Health Buzz: Infant Sleep Positioners Unsafe

Plus, what's the safest way to tote an infant?

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Government Calls Infant Sleep Devices "Dangerous," Warns Against Use

Some anxious parents rely on devices to keep sleeping babies on their backs, a position which experts say protects against sudden infant death syndrome. But these so-called sleep positioners are "dangerous and unnecessary," and should no longer be used because they pose a suffocation risk, the government warned today. In the past 13 years, sleep positioners have caused 12 infants—all between 1 and 4 months of age—to suffocate, according to a statement issued by the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Sleep positioners are typically sold as flat or inclined mats with side bolsters, designed to hold infants in one spot. In most cases, suffocation occurred after the child rolled from a side position to a stomach position, or became trapped between the device and the side of a crib or bassinet. The agencies say they've received dozens of reports about infants who were placed in sleep positioners and were later found in potentially dangerous positions, either within or next to the device. The FDA has never approved sleep positioners as safe.

Earlier this year, a massive recall of baby slings sparked debate about the safest way to carry infants around.

Baby Sling Recall Fallout: What's the Best Way to Tote an Infant?

The recall of one million baby slings last March after the deaths of three babies is a strong reminder that just because a baby product appears in mainstream stories like Target, Wal-Mart, and Burlington Coat Factory—all of which sold the recalled slings made by Infantino—doesn't mean it's been safety tested, according to U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute.

Slings have become increasingly popular because they let moms and dads carry a baby close to them while keeping their hands free. "Babywearing" also has been promoted by the "attachment parenting" movement, which asserts that a child who spends hours physically close to a parent will be less fussy and learn more. Some claims, such as the notion that babies carried in slings are toilet trained earlier, seem dubious at best. But having your baby close to your heart can be cozy and convenient. As a result, dozens of versions of baby slings have hit the market, including variations on the Snugli, in which babies sit upright; long pieces of cloth like the Moby Wrap, in which the baby is lashed to the parent's chest; and curved bags that resemble a giant hobo-style handbag. It's these last models that have been associated with injuries and deaths and were the subject of the March recall; a small baby can suffocate when its chin is pushed down into its chest or its face is turned into the sling's material. [Read more: Baby Sling Recall Fallout: What's the Best Way to Tote an Infant?]

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