By: Dina DiMaggio, MD, FAAP
Having a baby is an incredibly exciting time! Many parents set up baby registries for items that they believe their baby will need. You may also start getting hand-me-down items from friends and family. However, it's important to know that some popular products are unnecessary and can actually be dangerous for infants. Examples include inclined sleepers, positioners, crib bumpers and other soft pillow-like products.
Each year, about
in the United States die unexpectedly during sleep. This can happen from unintentional suffocation, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or unknown causes. To help prevent these deaths, the American Academy of Pediatrics
that all infants should sleep on flat and firm surfaces. Babies should sleep by themselves, without any bumpers, soft bedding, pillows or stuffed toys. We also advise against using products that are for infant
Products such as crib bumpers and inclined infant sleeper products can cause a baby to suffocate. While they are now banned in the United States, they are still found in many homes and listed for sale on secondary online marketplace sites.
Here's why these products should stay off your registry and out of your home.
Inclined baby sleepers & positioners
These are sometimes called baby nests, docks, pods, loungers, rockers or nappers. Infant positioners and inclined sleepers have been popular items on baby registry lists for years.
says that sleep products that incline more than 10 degrees are not safe. Soft and plush sleep surfaces are also dangerous. Inclined sleepers position babies to sleep at a 30-degree angle. Infants placed in these products may fall asleep in a chin-to-chest position, which can restrict their airway. They can also roll out of the devices and become trapped under them. Inclined sleepers have been tied to more than 100 deaths.
Safe Sleep for Babies Act, all inclined sleepers are now
banned. Parents are advised to stop using these products, such as the Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper and the Kids2 Rocking Sleepers, immediately.
With sleep positioners, babies can suffocate after rolling onto their stomachs since they can't lift their heads. The soft padding can make it difficult to breathe if a baby's face presses against it.
Safer infant nursing pillows
Infant nursing support pillows may look like they would be a comfortable place for babies to sleep, and many caregivers use them to prop babies up, even when they are not being breastfed or bottle fed. However, a breastfeeding support pillow is never a safe place for babies to sleep. The products have been linked to at least over 160 infant deaths. (See the video from pediatrician Edith Bracho-Sanchez, MD, FAAP, "Nursing Pillows: Why They're Unsafe for Sleeping," below.)
Pillows designed for breastfeeding should be firm, and used only during feeding. Some breastfeeding support pillows on the market already meet these safety standards. The CPSC is considering
safety rules to ensure that all infant pillows meet standards for firmness, air flow, positional use and shape to prevent injury or death.
Warnings about infant loungers
The CPSC previously issued a warning about infant loungers after reports of infant deaths. Infant loungers are typically round, pillow-like products designed for laying an infant down in the center of the pillow. These products are not marketed as sleepers, but it is common for babies to fall asleep while using them. Infants are at risk of suffocating if their noses or mouths become blocked, or if they roll off of these products.
If you have one of these products, many of which are being investigated by the CPSC or recalled, stop using it right away. Visit the
CPSC website for recall instructions. They also have a
website where safety concerns about infant products can be reported.
Crib bumpers were long considered staples of nursery décor. They were originally intended to cushion babies from the crib's slats. Crib bumpers are dangerous because of the risk of suffocation, entrapment and strangulation. Plus, older babies may use the bumpers to stand on and climb out of the crib, creating a fall risk. Crib bumpers have been linked to more than 100 infant deaths during the past 30 years, and they are now banned under federal law.
In addition to traditional padded bumpers, stores now sell mesh bumpers and vertical crib liners. But even these can get loose and become a strangulation risk. Babies can also get trapped between them and the crib mattress.
Not only dangerous, but unnecessary
There is no evidence that crib bumpers—of any kind—prevent injury in young infants. Cribs today are regulated by the CPSC and have updated safety standards. The slats are closer together to prevent your baby's head from getting stuck.
This means that bumpers are not only dangerous, but unnecessary. Maybe you're concerned about your child's leg getting stuck between crib slats. If so, use a wearable blanket or sleeping sack that's the right size for your baby.
Federal safety standards protect babies
A safe sleep environment is so important that the CPSC approved a federal safety standard for infant sleep products. This standard will help get rid of potentially dangerous baby sleep products such as inclined sleepers, in-bed sleepers and travel/compact sleepers. These products now must meet the same CPSC standards in place for cribs, bassinets, play yards and bedside sleepers.
In addition, the
Safe Sleep for Babies Act was signed into law in May 2022. This legislation makes it illegal to sell, distribute, manufacture or import crib bumpers and inclined sleep products.
By now, all stores, online retailers, cities, and states should have stopped selling or have banned inclined sleepers and crib bumpers. Some companies also issued voluntary
recalls of these products.
Even in areas where these dangerous products are banned, they can still turn up at secondhand stores or garage sales. It's important to check the
CPSC website to see if products have been recalled before using them. To stay updated on the latest recalls, you can even
sign up for CPSC email alerts. Also, make sure anyone who watches your child knows about recalled and unsafe products.
It's also important to keep in mind that your baby should only sleep in products that are designed to be safe sleep spaces, like cribs, bassinets and portable play yards. Other products like swings, reclined seats, bouncers and other sitting or positioning devices are not safe for sleep. If your baby falls asleep in one of these, move your baby to a safe sleep space right away.
If you have any questions about safe sleep products for your baby, talk with your pediatrician.
About Dr. DiMaggio
Dina DiMaggio, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician at Pediatric Associates of NYC and at NYU Langone Health. She is the co-author of The Pediatrician's Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers, a comprehensive manual written by a team of medical, nutrition, and culinary experts. She also serves as an AAP spokesperson. Follow her on Instagram @Pediatriciansguide.