Pediatricians highlight risks of inclined baby sleep positioners
There have been numerous reports of infantile death or injury coming from inclined baby sleeper use.
When it comes to buying baby products, all parents expect them to be safe to use. We trust that companies and manufacturers have fully tested and researched the product, and that government regulations are in place to protect us and our babies. But what if that’s not the case — such as when it comes to an inclined baby sleeper?
Recently, inclined baby sleeper products have come under scrutiny from the public eye. Parents and pediatricians are concerned that manufacturers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) aren’t putting enough effort to design inclined baby sleepers to protect babies.
And the worst has happened before. According to a Wall Street Journal article, earlier this year, one New York parent complained to the CPSC that a six-month-old baby rolled over during their sleep inside an inclined baby sleeper and passed away.
The unfortunate event central to complaints against the CPSC isn’t the first case, either. At least 30 complaints of infant deaths and over 700 injuries linked to inclined baby sleepers have been reported to the CPSC since 2005. Over half of the deaths—16 of them—occurred since 2016.
Pediatricians comment that altering the design of an inclined baby sleeper will make babies safer. However, manufacturers and CPSC say that the designs available now are safe if parents used them as instructed.
Responding to the Wall Street Journal, Mattel emphasizes that parents should read “the instructions prior to use of their sleeper” and also heed “those instructions to ensure a safe sleep environment for babies.”
Specifically, the directions advise parents to use the provided restraint system at all times. Furthermore, parents shouldn’t ever use a pillow, comforter, or padding coupled with the inclined baby sleeper.
In May, the CPSC released a consumer alert concerning the usage of inclined baby sleeper. The alert warns parents to “always use restraints and stop using these products as soon as an infant can roll over.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP), the best place for baby to sleep without the risk of harm is “on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet.”
In this recommendation, the AAP doesn’t explicitly say that the “firm sleep surface” needs to be flat. However, the organization does advise parents to avoid using “sitting devices” for regular baby sleep.
These items, including car seats, strollers, swings, can risk a baby to suffer from airway obstruction.
In fact, inclined baby sleepers aren’t even part of the AAP’s guidelines for safe infant sleeping environments. The guidelines state that babies should sleep in “a crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard that conforms to the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).”
Medical professionals have also voiced their concerns regarding the use of particular brands of baby sleepers for little ones. Five years ago, in 2013, Dr. Roy Benaroch uploaded short sections of his email discussion with a popular baby product brand on Pediatric Insider, his blog.
There, he explained his worries about the bad design of this particular inclined baby sleeper. For instance, the incline made it impossible for babies to sleep fully on their back. That goes against the advice by the AAP.
Natasha Burgert, another pediatrician, also used her blog to communicate her concerns. She penned an open letter to the same baby product company, suggesting that they “consider re-marketing the [Brand Name] Sleeper as a comfortable, portable infant seat; to be used for observed play, and as a temporary place for brief rest.”
Some countries, like Canada, have already used this approach. In Canada, the one inclined baby sleeper product is marketed as a “Soothing Seat,” not an inclined baby sleeper. That’s because the product’s design failed to fulfill the safety rules for a bassinet, crib or cradle in Canada.
So, medical professionals have advised that inclined baby sleeper aren’t safe. Yet, the CPSC hasn’t taken much action, only advising parents to comply with directions provided with the products.
Pediatricians and safety consumer support groups argue that infants would be kept safer if there were stronger regulations when it comes to baby sleep products.
Furthermore, they also claim that the CPSC’s present solution is a big burden for parents, who need to read through safety recommendations and even through product reviews before choosing the right baby product.
Several AAP representatives have together penned a letter to Ann Marie Buerkle to CPSC’s Chair. In it, they fittingly explain why inclined baby sleeper aren’t safe at all, saying:
“…using restraints in a sleep product, allowing inclines in sleep products that might allow rolling into unsafe positions, and other hazards present in current inclined sleep products should not be promoted by the CPSC.”
When it comes to baby sleep products like inclined baby sleeper, always use it as per its instructions. For instance, if the booklet advises to buckle baby up, then you should always use the buckles.
Also, don’t forget the ABC’s of safe baby sleep which the AAP and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development recommend:
- A is for Alone
- B is for on the Back
- C is for in a Crib
Different families have different ways of putting their little one to sleep: different routines, situations (e.g. co-sleeping), and use a variety of products. In the end, it is your decision, parents, but it’s also good to remember what medical professionals and experts recommend.
Reference: Wall Street Journal