A new safety announcement from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urges parents and caregivers to refrain from using head-shaping pillows on their infants.
The new official safety bulletin qualifies these sleeping accessories as dangerous, because they may increase infant mortality.
Parents usually use head-shapers to reverse the flat head syndrome — the development of a flat spot on the infant’s head from lying on the back. Another use for these pillows is the prevention of craniosynostosis, where the bones on infants’ skulls merge too early.
Flat head syndrome and craniosynostosis mainly affect the prematurely born. However, it’s important to keep in mind that premature babies have a more pronounced risk of sudden unexpected infant death syndrome (SUIDS) and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
According to the CDC, around 3,400 infants die each year from SIDS in the US. Experts qualify it as a death caused by several factors, with sleep position being one of those. Bed-sharing, soft objects, and loose bedding may also increase the risk of SUIDS.
Craniosynostosis, on the other hand, is more common, affecting one in 2,200 babies.
Moreover, while SUDS and SIDS are deadly, the flat head syndrome rarely hurts and almost never affects a baby’s development. Plus, as the child grows, the head shape very often improves on its own.
More importantly, head-shaping pillows are not an FDA-approved treatment for these conditions, nor do they offer a scientifically-proven advantage in any other way.
So, if your child does have one of the mentioned conditions, the FDA advises consulting a healthcare provider for treatment options.
And to reduce the risks of infant deaths, the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics advise placing infants to sleep on their backs in a bare crib. A hard, leveled, quality organic mattress is the best choice for infants.