By: Dina DiMaggio, MD, FAAP
Having a baby is an incredibly exciting time! Many parents set up baby registries and want the very best for their newborns. With so many new products in stores, however, setting up a registry can seem like an overwhelming task. It's important to know that some popular products, like inclined sleepers, are not necessary because they can be dangerous for infants.
Each year, more than 3,600 infants die unexpectedly during sleep from accidental suffocation, SIDS, or unknown causes. To help prevent these deaths, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
recommends that infants sleep on flat and firm surfaces--separate from adults or others, and without any bumpers, soft bedding or stuffed toys. Inclined infant sleeper products with raised padding and soft sides, as well as crib bumpers, can cause a baby to suffocate.
In fact, while still sold in many stores, these products are linked to dozens of deaths. The AAP also warns against products intended for infant bedsharing with parents.
Here's more information about these dangerous infant sleep products and why they should stay off the registry:
Inclined sleepers and positioners
Sometimes called baby nests, docks, pods, loungers, rockers or nappers, infant positioners and inclined sleepers are popular “must have" items on baby registry lists. However, these products are unregulated and have no safety standards. From January 2005 through June 2019, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) received reports of 1,108 incidents, including 73 infant deaths related to inclined sleepers. It
states that sleep products that incline more than 10 degrees are not safe for sleep, and that soft and plush sleep surfaces also are dangerous.
In most of these cases, according to the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration, the babies suffocated after rolling on to their stomachs, unable to lift their heads. The soft padding can interfere with breathing when an infant's face presses against them. In addition, infants placed in these products may fall asleep in a chin-to-chest position--which can restrict the airway—or roll out of the devices and become trapped under them.
Crib bumpers were longtime staples of nursery décor, originally intended to cushion babies from the crib slats. However, the AAP advises against using crib bumpers because of the risk of suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation. Plus, older babies may use the bumpers to stand on and climb out of the crib, creating a fall risk. Crib bumpers have been tied to at least 48 infant deaths during the past three decades.
In addition to the traditional padded bumpers, stores now sell mesh bumpers and vertical crib liners. However, even mesh bumpers can become loose and pose a strangulation risk. Babies can also become trapped between them and the crib mattress.
There is no evidence that bumpers—of any kind--prevent injury in young infants.
Cribs today are regulated by the CPSC and have updated safety standards, with slats closer together to prevent baby's head from getting stuck. This means that bumpers are not only dangerous, but unnecessary. For parents concerned about a child's leg getting stuck between crib slats, the AAP recommends using a wearable blanket or sleeping sack that is the correct size for their baby.
Why are these products still sold?
Unfortunately, while the CPSC warns against the use of
inclined sleepers, nests, docks and
crib bumpers, it hasn't acted to ban them from being sold. The AAP continues to urge the CPSC to ban these dangerous infant sleep-related products.
The good news is that some stores and online retailers, as well some cities and states, have already stopped selling or have banned inclined sleepers and crib bumpers. In addition, some companies have issued voluntary
recalls of these products.
Congress is considering legislation that would create a national ban on infant inclined sleep products and padded crib bumpers. In December 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Safe Sleep for Babies Act of 2019 (H.R. 3172). The bill then moved on to the Senate, which will have to pass the legislation for it to become law.
Even in areas where inclined sleepers, nests, docks and crib bumpers are banned, these dangerous products might still turn up at secondhand stores or garage sales. It is important to check the CPSC website to see if products have been recalled before using them. Also, check and make sure anyone who watches your child knows about recalled and unsafe products. If you have any questions about safe sleep products for your baby, talk to your pediatrician.
About Dr. DiMaggio:
Dina DiMaggio, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician at Pediatric Associates of NYC and at NYU Langone Health. She is the co-author of The Pediatrician's Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers, a comprehensive manual written by a team of medical, nutrition, and culinary experts. She also serves as an AAP spokesperson. Follow her on Instagram @Pediatriciansguide.