Agencies warn of dangers posed by infant sleep positioning devices

Device HazardFederal health and safety officials have issued a warning this week about the dangers of baby sleep positioning devices, noting that they  have been implicated in at least two recent infant deaths.

According to a safety announcement from the Food and Drug Administration and Consumer Product Safety Commission, two recently reported deaths among small children that are blamed on suffocation courtesy of an infant sleep positioning device have underscored the often overlooked dangers of them.

In fact, the agencies urge consumers and health care professionals to stop using infant sleep positioning devices altogether immediately to avoid the risk they pose of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). There are at least a dozen deaths that can be blamed on infant sleep positioning devices in total, the agencies report.

According to the warning from the FDA and CPSC, the “most common types of sleep positioners feature bolsters attached to each side of a thin mat and wedges to elevate the baby’s head. The sleep positioners are intended to keep a baby in a desired position while sleeping. They are often used with infants under 6 months old.”

Rather than use these infant sleep positioning devices, the agencies cite American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations on proper infant sleep techniques that have proven to be the safest and pose the least risk of injury. Infants should be placed to sleep on their backs, on a firm surface free of soft objects, toys, and loose bedding.

People should never use infant positioning devices to hold a baby on its back or side. Doing so could put the baby at risk of serious injuries or death. Pillows, sleep positioners, quits, and other objects should also never be used. Babies being put down to sleep for the night or even for just a nap should only be placed on their back.

Both agencies state that in the last 13 years, a dozen infant deaths have been blamed on sleep positioning devices. In addition to these reports, the agencies have also been made aware of dozens more reports in which infants have suffered serious injuries as a result of the dangerous sleep positioning devices.

“We urge parents and caregivers to take our warning seriously and stop using these sleep positioners so children can be assured of a safe sleep,” says Inez Tenenbaum, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The FDA is also requiring manufacturers of these products to prove that their medical benefits – namely in the treatment of infant GERD and “flat head syndrome” – outweigh these serious injury risks. The agency previously approved a few of these devices for the treatment of those conditions.

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