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Infant Sleep Products Will Have Mandatory Safety Standards By Mid-2022

Cute Asian baby girl sucking thumb while sleeping peacefully in baby cot - stock photo

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Key Takeaways

  • Mandatory safety standards will apply to infant sleep products from June 23, 2022.
  • The rule aims to reduce the incidence of injury and fatality due to unsafe sleep environments.
  • Not all products are included in the new rule.

As a new parent, one of the biggest challenges is helping your baby sleep so that you too can get some much-needed rest. So any product that offers a soothing sleep to your baby sounds like a godsend. Sadly, for some parents, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Between January 2019 and December 2020, 254 incidents—including 21 deaths—occurred as a direct result of infant sleep products. Up until now, the safety of many infant sleep products was determined only by the manufacturer. 

Now, in a new move, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has set stringent federal safety standards for infant sleep products that manufacturers must meet by mid-2022. Applicable products manufactured in the United States, or imported for sale in the United States, from June 23, 2022, must comply with the rule.

Once implemented, the new standards will help parents navigate the often confusing aisles of the baby store by ensuring that the sleep products available meet national safety standards.

Why Federal Standards Are Needed

Tragic instances of injury and fatalities continue to occur in babies who sleep in unsafe sleep environments. Many of these cases occur when parents use a product that is intended for sleep and therefore trust will keep their baby safe.

Christina Johns, MD, pediatrician and medical senior advisor at PM Pediatrics says, “Have I seen tragedies within my career? Absolutely. And these are not the result of negligent parents who are not taking care of their infants. They are largely parents who are exhausted and desperate and trying to figure out a way for them to settle down a colicky baby so that they can rest themselves.”

Christina Johns, MD

This is some infrastructure and support that will make sure that [parents can make purchases] in a more rigorous fashion, that there are criteria to be met.

— Christina Johns, MD

Non-regulated products currently fill baby store shelves, each item enticing an exhausted parent to purchase it with the promise of sleep. To the untrained and tired eye, navigating the safety profile of every product is confusing and time-consuming. With a federal standard in place, parents can be more assured that sleep items for sale should meet stringent safety standards that are mandated across the country.

“Now this is some infrastructure and support that will make sure that [parents can make purchases] in a more rigorous fashion, that there are criteria to be met. So we can see fewer of those injuries and fatalities that have been recently reported,” says Dr. Johns of the new safety standards.  

Which Products Are Included?

The rule includes products marketed or intended for sleep in babies under the age of 5 months old that are not already covered under an existing CPSC regulation. This means that if a product states or implies on its packaging or inserts that a baby may sleep, snooze, dream, or nap in the product, it is covered by this rule. For example:

  • Inclined sleepers
  • Some types of compact or travel bassinets
  • In-bed sleepers
  • Baby nests or pods
  • Baby tents
  • Baby boxes

Which Products Are Excluded?

The rule does not include things that babies may sleep in but are not designed for sleep, such as:

  • Car seats
  • Swings
  • Strollers 
  • Floor chairs
  • Rockers
  • Bath chairs
  • Hammocks

Nychelle Fleming, CPSC spokesperson

If your baby falls asleep in a car seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier, or sling, you should move him or her to a firm sleep surface on his or her back as soon as possible.

— Nychelle Fleming, CPSC spokesperson

Nychelle Fleming, CPSC spokesperson reminds parents to remove their children from these products if they do fall asleep. “If your baby falls asleep in a car seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier, or sling, you should move him or her to a firm sleep surface on his or her back as soon as possible,” says Fleming.

The new safety standard also does not apply to products that are already covered by a separate preexisting federal safety standard including;

  • Infant crib mattresses
  • Bassinets
  • Cradles
  • Full-size cribs
  • Play yards

CPSC admits that wedges and sleep positioners are not included under the new rule because they may be identified as a medical device in some instances. “Sleep wedge pillows and sleep positioners are out of scope, and may be covered by FDA regulations as a medical device if they are marketed to treat a medical condition such as acid reflux,” explains Fleming. 

However, the FDA clearly states that sleep positioners should not be used and are dangerous for infants.

To help clear up this confusion, Dr. Johns explains that some infants with a medical history may require sleep support only if it is something that has been prearranged with the child's pediatric specialist. Outside of this, sleep positioners and sleep wedges are not recommended. 

What This Means For You

Knowing what your baby needs can be very confusing when you’re faced with an array of products. To provide your baby with the safest sleep environment, ensure that you are familiar with the American Academy of Pediatrics Safe Sleep recommendations.

If you are struggling with getting your baby to sleep, speaking to your pediatrician is advised. There may be underlying reasons why your baby is unsettled. This needs to be assessed on an individual basis. Your pediatrician is trained to help in these situations. 

How to Know a Product Meets the Standards

Fleming recommends that looking for a product manufacture date of June 23, 2022, or later will indicate that your product must meet the new standards. If you need to purchase items before then, focus on items that are covered by existing safety standards, such as bassinets, cribs, play yards, or bedside sleepers. All current safety rules are available for review on the CPSC website.

If you are purchasing sleep products that don't yet have safety standards applied, look for the following features that are considered in the new standard.

  • Inclined sleep surfaces should be no greater than 10 degrees. 
  • The surface of a sleeping product should not be too soft because this poses a suffocation risk.
  • Avoid soft or padded sides. Any soft surface is a suffocation risk for infants.
  • Ensure sides are high enough to prevent the infant from falling and use provided harnesses.

A Parent's Sleep is Important Too

Although some days it can feel impossible, getting enough sleep yourself can help keep your baby safe. Accept support from others, no matter how small, so you can rest. Create a support network of friends, family, and professional help where you can. Dr. Johns reminds parents that when you, as a parent, are supported and rested, you can make clearer decisions about your baby’s sleep environment.

“[Rested] parents aren't so exhausted that they'll just do anything or put their child into any particular product, just so that they can get some sleep themselves,” she says. “They'll have their wits about them a little bit more.”

Setting up a safe sleep environment and being familiar with recommendations is easiest to do before your baby is born, but essential at any stage of your journey. For detailed information on safe sleep environments, review the CDC or AAP guidelines on safe infant sleeping. 

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Article Sources
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