If your baby snuggles up in an in-bed sleeper, like the Dock-a-Tot, every night, a new study from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission will likely change that part of your sleep habits.
In a study obtained by Consumer Reports, the CPSC linked in-bed sleepers to at least 12 infant deaths between 2012 and 2018. A big issue with in-bed sleepers is that there’s no federal safety standards for them. If a baby’s head slumps down to touch their chest in an inclined sleeper, their airways could be blocked and the infant could suffocate. In-bed sleepers are often padded, which is a known suffocation risk, Roy Benaroch, M.D. and professor of pediatrics at Emory University, said. “An infant’s mouth can get pressed up against the soft surface, and you don’t want the baby rebreathing their own carbon dioxide, because the baby could asphyxiate.”
Many parents may think that using an in-bed sleeper is safer than simply co-sleeping, which has also been responsible for increase in infant suffocation](https://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20180212/baby-suffocation-deaths-from-cosleeping-rise) and puts babies at risk for SIDS. But, Benaroch emphasizes that in-bed sleepers are not a good solution. “If the sides are soft, it would be very easy for an exhausted parent to roll over onto” the sleeper and the child. And what parent of a newborn isn’t completely exhausted all the time?
The overall statistics behind infant deaths are devastating. “More infants die in their sleep in the first year of life than all kids die of cancer every year,” Hoffman said. A safe sleep environment is key to an infant’s survival. Among the CPSC data, Consumer Reports found that three deaths involved the Baby Delight Snuggle Nest Infant Sleeper. This product puts babies at an incline of about 12 degrees, two degrees more than the maximum incline the CPSC recommended. It also has low, soft sidewalls, which heighten the risk of suffocation or a parent rolling over onto it—and the baby.
The DockATot, a cushy sleeper with a soft bumper was connected to two deaths. So was the SwaddleMe By Your Side sleeper, which is flat and made by SUMR Brands.
When Consumer Reports reached out to the three brands, SUMR Brands and Baby Delight denied that their products caused any infant deaths. Instead, Baby Delight cited “inappropriate and dangerous sleep practices and misuse” as the reason for the fatalities. DockATot declined to comment.
Now, the CPSC has created a proposal to help lower the number of infant deaths in relation to the in-bed sleepers. The proposal calls for all currently unregulated sleepers to meet the CPSC bassinet safety standards. That means the incline on an inclined sleeper can’t exceed the aforementioned 10 degrees, and that products currently labelled “infant inclined sleep products” be renamed to “infant sleep products,” and include a wider range of sleepers. “The proposal essentially would ban the infant inclined sleep products currently on the market,” William Wallace, manager of home and safety policy at Consumer Reports, said.
The goal is to prevent future fatalities so no parent has to experience such an insurmountable loss. In 2011, Sara Thompson’s infant son died in a Rock ‘n Play Sleeper. She cried when she learned about the CPSC proposal. “For my son, and for all those other babies who needlessly suffered and died; it shouldn’t have taken more than 70 babies’ deaths to acknowledge that inclined sleepers are unsafe.”
Sara also hopes the new proposal will change the stigma many parents who lost their children in sleeper accidents have felt. “Hopefully this will put an end to all the people who shamed and blamed the parents whose babies died in these products,” Sara said. “We were not negligent. The parents whose babies didn’t die in the products were just damn lucky.”