A health watchdog has warned parents that baby sleep positioners can cause their newborns to suffocate following reports of 12 deaths in the US. 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 reported in the US 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 John Lewis and Amazon. After being contacted by MailOnline this morning, eBay, Tesco and Mothercare announced they are banning the controversial items. A spokesperson for eBay 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.
Tesco then followed suit, a spokesperson for the company 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.”
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were ‘too dangerous to use’, MailOnline was told by Mothercare, Tesco and Kiddicare that as a result they had been withdrawn from their shelves.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.
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)’.
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 and Amazon have been contacted by MailOnline for comment. Baby products that do not meet the definition of ‘device’ under the FD&C Act may be regulated by another federal agency, for example the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – the FDA’s UK equivalent – has been approached for its stance on sleep positioners.