The U.S. government has made big strides recently to keep sleeping babies safe—and we are SO here for that! In May 2022, the Safe Sleep for Babies Act was signed into law, banning the manufacturing and sale of certain unsafe sleep products that have been linked to at least 200 infant deaths. This important safe-sleep news follows another giant leap in baby safety from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which established a federal standard to ensure all baby-sleep products meet the same stringent safety rules as cribs, bassinets, play yards, and bedside sleepers. BUT, even with all that protection in place, unsafe baby sleep products still manage to make their way to baby’s cribs and bassinets every single day! For help keeping your precious bundle safe while sleeping, keep the following products out of your shopping cart…and your baby’s room.

Sleep Positioners, Pods, or Loungers

Have you come across a baby sleep mat that features “bolsters,” or raised supports attached to each side, billing themselves as an “anti-roll” device? How about padded docks or loungers that are supposed to be used in or out of the bassinet, keeping babies snuggly? These items are unequivocally unsafe for sleep! The elevated sides can very easily cause suffocation if your little one turns their head toward the cushy side or rolls in their sleep. Plus, any sleep product that’s designed to keep your little one on their side goes against the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation that all babies sleep on their back, on a flat and firm, separate sleep space. (Learn the key differences between SNOO and sleep positioners.)

All Pillows

Pillows have no place in your baby’s crib until they’re at least 2 years old…and that goes for so-called head-shaping baby pillows, too. Baby pillows that feature an indent or a hole in the center that claim to ward off flat-head syndrome pose the exact same suffocation risk to your sleeping baby as any other soft bedding. And placing a “regular” pillow under a baby’s head can tip their chin onto their chest, potentially causing something called positional asphyxiation. (Since a baby’s neck muscles are often too weak to pull their big heads back up, they can get stuck in this dangerous position, which can obstruct their narrow airway.) At the same time, your little one can roll into a pillow, and then not be able to roll away, putting them at great risk for suffocation. (Learn more about the right time to introduce a pillow to your child.)

Baby Blankets

It does not matter if your grandma hand-quilted a blanket for your baby or if a stunning comforter came packaged with your crib bedding set. It makes no difference if you slide a blanket under your baby, over your baby, or drape the blanket over the side of the crib. The AAP says that babies under 12 months old should sleep in their own crib or bassinet with no blankets. But even with that crystal clear messaging, nearly 39% of parents report using soft bedding with their babies. If you’re worried that your baby might catch a chill, simply zip your baby in a safe sleep sack—and if they are not rolling yet, a swaddle blanket. (Learn more about how to dress your baby for comfy sleep.)

Weighted Sleep Sacks, Swaddles, and Blankets

Weighted sleep sacks claim to be able to extend infant sleep…but there’s actually very little research on the safety of weighted blankets, weighted sleep sacks, or weighted swaddles for babies, particularly when children are sleeping. That’s why the AAP has recently urged parents not to use these products. Weighted sleep sacks, swaddles, and blankets (also called sensory or calming blankets) can compress a little one’s chest, interfering with breathing—and they can lead to overheating, a well-known risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). (Learn more about blanket safety.)

Crib Risers and Mattress Wedges

If you’re considering using crib risers (aka bed or furniture risers) under two crib legs to create an incline—don’t do it! This strategy creates crib instability, and it introduces a dangerous incline that can lead to risky rolling or dangerous chin-to-chest sleeping. And speaking of inclines, sliding a wedge beneath your mattress does the same. While parents often turn to these products to relieve congestion, spitting up, or reflux to help their baby sleep better, the AAP does not condone this practice. In fact, sleeping on an angle is so dangerous that inclined sleepers are now banned in the U.S.!

If your baby is struggling with reflux, you can keep them upright for 30 minutes or so post-feed in something like a swing or bouncer to help reduce spitting up, but you must then put them to sleep flat on their back. (Healthy babies placed on their back to sleep may even be less likely to choke on their spit up!) 

Inclined Sleepers

It’s true that inclined sleepers have finally been banned in America! But these dangerous items may still be found at garage sales, in Facebook Marketplace, and at daycares, so please do not use them! Any inclined baby sleep surface that elevates your bub’s head and shoulders from 10 to 30 degrees is very dangerous. When on a slope, babies tend to snooze in a chin-to-chest position, which can obstruct their airways. (A baby’s big head and weak neck muscles make it too hard for them to move to a safe position.) While some inclined baby items—such as swings and loungers—are still on store shelves, remember that just because they’re readily available, does not mean they are safe for sleep! The safest place for a baby to sleep is a flat, bare surface.

Crib Bumpers

Like inclined sleepers, crib bumpers have been recently banned—but can likely still be found in cribs across the country. For years, bumpers were touted as a way to prevent babies from banging their heads against the side of a crib—and as a way to keep tiny limbs from getting stuck in cot slots. But research shows that crib bumpers not only don’t prevent serious injury, they can cause injury…or worse. If a baby’s face presses against the bumper, it can restrict air flow, causing suffocation. Infants can also become wedged between the bumper and the crib—or wind up with the bumper tie around their neck. In fact, padded bumpers have been linked to more than 100 infant deaths in America. If you’re using a crib bumper, get rid of it!

Unsafe Sleep Products: The Bottom Line

While there are many baby sleep products on the market, so few are necessary—or safe—for your little one’s first year. The best way to keep your baby sleeping safely is to avoid all the unsafe products above—and to always follow these golden safe-sleep rules: Place your little one on their back in their own crib or bassinet that has a well-fitting, firm, flat mattress. Keep their sleep space free of all loose or soft items—and keep hats off your snoozing baby’s head, too. Breastfeed if you can and room-share for at least 6 months. Don’t smoke. And think about introducing a pacifier—the rare baby product that has been associated with reducing the risk of SIDS

More Baby Safe Sleep Info:

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.