Parents of infants are both sleep-deprived and sleep-obsessed. It’s important for babies to sleep in order for parents to hope to get a little of their own rest, which is how we can arrive pretty quickly at the “do whatever works” strategy. But more reports are coming out that some of the products parents use—and love—are unsafe for their sleeping babies. At the top of that list now are in-bed sleepers.
We learned earlier this year that inclined “sleepers,” like the Rock ‘N Play, are linked with dozens of infant deaths. And now, a U.S. Consumer Reports investigation has concluded that several infant in-bed sleepers are linked to at least 12 deaths that occurred between 2012 and 2018. These in-bed sleepers are meant for bed-sharing with an adult caregiver.
In-bed sleepers do not currently have their own [government] safety standards, and they have other potentially dangerous design elements. Notably, some feature padding and soft surfaces, which can block airflow if a baby’s face comes into contact with the fabric. And by their nature they encourage bed-sharing, a practice that itself increases the risk of infant death.
“We know that padding is a suffocation risk” when it’s close to a sleeping baby, says Roy Benaroch, M.D., an associate adjunct professor of pediatrics at Emory University in Atlanta.
This news hit at the same time as a study was released in the Pediatrics journal that found that just 31 per cent of mums reported always or often putting their infants to sleep on separate, approved sleep surfaces. (Only women were surveyed, so it’s not clear what the rate is for dads.)
To reduce the risk of sleep-related infant death, though, the American Academy of Pediatrics has guidelines that are helpful for parents:
Until their first birthday, babies should sleep on their backs for all sleep times—for naps and at night.
Use a firm sleep surface.
Room share—keep baby’s sleep area in the same room where you sleep for the first 6 months or, ideally, for the first year.
Only bring your baby into your bed to feed or comfort.
Never place your baby to sleep on a couch, sofa or armchair.
Bed-sharing is not recommended for any babies.
Keep soft objects, loose bedding or any objects that could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation or strangulation out of the baby’s sleep area.
It is fine to swaddle your baby.
Try giving a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
You can read the AAP’s recommendations in greater detail here.
So although many of these products seem like a way to make naps and nighttime sleep easier to achieve, if they don’t fall under the AAP’s recommendations, parents can’t be sure they’re safe.
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