Warning: Infant Sleep Positioners Pose Risk

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Positioners, wedges or other methods for elevating a baby's bed are often recommended to parents when reflux symptoms cause sleepless nights.
Most of the devices work to hold the baby at a 30 degree angle.
This angle is purported to be the ideal angle to reduce symptoms of reflux.
Elevating at this angle it said to allow gravity to keep the stomach contents where they belong.

Just recently the FDA has issued an alert warning to parents with children under the age of one "urging parents and caregivers to stop using infant sleep positioners because of the risk of suffocation associated with their use (1)."

Parents are asked to stop using these devices and place their baby to sleep using the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations for limiting SIDS.
These recommendations include laying the baby on a firm mattress, on his or her back in an empty crib.

(For more tips on SIDS prevention please click HERE).

There are many products on the market that are used to position a baby.
Many have never had one issue regarding safety.
However, it has been documented that 12 infants have died in the past 13 years due to the use of certain infant sleep positioners and thus the alert warning (1).

When my refluxers were infants I chose to use an infant sleep positioner that elevated the head of the bed at night.
To be perfectly frank, I don't feel that I had much of a "choice".
My daughters could not be laid flat at night.
If we dared to try they would spit up and cover themselves and their bed.
Hardly a restful night's sleep.
We spent many nights sleeping upright in a recliner with our baby on our shoulder.

The first night with the infant sleep positioner had us "sold" so-to-speak on it's benefits.
My oldest slept for over six hours that night for the very first time.
My youngest refluxer was much worse than her big sister and the elevation was also helpful for her.
In fact, the one time she was laid flat at night (I left her with a sitter) she aspirated on her own vomit, stopped breathing and was rushed to the ER.

Parents I have worked with confess to holding their baby upright all night, sleeping with baby on their chest or allowing baby to sleep in the car seat or swing.
Some even drive around in their cars half the night so that baby can be soothed.
Each of these things also carry risk with recent research noting a decrease in baby's oxygen level while in the car seat or swing for the night (2).

I am by NO MEANS suggesting parents ignore the warning but am concerned about what will become of the children who really do need elevation in the mean time.
As a reflux mom I certainly hope that the testing is done quickly and that safe versions of these devices will remain available.

I would love to hear your stories about infant sleep positioners.
Please post them below.

emember to talk with your child's physician about this or ANY changes you make regarding your child's treatments or use of a positioner.**_

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.