Sleep pods or baby nests are one of the newer additions to the baby market with an increasing popularity. They provide a soft sleeping surface for your infant with built-in bumpers to assist in creating a womb-like environment. These pods are often used to add extra padding and comfort to bassinets, Moses baskets and cots. As convenient and comfortable as these pods are, are there any safety concerns parents should be aware of when using one?
The current recommendations from both the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) as well as the Lullaby Trust indicate that baby pods do not provide your baby with a firm and flat surface to sleep on.
Reading that baby pods may not be a safe sleep option could leave you with various questions. Answering these questions can help you make an informed decision whether to purchase one or not. While they are not encouraged to be used as a sleep device, they are a great addition to assisting with play and tummy time to promote development.
Please note the following:
As of August 2021, a company producing boppy's/lounger pods has issued a recall in the US for 3.3 million of its Newborn Lounger baby pillows following the deaths of eight babies between December 2015 and June 2020.
"The official recall notice – issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the US – notes that infants can suffocate if they roll, move or are placed on the lounger in a position that obstructs their breathing. Or if they roll off the lounger onto another surface, such as an adult’s pillow or soft bedding this could also obstruct breathing". -Which?
Please note that baby sleep pods are almost identical to the recalled products above and should not be used for infant sleep.
What is the difference between a baby pod and a bassinet?
A baby pod is most often placed inside a bassinet or cot to add extra comfort and mimic a womb like environment. Parents also use pods as a co-sleeper placed in between them in bed. The AAP and Lullaby Trust suggest that this should be avoided as co-sleeping with your baby can increase the possible chance of SIDS, suffocation and entrapment. Some baby pod company’s offer two different size pods which accommodate your new-born baby until 8 months and a second larger pod which lasts from 9 to 36 months. While most other pods are only intended to be used for the first few months.
Bassinets provide a free standing separate surface for your baby to sleep on whilst still allowing them to be close to you. They come with a mattress fitted specifically for the bassinet which reduces the chances of your baby getting trapped between the side of the bassinet and the mattress. Bassinets are recommended for the first 3-4 months of your baby’s life after which they should be moved into a larger cot.
Is it safe for my baby to sleep in a pod?
Although a direct link to SIDS has not been established, the Lullaby Trust has issued a warning against the use of these pods based on a collective review of relevant and up to date research papers. They advise that baby pods do not provide a firm and flat surface for your baby to sleep on which can potentially increase their risk of SIDS and suffocation especially if they were to roll onto their tummy. They also add that no formal safety studies on baby pods have been conducted and so their recommendation is based on evidence relating to the safety of using a soft mattress or one that is not flat. Both of which fits the description of a baby pod.
Parents are discouraged from placing a baby nest in a bassinet, Moses basket or cot as it can increase the possibility of your baby becoming trapped or suffocating. This is in line with the AAP and Lullaby Trust guidelines of not having any soft or loose items in your baby’s sleeping area.
Another important thing to note is that there are no British or European safety standards for baby pods or nests. Unlike mattresses and cots there does not appear to be any rigorous testing to ensure the safety of these devices. This is especially concerning as many small local companies and pop-up shops have begun creating and selling their own baby nests
What are the dangers of my baby sleeping in a baby pod?
While most baby pods have a flat mattress, the sides are raised and really well padded to create the cocoon like environment. This is similar to having a bumper in your baby’s cot or using a sleep positioner, except it is closer to your baby’s head. Compelling evidence indicates that this is a valid SIDS or suffocation risk if your baby was to roll or turn their head into the side.
Some baby pods are advertised as having sides which are made from breathable material. In theory this would reduce the risk of any potential suffocation. However, no SIDS related research has been conducted on these types of materials. The only evidence that is available is from the AAP which shows that breathable sleep surfaces have not scientifically shown to decrease the possible risk of SIDS.
Can a baby pod be used safely for sleeping?
While there are justifiable safety concerns based on scientific evidence which relate to your baby sleeping in a baby pod, there are measures that can be put in place to make using a pod safer until more specific research and evidence becomes available.
- Choose a pod that does not have a soft surface or mattress.
- Always place the pod on a firm and flat surface.
- Place your baby on their back with their feet closest to the bottom of the pod as this provides a bigger space between their head and the padded sides.
- Do not leave your baby unsupervised in a pod while they are sleeping. This way you are able to check that they have not turned their head into the side or rolled onto their tummy.
- This means that pods should not be used at night as there is no supervision of your baby.
- Do not place any loose items over your baby or in the pod with them, such as blankets, duvets, pillows or stuffed toys.
Is it safe for my baby to play in a baby pod?
Allowing your baby to play in a pod is safe as long as they are supervised. The bumper side of the pod can make tummy time with your baby easier by propping them up and encouraging them to weight-bear on their arms. It also allows them to observe their surroundings and start to reach out and engage with their environment. This presents opportunities for development of eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. Allowing your infant to play on their back and reach for hanging items is also beneficial, however as this is the position they sleep in, it is often best to focus on tummy time.
What is a safer alternative to using a baby pod for sleep?
The safest alternative to a baby pod is using a freestanding bassinet, especially at night for the first 6 months. This allows your baby to be next to the side of your bed whilst being on a safe separate surface. A bassinet is considerably smaller than a standard cot which may be more comforting for your baby.
In order to mimic a womb like environment, you can swaddle your baby and place them on their back to sleep. The swaddle should be secure to prevent it from coming loose. To ensure your baby’s safety, it is important that swaddling stops when your baby starts learning how to roll.
Deciding on whether to use a baby pod or not is a decision each parent should make on their own once they have all the necessary information. Following the recommended safety guidelines mentioned in this blog as well as from the manufacturer can help keep your baby safe.