Keep your baby on the back WITHOUT a baby sleep positioner

Author Name: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
Medical fact-check: Dr Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.

A baby sleep positioner, baby wedge, or bassinet wedge is not safe and forms a potentially fatal risk so do not use any, ever. The CPSC and FDA warn that babies have died after getting stuck between the wedges and the crib side.

Let's find out why that is + learn how to keep baby on the back without a dangerous holder in the crib.

Baby Sleep Positioner

Along with all other crib safety and SIDS guidelines, we should always put baby on their back to sleep: it's the single safe baby sleeping position . Since parents have been advised to keep baby on the back at the end of the 1980's, SIDS rates have decreased a lot (!). And it still the standard recommended way to sleep.

But, it's never a good idea to try and keep your baby on the back with a sleep positioner .

You probably have seen these rolls or baby wedges in different shapes and sizes. And you may wonder are bassinet wedges safe? No, they're absolutely not.

Our mothers and grandmothers used them (or a rolled-up towel) to keep us sleeping on the side (which was sometimes still recommended in those days). You can still buy them or even find them included with a so-called in-bed mini cosleeper which I no longer recommend.

Infant Sleep Positioner Hazard

Both the CPSC baby sleep positioner report and the FDA report state that several babies have suffocated after rolling within the infant sleep positioner and/or getting stuck between one of the wedges and the crib side. A recall is not mentioned but they do warn to stop using any sleep positioner:

"To date, there is no scientifically sound evidence that infant sleep positioners prevent SIDS,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner and a pediatrician. “

We want to make sure parents, health care professionals, and childcare providers understand the potential risk of suffocation and stop using infant sleep positioners."

So there is no way we can take this risk. Still you might need to find a way to keep your baby safely on their back.

What if baby rolls over onto their tummy while asleep?

First of all, when baby is put to sleep on the back in an empty crib (as recommended) and then rolls over, the risk of suffocating is lower than with a baby sleep positioner in the crib. Exactly because there is no extra material to get stuck in.

SIDS prevention guidelines advise for you to be near your baby (supervise closely, ideally sleep in the same room) to monitor carefully. In particular in the first year, with baby in their own crib or cosleeping safely. This way you're there to monitor your baby and can roll them over when necessary.

So putting down on the back in an empty crib is crucial.

During transition times (when learning to roll over), a well-adapted, right-size, right-temperature (all of these super important for safety!!!) baby sleeping bag (also called wearable blanket) helps some to keep baby on their back, safely. That is because it makes rolling over just a little bit more difficult.

Once your baby rolls back and forth easily, you will still want to put them on the back to sleep whenever you place them in the crib. Some parents stay near and resolve to keep turning them around. Most experts agree though that this isn't necessary (see external links below).

But once your baby is so agile and strong to roll back and forth easily, and you are confident that they'll also be able to do it while asleep, the risk from being on the tummy decreases, as this comment by Dr Sears and the answer to the rolling over question on Safe to Sleep state.