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Protecting Baby’s Head and Neck

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

Some products may not be safe – a guide to understanding why

With the increasing number of infant sleeping products and accessories flooding the market, it can be confusing and difficult for carers to know what is safe and what is not and how to figure out the difference.

Unfortunately, not all baby products currently sold in Australia are safeguarded by mandatory standards – the only products to have a standard for sleeping baby are cots, portable cots and prams – and products such as pillows or bumpers, although deemed unsafe, can still be legally sold here or, indeed, purchased online where little regulation exists. These accessories should never be used in an infant’s sleep environment.

Sleep your baby on the back on a firm, flat and well fitted mattress - for every sleep from birth.

Because of the risk of suffocation as babies have died from suffocation or positional asphyxia, or they have been injured, an infant product manu-facturer in the US has voluntarily recalled[1]its pillow and head and neck accessories designed to use in car restraints, bouncinettes or pushers.

Using padding, pillows and cushions that surround the head or neck other than those supplied with the child car restraint by the manufacturer are not recommended.

When an infant falls asleep propped up or tilted at an incline – even a very slight incline, their head can bend forwards, pushing the chin down towards the chest leading to their airway becoming restricted and reducing airflow.

Any product that is tilted or accessories such as wedges or pillows and head and neck accessories are unsafe to use as baby’s head can be tilted into the dangerous “chin to chest” position, causing what is known as ‘positional asphyxia’. All pillows or accessories marketed to support an infant’s head and neck are deemed unsafe and should not be used.

Graphic showing baby's head over spine
Baby's anatomy showing head over spine

We need to remember that babies are not little adults and understand they not only breathe differently to us, they also have a different anatomy.[2] Their lower jaw is flat and only loosely connects to their skull so it can be pushed back very easily by pressure on the chin. This is particularly so before their jaw joint forms at around five to six months.

Try this exercise for yourself: Bend a straw slowly until it is completely bent and try to suck your drink. Baby’s airways are tiny and it does not take much to restrict their breathing.

Soft padded and pillow type products may also:

· cover your infant’s face, obstructing breathing

· increase the risk of overheating

· increase the risk of carbon dioxide rebreathing

When choosing to buy baby products for your child, remember the Safe Sleeping recommendations: B – Sleep baby on the BACK A – Ensure baby’s AIRWAYS are clear C – Sleep baby in its own safe COT in your room K – KEEP baby smoke-free

It’s really difficult to know what to believe when there are so many conflicting claims for so many different infant products out there so click here to learn more about the difference between manufacturers' claims and what the scientific evidence shows!

Join one of our webinars for more on Sleeping your baby Safely

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