Sleep positioners could cause babies to suffocate

  • FDA in the US has issued statement warning about dangers of ‘anti-roll’ products
  • There are reports of at least 12 babies’ deaths linked to the devices in the US
  • The products are currently sold by Mothercare, Tesco, John Lewis and Amazon
  • MailOnline approached these firms for comment but they’ve not yet responded
  • eBay and Tesco also listed these items but announced today they were planning to ban them
  • Experts reiterate the safest sleep environment for a baby is a clear cot with no pillows or toys

A health watchdog has warned parents that baby sleep positioners can cause their newborns to suffocate.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US has issued a statement explaining the pillows – often called ‘nests’ or ‘anti-roll’ products – can cause babies to sleep in a position that could cut off their oxygen.

The products are supposed to help infants to snooze safely, however, at least 12 infant deaths have been linked to the items. All the cases were reported in the US and involved babies rolling from their sides on to their fronts and they subsequently stopped breathing.

Despite the body issuing the same safety warning seven years ago, sleep positioners are still being sold in stores and online in the US and UK.

They are currently available from Mothercare, Tesco, John Lewis and Amazon. After being contacted by MailOnline this morning, eBay announced it was planning to ban the items.

A spokesperson said: ‘Following recent recommendations by US authorities, items of this nature will now be prohibited from being sold on our platform. 

‘Our team will be informing sellers and removing any listings that contravene our policies.’

Mothercare sells the The Babymoov cosydream and its website says its for babies from birth to 4-6 months. It warns customers not use the sleep positioner once their child is able to turn around on its own

Mothercare sells the The Babymoov cosydream and its website says its for babies from birth to 4-6 months. It warns customers not use the sleep positioner once their child is able to turn around on its own

This photo provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) shows a baby doll face down on a sleep positioner. There are fears this is what could happen and would lead to suffocation

This photo provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) shows a baby doll face down on a sleep positioner. There are fears this is what could happen and would lead to suffocation

THE FDA’S STATEMENT 

FDA is reminding parents and caregivers not to put babies in sleep positioners. These products –sometimes also called ‘nests’ or ‘anti-roll’ products – can cause suffocation that can lead to death.

Each year, about 4,000 infants die unexpectedly during sleep time from accidental suffocation, SIDS, or unknown causes, according to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

The federal government has received reports about babies who have died from suffocation associated with their sleep positioners. In most of these cases, the babies suffocated after rolling from their sides to their stomachs.

In addition to reports about deaths, the federal government also has received reports about babies who were placed on their backs or sides in positioners – but were later found in other, dangerous positions within or next to these products. 

Tesco the followed suit and a spokesperson said: ‘We have removed these products from our website as a precautionary measure. These products were available online only, not in-store.

‘These products were sold by a third party on the Tesco website, not sold by Tesco itself.’

Promises of products pulled 

When the FDA warned in 2010 that the pillows were ‘too dangerous to use’, MailOnline was told by Mothercare, Tesco and Kiddicare that as a result they had been withdrawn from their shelves. 

Mothercare had announced it was pulling three products back then – the Head ‘n’ back, Resting Up and Snugglenest. But it is currently selling one item, the Babymoov Cosydream Sleep Positioner for £39.99.

Designed for infants from birth up to 6 months old, this product comes with a warning to customers not to use it once their child is able to turn around on its own.

In 2010, a spokesman from Tesco said the supermarket chain only sold sleep positioners online and announced that as a precaution it was withdrawing the item from sale.

However, it currently has seven products listed under a ‘sleep positioners’ category on its website. 

John Lewis sells the Cocoonababy Sleep Positioner for £65.

John Lewis sells the Cocoonababy Sleep Positioner for £65 which is marketed as helping to limit reflux problems

John Lewis sells the Cocoonababy Sleep Positioner for £65 which is marketed as helping to limit reflux problems

The product states: ‘The design of this product allows your baby to sleep safely on their back; the safest position. Thanks to the specific shape of the baby wedge your baby can lie in a comforting, calming and reassuring position.’

The ‘ergonomic’ device is marketed as designed to improve the quality and length of sleep, reduce waking with a start or Moro reflex, limit reflux problems, and encourage all-round development.

It is recommended for use from birth and ‘until the child starts trying to turn over or to adopt a different position (approximately three to four months)’. 

Tesco is selling sleep positioners for babies despite the FDA's repeated safety warnings

Tesco is selling sleep positioners for babies despite the FDA’s repeated safety warnings

Amazon has a number of such products available to US customers

Amazon has a number of such products available to US customers

The retail giant is also selling positioners on the UK version of its website

The retail giant is also selling positioners on the UK version of its website

Sleep positioners for babies are have been available on online auction market place eBay but the company says it now plans to remove them

Sleep positioners for babies are have been available on online auction market place eBay but the company says it now plans to remove them

HOW TO KEEP YOUR BABY SAFE WHEN THEY SLEEP

The Lullaby Trust recommends parents place their babies to sleep in cots that are kept as clear as possible and specifically advise:

  • No pillows or duvets
  • No cot bumpers
  • No soft toys
  • No loose bedding
  • No products (such as wedges or straps) that will keep your baby in one sleeping position

A reminder for parents

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. They are intended to keep a baby in a specific position while sleeping and are intended for infants under six months old.

The number of deaths linked to the devices in the US came to 12 from 1997 to 2010 and the FDA said there were no latest figures available.

The FDA’s latest statement reads: ‘FDA is reminding parents and caregivers not to put babies in sleep positioners. These products can cause suffocation (a struggle to breathe) that can lead to death.’

It also reminded parents to place infants on their backs to sleep, positioned on a firm, empty surface. It said this surface should not contain soft objects, toys, pillows, or loose bedding.

The Lullaby Trust, which raises awareness of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), echoed the FDA’s alert.

A spokesperson said: ‘There is evidence to suggest that 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. 

‘Unnecessary items in a baby’s cot can also increase the risk of accidents.

‘While evidence on individual items is not widely available, it makes sense to be as cautious as possible.’

Tesco, Mothercare and Amazon have all been contacted by MailOnline for comment.

The Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – the FDA’s UK equivalent – has been approached for its stance on sleep positioners.

‘MY BABY WOULD HAVE BEEN HERE NOW IF I HADN’T USED A POSITIONER’

Andy is pictured on right of his twin Jake

Mother Judy Sage (right) pictured with 'Kids in Danger' founder Linda Ginzel

Judy Sage (pictured far right) lost her son Andy (pictured on right of his twin Jake)

Judy Sage was one of the mothers who lost her child when son Andy (pictured on right of his twin Jake) suffocated on a sleep positioner aged eight weeks.

Andy’s paediatrician had recommended Mrs Sage position him on his side to help with his gastroesophageal reflux, or acid-like indigestion, a common problem in infants, so she used a sleep positioner.

But one January night Mrs Sage, from New York, she discovered that he had suffocated to death.

‘Andy would be here today had I not used a sleep positioner,’ she said.

Since Andy died in 2002 she has been campaigning for other parents to be aware of the dangers posed by sleep positioners and described the FDA warning as ‘a huge victory’.

‘I felt like I can scream loud but not loud enough to get this heard. I thought it would take a lifetime,’ she said. 

Dr Rachel Moon, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Task Force, said: ‘There are hundreds of these products out there that could potentially cause harm.

‘The number one mistake is that parents think that if they sell it, it must be safe. That’s not true.’

Health | Mail Online