The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to parents and caregivers of infants about the dangers of using sleep positioners. The products are also known as “nests” or “anti-roll” supports.
The two most common sleep positioners include two raised pillows or "bolsters" attached to a mat. Babies younger than 6 months old are placed on the mat between the pillows to keep them in a specific position while they are sleeping.
But putting babies to sleep on or near soft objects, such as positioners, toys, pillows and loose bedding, increases the risk for accidental suffocation and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says.
Some babies have been found in dangerous positions next to a positioner they had been placed in for sleeping. Federal officials also reported that infants have died after being placed in one of these products. In most cases, the infants got out of position, rolled onto their stomachs and suffocated, the FDA explained.
The FDA and infant heath experts say that babies should always be put to sleep on their backs on a firm, empty mattress, preferably in a crib.
Babies should never sleep with a positioner, pillow, blanket, sheets, a comforter or a quilt, the FDA advised. Appropriate clothing keeps babies warm enough while they are sleeping.
Some sleep positioner companies claim that their products prevent SIDS. But the FDA noted it has never cleared an infant sleep positioner that promises to prevent or reduce the risk of SIDS since there is no scientific evidence to back up this claim.
Some of the companies also promote their products as helpful for easing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition that causes stomach acids to back up into the esophagus. Others suggest their positioners help prevent flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly), a deformation caused by pressure on one part of the skull.
While it’s true that the FDA has previously approved some of these products for GERD and flat head syndrome, the government agency has asked these companies to stop marketing these items because it feels that the risks outweigh the benefits.
Every year about 4,000 infants die unexpectedly while sleeping due to suffocation, SIDS or another unknown cause, according to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
The FDA urged parents and caregivers to talk to their child's doctor if they have questions about how to make sure their baby sleeps safely.