“Several of the parents indicated that they’d never before observed their infant roll on a flat surface until they found their infant dead in one of these products,” Mannen says.
Not all of the infant deaths tied to sleepers involved babies that rolled. In some cases, parents found the babies dead on their backs. Mannen says in many of those instances, some parents reported finding their babies with their faces pressed into the soft, pillow-like material that some sleepers are lined with. When babies burrow their faces into a soft surface like that, they can end up continuously breathing the carbon dioxide they exhale, eventually leading to suffocation.
Because of those reports, the commission has already worked with several companies to recall some infant sleepers, including the popular Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper, the Kids II Rocking Sleeper, the Eddie Bauer Slumber and Soothe Rock Bassinet, and the Disney Baby Doze and Dream Rocker.
Now the agency says parents should not use any inclined sleep products with a seat back that rises more than 10 degrees. It also says parents shouldn’t let babies sleep in car seats, bouncers, or any other device, pillow, or seat that holds them at an angle.
Pediatricians say they know that advice can be hard to follow, especially if a child falls asleep in the car.
“Especially if a baby is under four months, it’s very, very important to move them if they’re sleeping in a car seat,” says Lazarus. “We’ve seen deaths where a baby’s airway gets cut off when their head falls forward,” she says.
And what about putting the crib mattress at an incline to help with reflux?
Lazarus says she knows pediatricians used to recommend that, but she says new studies show that it doesn’t really help and may be unsafe.
“We do not recommend any sort of wedging or propping or positioning at this point,” she says.
In addition to avoiding inclined surfaces, the commission is reminding parents that babies can suffocate if they sleep with blankets, pillows, or other items. The safest way for a baby to sleep is flat on their back, in a bare crib, and on a flat, firm surface.