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A baby positioner is a device designed to prevent an infant from rolling onto his or her stomach during sleep. It usually includes a mat with cushions or bolsters on each side to keep a baby in place during the night or at nap time. Consumer safety organizations and some government agencies warn parents using baby positioners about suffocation risk from the products. Some positioners have been recalled, and manufacturers have been warned about making medical claims about products without scientific proof.
A wedge-shaped baby positioner fits under the mattress or inside a crib to raise the baby’s head during sleep. Manufacturers claim these tools address gastroesophageal reflux disease and might prevent regurgitation of breast milk or formula. They also say this type of baby positioner might help an infant sleep more soundly when he or she suffers from a cold, colic, or sleep apnea, a condition marked by periods when a baby stops breathing.
Consumer safety groups say these claims are unfounded and that wedge baby positioners might be dangerous. They report cases where infants tumble off the wedge, which could land on top of them, impeding breathing. A shift in these baby positioners might also trap an infant’s face between the wedge and side of the crib.
The bolster or cushion-style baby positioner aims to prevent infants from rolling onto their stomachs during sleep. Medical research found the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) increases when babies sleep on their stomachs. Most experts recommended placing infants on their backs during bedtime for the first year of life to reduce the risk of SIDS, which is most prevalent in the first four months after birth and the leading cause of infant death.
This type of baby positioner might also be dangerous, according to government consumer protection agencies. A baby’s face could become trapped against the bolster and restrict breathing, these organizations report. Claims that this form of baby positioner lessens the risk of SIDS are unfounded, research reveals, and may pose an increased risk of suffocation.
Parents of newborns have used homemade baby positioners for years to keep infants secure and safe during the night. A rolled towel or blanket creates a baby positioner to keep a child on his or her back or side while sleeping. Swaddling by wrapping an infant securely in a blanket might also prevent rolling over during the night. Safety blankets can be purchased with a zipper that prevents the blanket from covering a baby’s face.
The medical community advises against placing anything soft in a child’s crib that might increase the risk of suffocation. Experts recommend a firm crib mattress with a tightly fitted sheet without stuffed animals, pillows, or blankets. Infants should be dressed in warm pajamas and left uncovered, they advise, to reduce the risk of suffocation or SIDS.