Some UK retailers have stopped selling baby sleep positioners amid concerns over their safety. BBC News reports that this was after a US health regulator said they “can cause suffocation that can lead to death” and have been linked to 12 infant deaths in the US.
The positioners, aimed at infants under six months, are intended to keep a baby in a specific position while sleeping. Mothercare, John Lewis, eBay, Boots and Tesco have stopped sales, but they are still available from other retailers.
The report says The Lullaby Trust, a cot death charity which advises the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), said that there are hundreds of baby sleep products on the market – and “parents assume that if something is for sale, it is safe to use”. Lullaby’s Jenny Ward added: “The age-old question that hasn’t really changed is: how do I get my baby to sleep? “And if there’s a product that says: ‘This will help your baby to sleep’, it’s obviously something that some parents will want to find out more about.”
But she said the Trust recommends a firm, flat, waterproof mattress, in a clear cot free of pillows, toys, bumpers and sleep positioners, because the evidence shows that this reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The Trust does not recommend wedges or sleep positioners – regardless of other potential benefits.
The report said the US Food and Drug Administration released a statement explaining that the items – often called “nests” or “anti-roll” products – have caused some babies to suffocate after rolling from their sides to their stomachs. It said the two most common types of sleep positioners feature raised supports or pillows (called “bolsters”) that are attached to each side of a mat, or a wedge to raise a baby’s head.
The FDA first issued a safety warning seven years ago, saying “in light of the suffocation risk and the lack of evidence of any benefits, we are warning consumers to stop using these products”.
The Lullaby Trust said there is no need to use any type of equipment or rolled up blankets to keep a baby in one position, unless parents have been advised to do so by a health professional for a specific medical condition. It added: “Babies are at higher risk of SIDS if they have their heads covered, and some items added to a cot may increase the risk of head-covering and can also increase the risk of accidents.
“We recommend that while evidence on individual products is not widely available, parents do not take any chances and stick to scientifically proven safer sleep guidelines”.