Even if you love holding your babe as much as possible, the time comes when you need your hands for something else. (And not every moment of the day calls for baby wearing, either.)
However, many parents may not be aware that letting their little one snooze in an inclined position can be dangerous.
Reputable medical organizations continue to warn against the dangers of letting young infants sleep in an inclined position and a reliance on baby products known as inclined sleepers. Here’s why.
An inclined baby sleeper is often lumped into the “positioner” category shared with rockers, nappers, nests, pods, loungers, and docks.
These products are stationary and come with a cot or sleeping area that’s at a slight incline. Usually, that incline is between 10 and 30 degrees.
And here’s the kicker: As opposed to jumpers, bouncers, and swings, inclined sleepers were specifically marketed as far back as 2009 with the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper as a safe place to let your baby snooze.
They’re popular with parents because many assume that the incline helps to reduce the chance of reflux or spitting up. (This isn’t the case.)
Letting your baby sleep at an incline goes directly against all supported messaging from reputable medical and scientific organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Putting your baby to bed should follow the ABCs:
- flat on their back
- in a crib that’s free from soft items that could cause suffocation (comforters, baby bumpers, blankets, toys)
Because of the angle created by an inclined sleeper, the risk is that your baby’s airway can become obstructed. This can include their heads slumping forward in a chin-to-chest position that can make breathing difficult.
Another concern is that babies may potentially roll or shift, which can cause suffocation if their faces are pressed against the padding. This risk is especially of concern because very young babies have a harder time moving their heads out of an unsafe position.
And another fear is that very active sleepers may roll completely out of an inclined sleeper and get injured either by the fall or by tipping the inclined sleeper over and being trapped beneath it.
Between January 2005 and June 2019, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) received 1,108 incident reports related to inclined baby sleeper injuries. This included 73 infant deaths.
The commission therefore had Erin Mannen, PhD, an independent expert from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, research the safety of inclined sleeper products marketed for infants.
Mannen tracked infant muscle movements and oxygen saturation and compared them based on the sleep surface — a flat crib, an inclined crib, and various inclined sleepers.
Her investigation found that no inclined sleep surface is safe for an infant to sleep on.
An incline of more than 10 degrees and soft or plush surfaces increase the risk of infant injury. In contrast, flat and firm surfaces are safer for infant sleep.
While incline sleepers are still sold, the recall list for this product category continues to grow. A full list of current incline sleeper recalls can be found on the CPSC website.
But CPSC isn’t the only government body that’s taking action to protect infants when they’re most vulnerable.
In 2019, H.R. 3172 — a bill known as the Safe Sleep for Babies Act of 2019 — was presented in the House of Representatives. It pushes to completely ban the sale of inclined sleepers and label them as a hazardous product under section 8 of the Consumer Product Safety Act. The bill passed the House and as of December 2020, is currently in the Senate.
So, it’s safe to ask that if so much evidence points to the dangers of incline sleepers, why are they still being sold?
One reason is that even with large-scale recalls, it’s still possible to purchase these baby products second hand.
With all the talk of sleeping dangers for infants, you need to know the right way to put your baby to bed — so you can sleep with peace of mind, too!
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has created a campaign known as Safe to Sleep to help educate parents and caregivers about the proper way to put babies to sleep that prioritizes their safety.
The main features you should remember:
- Your baby should be put to bed in comfortable clothing that keeps them warm but doesn’t increase the risk of overheating.
- Always put them to sleep on their back on a firm surface such as a crib mattress covered with a fitted sheet.
- Ensure that the crib is empty and doesn’t have soft or loose objects like bedding, toys, and crib bumpers that could pose a suffocation risk.
Finding a safe space to let your little one snooze doesn’t have to be difficult. But you should avoid letting them sleep on any surface with an incline higher than 10 degrees, as that can increase the risk of suffocation.
Instead, flat, firm surfaces that are free from any soft material that can pose a suffocation risk are best.
Considering that it only takes an instant for a baby to roll or shift into a dangerous scenario if you use products like jumpers, rockers, or swings, adult supervision at all times is a must.