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As a parent who wants the best for his/her child, there is this overwhelming urge to buy every possible baby product in the market. Obviously, baby products manufacturers have latched on to this fact and introduced a variety of products that in reality may or may not have any use for the child. One such safe sleep product that probably has little use, and is actually dangerous for the child, is an infant sleep positioner. This common baby product is designed in such a way that it holds the baby on his/her back or side while asleep. Its firm cushions on the sides are supposed to prevent the child from rolling over onto their stomachs while sleeping. It has tubes or foam wedges along with a flat mat. Some baby sleep positioners have inclined wedge-shaped mats with side bolsters attached to the wedge.

While this product is marketed as perfectly safe while the baby sleeps, in fact, it has the opposite effect. Although they are marketed as products that prevent or reduce the risk of SIDS, it was found that infants suffocated after rolling onto their stomachs from a side-facing position. This Buzzle article lists some common reasons why you shouldn't use sleep positioners.

Baby Sleep Positioner Safety Issues

Risk of Suffocation

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), unintentional suffocation is the leading cause of injury or death for children younger than 1-year-old in the U.S. Although infant sleep positioners are marketed as products that reduce sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a CDC report has found that it has actually caused 13 suffocation deaths in young infants since 1997. According to the CPSC, who have received a number of reports, the infants―who were between the ages of 1 month and 4 months―died due to suffocation in these positioners, or when they became trapped between a sleep positioner and the side of a crib or bassinet.

The positioners pose a suffocation risk irrespective of the way you place the child. If you place the baby on his/her side, his face can get trapped against the bolster and cause suffocation. Moreover, even when you place him on either sides, he can roll over and end up on his stomach with his face pressed against the hard positioner. Babies placed on the inclined positioners can scoot up and end up with their heads hanging in an hazardous position.

No Actual Benefits

There are many companies that market sleep positioners as safe and healthy products that protect against SIDS, and prevent gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and the flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly). These claims have never been certified by the FDA, and there is no evidence or scientific studies supporting these apparent benefits made by marketers. Although the FDA has previously cleared certain baby sleep positioners for the prevention of flat head syndrome, and the treatment of GERD, recent studies have negated these claims.

FDA and CPSC Warning

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a joint press release on Sept 29, 2010, "urging parents and caregivers to stop using infant sleep positioners because of the risk of suffocation associated with their use".

According to the recommendations released by the FDA on their website,

STOP using infant sleep positioners. Using a device to hold an infant in a particular position is dangerous and unnecessary.

NEVER put pillows, infant sleep positioners, comforters, or quilts under the baby or in the crib.

ALWAYS place an infant to sleep on his/her back at night and during nap time. To reduce the risk of SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends placing infants to sleep on their backs and not their sides.

Parents are advised to put babies to sleep on their back and avoid soft bedding, sleep positioners, head positioners, bumpers, stuffed animals, pillows, or thick blankets that can increase the risk of suffocation. A firm, flat mattress with a fitted sheet is best for babies. By following these simple recommendations, parents can decrease the risk of SIDS significantly.