5 Products To Avoid For Safe Sleep

It's one of the biggest concerns of new parents, how can I get my baby to sleep or sleep longer. And unfortunately there are so many companies that will want to profit off this concern. But are the products they are offering to help you safe? or are they putting your baby at risk?


Let's first define what safe sleep is. The following guidelines are recommended to help lessen the incidence or prevent Sudden Infant Death or Sudden Unexpected Infant Death.

  • Baby should be placed on their back to sleep - Babies that are put on their back to sleep are not more likely to choke, especially given that if they do spit up they will instinctively turn their head to the side to spit up.

  • Baby should be within arms reach of an adult in the night time hours - If baby is in need, the parent or caregiver will be able to respond quickly

  • The sleeping surface should be firm and flat and contain no stuffed animals, toys, pillows, blankets or bumpers that can end up around baby's head and cause suffocation.

  • The room temperature should be 18-20 degrees celsius - over heating has been linked to unsafe sleep.

There are several popular products on the market today that can interfere with these guidelines.


Head Positioners


There is always a lot of talk about babies having a flat head. This actually isn't that common of a problem. And for the most part, flat head is a bit of a North American phenomenon. In North America, we tend to put our babies into things, like swings and bouncy chairs for a good deal of time during the day. And I get it, I did it too. However in other parts of the world where babies are worn quite a bit, having flat head isn't an issue.


Also, when babies are placed on their back to sleep, as mentioned, they will instinctively turn their head to the side. This helps prevent choking and also flat head. Head positioners, however, keep babies head positioned looking straight up and if baby spits up, they will not be able to turn their head to the side and spit it out, thus causing a choking hazard. Therefore, these pillows should be avoided completely. Consider investing in a good baby wearing wrap instead.


Infant Loungers / Dock A Tot


These soft sided, squishy sleep surfaces tend to have higher sides and not a lot of air flow around baby. They do look cozy and comfortable and can be a great option for daytime napping, while you are awake and aware. However at night when you are in a deeper sleep they can be dangerous. Babies can shift in their sleep and potentially end up with their face pressed to the side of the lounger. Newborns, especially swaddled ones will be unable to get out of that situation.


For nighttime sleeping we want to stick with firm flat surfaces, with lots of air flow around baby. A cradle, bassinet or pack n'play are better options for overnight sleep.


Thick Overly Warm Sleep Sacs or Sleeping Bags


While researching this post, I came across these beautiful zip up blankets that enveloped baby. They are warm and cozy and I imagine baby would sleep really well. But remember, overheating is a cause for concern and can create unsafe sleep. Keeping baby lightly dressed and swaddled is better for safe sleep. Newborns can't regulate their own body temperature and they don't sweat, so overly wrapping babies during the nighttime hours should be avoided.


Now don't get me wrong, sleep sacks are definitely an option for sleeping, but its better for baby to be dressed in layers, where if baby is too hot, layers can be removed. If baby is too cold, layers can be added. You can tell if baby is too hot or too cold by feeling the back of their neck. This is the best way to decide if baby needs a layer more or less.


Inclined Swings / Bassinets


Having baby sleep in a swing for short intervals or naps during the day is an option. However at night it can be dangerous. The incline can often cause baby's head to flop forward or to the side causing baby to choke. Its very important that baby sleep on a flat surface. This suffocation hazard can also happen by having baby sleep in car seats, when not buckled into the car. So make sure when you get home, you transfer baby from the carseat to a flat surface.


Products That Strap Baby Down and Vigorously Vibrate.


There are some products on the market that are touted by sleep experts as the be all and end all. These products will shake and vibrate when you baby cries. But many consumers have commented that the shaking can be quite vigorous, and one client I had referred to the vibrations as violent. This shaking is intense to the point where baby needs to be strapped down or seat belted into it.


We have to remember too, that newborns will cry for reasons. These reasons will often be for hunger, or they are scared. Mechanically vibrating baby back to sleep can result in missing feeds which can be an issue if you are feeding baby from your body and trying to establish your supply. And what about bonding with baby? Baby is looking for soothing from their parent or loved one, not a machine. Plus over night, baby may be crying because something is wrong. Relying on a machine to sooth baby may give you a false sense that baby is fine, when perhaps they should be checked on.


These products can be utilized during daytime for naps and once baby is reaching a time when they will be sleeping through the night, but that may not be until they are closer to 4-6 months of age.


I understand that sleep is elusive and can add stress to your life. But keep in mind this period of broken sleep and grabbing it where you can is short. With attentiveness to baby's needs, and consistency in a bed time routine, you will all soon be getting the sleep you need.


For more information about sleep and caring for your newborn, check out my Self Paced Infant Care Class.