sides and stomach. The agency has also received dozens of reports of babies who were placed on their back or side in the positioners, only to be found later in hazardous positions within or next to the product. It’s important to look at the statistics here, that’s 12 cases in the last 13 years in the USA, just under 1 case per year. In the UK, just under 300 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly every year.
I do not know the individual background to each of these 12 cases, but I know that most of the time it is due to customers not using the product correctly. Babies shouldn’t be in them over 6 months, and preferably under 3 months.
Some media I saw described them as ways to stop your baby rolling over, but I believe that if your baby can roll over (roughly from 4 months), then you shouldn’t be using a baby sleep positioner.
Some of the brands say for short sleeps only, and not for overnight use. The baby nests are different from the sleep positioners. According to the Lullaby Trust, who clarified the issue by saying sleep positioners are different to baby nests/pods:
“It is our understanding that sleep positioners are straps or wedges that hold a baby in place. The evidence shows that the safest way to sleep a baby is on a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in a cot or moses basket and we would not recommend any sleep surface that does not conform to these guidelines.”
As baby nests and pods do not have straps or wedges, they are safe to use. The Purflo breathable nest can be used overnight and if you’re co-sleeping safely, plus it has no straps or wedges. It is the top seller and most trusted in the UK.
Unfortunately, there are many things sold to parents, mostly to ‘solve’ the problem of sleep deprivation which, unfortunately, can’t be solved really! There are ways you might be able to stretch out the baby’s sleep, or tips to get them to stay asleep once they’re in their crib, but some babies just have a high survival instinct, and what’s safer than being with Mum?
Take crib and cot bumpers for example, they’re those pretty bed sets that you tie on to the cot bars to supposedly keep baby’s head from bashing the sides, and to co-ordinate your bedding with your nursery – but they’re unsafe. If the baby pulls it onto their face, they are at risk of suffocation, and if they have ties then baby’s fingers, toes or neck could get tangled up in them. Even newborns don’t stay static still once asleep. Since I first started training we’ve been advising against the use of cot bumpers, but they’re still for sale. I’ve never directly advised a bed nest or sleep positioner, mainly because a couple of rolled up cellular blankets will do the job. I know they’ll continue to be up for sale, as will cot bumpers. Even if they meet safety standards, they’re still not recommended in the safe sleeping guidelines.
To be absolutely safe, follow the globally recognised guidelines advised by the NHS as follows:
- Always place your baby on their back to sleep.
- Place your baby in the “feet to foot” position (with their feet touching the end of the cot, Moses basket, or pram).
- Keep your baby’s head uncovered. Their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders.
- Let your baby sleep in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first six months.
- Use a mattress that’s firm, flat, waterproof and in good condition.
- Breastfeed your baby (if you can).
- Smoke during pregnancy or let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby (both before and after birth).
- Sleep on a bed, sofa or armchair with your baby.
- Share a bed with your baby if you or your partner smoke or take drugs, or if you’ve been drinking alcohol.
- Let your baby get too hot or too cold. A room temperature of 16-20C, with light bedding or a lightweight baby sleeping bag, will provide a comfortable sleeping environment for your baby.
At the end of the day, you need to do what’s right for you, the baby and your family. I always put my babies in separate rooms by about 4 months because it was right for us (it doesn’t stop the worry!), with my last child I co-slept for a large part of his babyhood. (For safe co-sleeping see the safe sleep 7). It’s really up to you. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
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All opinions are my own and facts are accurate at the time of writing.