When you walk into any store to buy something for a new baby on the way, you assume that the products on the shelves are safe, but those who’ve spent some time learning about safe sleep recommendations and guidelines know that isn’t the case when it comes to infant sleep products. Earlier this month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the approval of a new federal rule to ensure products marketed or intended for infant sleep will provide a safe sleep environment for babies under 5 months old. Beginning in mid-2022, any product intended or marketed for infant sleep must meet a federal safety standard—a requirement that does not exist today.
The new mandatory standard will effectively eliminate potentially hazardous sleep products in the marketplace that do not currently meet a CPSC mandatory standard for infant sleep, such as inclined sleepers, travel and compact bassinets, and in-bed sleepers, which have been linked to dozens of infant deaths. Popular products formerly referred to as “inclined sleep products” include several styles that have been recalled over the years. In fact, just this week, Fisher-Price announced a recall of thousands of baby soothers, gliders after 4 infant deaths, including one baby from Colorado.
“This change will be historic and save lives in Colorado,” said Kate Jankovsky, childhood adversity prevention manager with the Violence and Injury Prevention-Mental Health Promotion Branch of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and member of the Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership. “This will make it easier for all consumers to buy, use and give infant sleep products as gifts. Today, many people are unknowingly buying products known to be unsafe for an infant to sleep.”
The lack of regulation of infant sleep products and the abundance of unsafe sleep objects and devices manufactured and sold throughout the United States has frustrated advocates, health care professionals and parents who have lost children, alike, for years. Dr. Sunah S. Hwang, the Lula O. Lubchenco Chair in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine and Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Perinatal Health Services Research with the University of Colorado School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics Section of Neonatology, highlighted the need for action by the Commission in The Call to Translate Data Into Action to Prevent Infant Death published just last month. Stating “[a]lthough states such as Ohio, Maryland, and New York have banned the sale of unsafe items such as crib bumpers, these soft bedding objects continue to be manufactured, marketed, and sold. The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously in 2020 to proceed with developing a federal safety rule that would ban the sale of crib bumpers that limit airflow. We eagerly await the results of the federal rulemaking process.” Hwang highlighted the fact that
of SUID cases categorized as “explained” or “unexplained–possible suffocation,” 74% of airway obstructions were due to soft bedding. In short, 1145 infants may have survived their first year of life had soft bedding not been used during their sleep.”
Later this year, the Commission expects to consider federal safety standards for crib bumpers and crib mattresses. CPSC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have long warned of the dangers of bed-sharing or co-sleeping. The new rule does not take any action against bed-sharing without sleep products. Instead, it shifts responsibility to manufacturers to assist parents who want to bed-share, by requiring them to produce only products that are safe to do so. The new rule also does not extend to items that are expressly not intended or marketed for infant sleep, such as swings and car seats.
As a reminder, the safest place for a baby to sleep is a flat, bare surface dedicated to the infant. The Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership is actively recruiting members interested in getting involved to support families, providers, organizations and policymakers to increase infant safe sleep practices and address related barriers and disparities, through education, practice change and systems improvement.