Baby sleep positioners safety alert – what you need to know

Mothercare, Tesco, John Lewis and eBay pulled baby sleep positioners from their stores following an updated FDA safety warning. BSo which products does this include? We've asked the experts...

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UK retailers including Tesco, Mothercare, John Lewis and eBay have announced they’re removing baby sleep positioners from sale following evidence of a link to the deaths of 12 babies in the USA over the past 13 years.

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The move by the retailers comes after the FDA (The US Food and Drug Administration) released an updated safety statement reminding parents and caregivers not to put babies in sleep positioners.

The FDA continued: “These products – sometimes also called ‘nests’ or ‘anti-roll’ products – can cause suffocation (a struggle to breathe) that can lead to death.” 

So do sleep positioners include baby nests and pods? 

Baby sleeping in Sleepyhead baby pod

This is an important question, because we know that baby nests and pods, including Sleepyhead Grand and Deluxe (pictured above), are very popular baby sleep products, used by thousands of parents and babies. 

The official advice is that no, baby nests and pods are not sleep positioners unless they have straps or wedges to hold a baby in place. This means the majority of nests and pods are not classified as sleep positioners. Ones that are include Babymoov Cosydream (shown below left) and the Red Castle Cocoonababy (below right). 

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Pictured: Babymoov Cosydream and Red Castle Cocoonababy

The BPA (Baby Products Association), which represents baby manufacturers and develops product standards, explains:

“Sleep positioners and baby nests are being incorrectly grouped together and are in fact quite different,” says BPA’s statement following the FDA report. “Typically sleep positioners position a baby in a restrictive way whereas nests provide a non-restrictive sleep surface/area.”

Both the Babymoov Cosydream, which can restrict movement, and the Red Castle Cocoonababy, which has a strap, have been withdrawn from sale by some (but not all) retailers. 

But The Lullaby Trust warns that pods and nests don’t meet safer sleeping guidelines 

The Lullaby Trust has confirmed that pods and nests do not meet the safe sleeping guidelines that it promotes.

“The evidence shows that the safest way to sleep a baby is on a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in a cot or moses basket and we would not recommend any sleep surface that does not conform to these guidelines,” the Lullaby Trust told us.

According to the Trust, the fact that pods and nests have mattresses with raised, padded sides mean that they don’t meet the “flat” requirements of the guidelines. Some also have soft mattresses, which can increase the risk of SIDS.

The Lullaby Trust adds: “There are hundreds of baby sleep products on the market and parents assume that if something is for sale it is safe to use. We do not recommend pods, nests, hammocks, wedges and sleep positioners as evidence shows that the safest way for a baby to sleep is on a firm flat mattress, in a clear cot free of pillows, toys, bumpers and sleep positioners.

“We recommend that while evidence on individual products is not widely available that parents do not take any chances and stick to scientifically proven safer sleep guidelines.”

So which sleep positioners have been withdrawn?

Mothercare, Tesco, John Lewis and eBay have currently removed the following from sale:

  • Babymoov Cosydream
  • Aldi Snuggle Nest
  • Summer Infant Head N Back
  • Clevermama ClevaSleep Positioner
  • Red Castle Cocoonababy – although this was still on sale when we checked at John Lewis
  • Various baby sleep wedges, such as Delta Baby

The Cosydream and Cocoonababy are still available from Amazon and other online retailers. 

Pods and nests, such as Sleepyhead, have not been withdrawn from sale. 

It’s important to add that sleep positioners have not been banned in the UK. Certain retailers have just decided to remove them from sale, while others continue to sell them. 

The BPA states that, to the manufacturers’ knowledge, there have been no known deaths linked to UK sleep positioner products. 

Babymoov, the makers of Cosydream, issued a statement saying: 

“We would like to assure customers that our award winning, paediatrician-approved Cosydream has never been involved in any incident connected with infant fatality. Nor does the Cosydream resemble the products that first gave rise to the FDA guidelines seven years ago.

“All our products comply with current regulations and the appropriate certification has been attained in relation to each of our baby sleep products.”

So what should parents do if you have a sleep positioner, baby nest or pod? 

The first thing is to understand that sleep positioners are different to baby nests and pods, and the FDA’s warning is about sleep positioners.

But like so much in parenting, the answers aren’t black and white – partly because not enough research has been done. Therefore parents need to make choices, and assess and balance up the risks. 

This is the evidence that does exist…

1 Sleep positioners 

The FDA has re-issued a strong warning in the US after 12 baby deaths were linked to American sleep positioning products. As far as we’re aware the products were not any of the UK ones that have been withdrawn. Babymoov, which produces the Cosydream, has issued this statement:

“We would like to assure customers that our award winning, paediatrician-approved Cosydream has never been involved in any incident connected with infant fatality. Nor does the Cosydream resemble the products that first gave rise to the FDA guidelines seven years ago.”

However, while the Dept of Health is not commenting on the FDA warning (we asked them), UK safe sleeping advice recommends against using wedges and other sleep positioners. Sleep positioners are defined as wedges, head positioning pillows and devices that strap or hold your baby in a set sleeping position. 

2 Pods and nests

While these don’t appear to be included in the FDA’s warning, The Lullaby Trust has stated that pods and nests do not meet evidence-based safe sleep guidelines. However, the Trust also acknowledges that there’s no evidence that they are unsafe.

We asked the Trust why they don’t meet the current guidelines and were told it’s because the padded sides mean they’re not flat.   

We’re frustrated that not enough research has been done on this issue and that there are currently no safety standard specific to sleep positioners or baby nests. The BPA tells us, “These products have evolved over the past 4-5 years and are soft, open fibre filled and made from air permeable materials such as 3D mesh and bamboo.

“BPA members, despite there being no specific requirement, tend to test to BS EN ISO 9237 – Textiles – Determination of the permeability of fabrics to air or BS 4578 Specification and methods of test for hardness of, and for airflow through, infants pillows and to their knowledge, there have been no deaths in the UK or Europe attributed to the use of these products.”

But currently the safety claims of pods and nests are not meeting the safe sleeping guidelines promoted by The Lullaby Trust.

The makers of Sleepyhead, however, do have clear safety rules around how the products should be used:

  • For babies, they should not be used for unsupervised sleeping – eg, when you’re asleep. Although the founder of Sleepyhead, who is a co-sleeping advocate, suggests you may use the Sleepyhead to co-sleep with your baby in your bed, then this is safe IF you’re unimpaired (not under the influence of alcohol of drugs) and you can be easily woken
  • Sleepyhead must always be put on a flat, firm, stable surface
  • Never raise any part of the Sleepyhead – it must always be flat 

As a useful reminder, here are The Lullaby Trust’s safe sleeping guidelines:

  • Always put your baby on their back to sleep
  • The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months
  • Try to keep the room temperature between 16C and 20C
  • Use a firm and flat mattress with a waterproof cover
  • Keep the cot clear of pillows, toys, bumpers and sleep positioners
  • Don’t have any loose bedding or blankets in the cot
  • Don’t let your baby’s head be covered with bedding
  • Don’t nod off on a sofa with your baby (and we know it’s easy to do)
  • Keep your baby away from people who smoke and smoky rooms

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