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Baby Sleep Positioners Are Overhyped and Actually Dangerous, Says FDA

Photograph by Twenty20

Baby sleep positioners are praised by companies and parents alike for preventing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or flat head syndrome. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is again reminding parents and caregivers not to get swept into the baby gear hype. In a recently updated statement, officials say that none of the medical claims are scientifically supported, and the FDA has never cleared an infant sleep positioner that claims to prevent or reduce the risk of SIDS.

Actually, in a sadly ironic twist, sleep positioners are dangerous because it can cause suffocation that can lead to death. Each year, about 4,000 infants die unexpectedly during sleep from accidental suffocation, SIDS or unknown causes.

Sleep positioners are sold as a way to keep baby (usually under 6 months old) in a specific position while sleeping. They are sometimes called "nests" or "anti-roll" products and often have a form of pillow or wedge to raise baby's head.

It's tempting to try it out to finally get baby (and you) to sleep, but is it worth it? Sleep positioners have been linked to 12 infant deaths in the US, and in most cases, the babies end up rolling into dangerous positions that impair breathing, such as face-down within or next to these products, even though parents initially placed babies on their backs or sides.

After hearing about the warning, several major retailers in the U.K., such as Mothercare, John Lewis and Tesco, have stopped selling sleep positioners. But hundreds of different sleep positioners are still sold online and in stores across the US. Just a quick search today on Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon resulted in products claiming to "help ease breathing, enhance digestion and reduce reflux" and "baby head-shaping memory foam" to "prevent flat head syndrome."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants should sleep on their backs, positioned on a firm, empty surface. Remove any soft objects, toys, pillows or loose bedding.

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