Why I Used a Sleep Positioner for my Baby


The news today tells me that baby sleep positioners have been declared unsafe by the FDA, and have consequently been withdrawn from sale by most trusted retailers, John Lewis being one. It’s no longer relevant to me, as a mother of two older children, but I’m going to tell you why I think it’s not a simple decision to make for so many parents.

My baby was three weeks old when she nearly died. She was asleep in her rocker, one of those which lie flat – we’d taken all the advice about keeping a newborn safe, to the point that we were chilly with our thermostat set to 18 degrees. Your baby’s life is the most important thing, right?

I was sat right next to her, eating dinner with my husband and my mother, who was visiting. I don’t know what made me look down to my child when I did, but as I looked, I could see that her mouth was full of the curdled lumps of partially digested milk. She had ‘posseted’ in her sleep, though we later learned that she had reflux, a painful condition which caused her to bring up large quantities of her feed.

I went to lift my daughter out of her rocker, and as I did so, her eyes flew open wide, and she was clearly distressed. What happened next probably took mere minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. Her face turned red, and I realised she was choking on the lump of milk in her throat. I held her as my husband whacked her on the back so hard I thought she might break. It didn’t work. She turned purple. Her eyes were bulging. I screamed at him to call an ambulance. I was certain we would lose her in the most terrifying way.

I will always be thankful that my mum was there that day. She yelled at me to turn my baby upside down, and without thinking, I did. And just like that, the blockage came away, and she could breathe again.

The ambulance arrived and took us to hospital, where we stayed for three nights while they monitored my child, and eventually diagnosed her with reflux. The nurses tilted the head of her cot, and rolled up a blanket to position her so she wouldn’t roll down to the bottom. They hooked her leg into it, so she was angled on her side. It would make her less likely to bring up her feed, they said. If she did, being on her side would allow the milk to spill out of her mouth, instead of blocking her airways.

For the next 6 months, until she was established on solid foods, she slept like this, with a baby sleep positioner just like those which have been declared unsafe today. For 6 months I lived with the fear that she might choke while I wasn’t watching, while I was asleep, and could do nothing to rescue her. Every morning there was regurgitated feed in her cot, by her mouth. I can’t say that that sleep positioner saved her life, but I feel very strongly that it did.

I’m not telling anyone to use a baby sleep positioner. But I do wonder what other recourse parents have when their babies suffer with reflux like this. Would I make the same decision today, having read the news? I think I would.

To put it into context, our consultant paediatrician told us to consider letting our baby sleep in her car seat, instead of a cot. I was horrified. All the advice told me that she needed to lie flat, to avoid damage to her back and neck. “That’s right,” said the consultant. “But you don’t have a perfect baby. Your baby has reflux, and right now that’s the priority, not her back.” She was right. I needed my baby alive. Other aspects of her health came further down the list.

But what do parents do when faced with a choice between possible death by choking, and possible death by accidental suffocation? It’s a choice I’m glad I’m not making today.

If you use a sleep positioner for your baby, what will you do now?

This post is just my personal debate. It is not intended as medical advice. Seek the advice of a qualified professional before making your own decisions.

Baby sleep positioners have been declared unsafe for use. Here's why I used one, and would do so again.

15 thoughts on “Why I Used a Sleep Positioner for my Baby”

  1. OMG that must have been so terrifying for you as a new mum. I don’t know what to think on the issue in the news now but I do know we worry so much as mums and like you say it is so often about choosing between 2 equally awful risks. Well done you on sharing openly and honestly

  2. Oh my goodness, that must have been so terrifying for you. I couldn’t even begin to think how scared you must have been in those moments. I would struggle to write about something like that, so well done for being so brave and honest in sharing your story.

  3. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story. Not many people would. If I was in a similar position I’d probably have done exactly what you did. Keeping your baby safe while you sleep is priority and I’d have most likely used a sleep positioned.

  4. Oh gosh that must have been so scary – it’s brought a tear to my eye just reading it! So relieved to read that your little one was ok in the end 🙂

  5. Oh my goodness what a terrible experience for you – at the end of the day keeping our babies safe is our number one priority and we have to do what we will do to ensure that – I really hope that the fact that the baby positioner has been deemed unsafe is not going to cause more harm than good to those struggling with a similar situation.

  6. No baby is perfect and advice is continuously changing. I’ve had three children and the advice was different each time. They really don’t have a clue as far as i am concerned. We had ours on their sides and they were fine even the one that suffered from reflux. We never used positioners though.

  7. What a scary moment for you, thank goodness for your mum. Your consultant is right we can only make decisions on what is important for our child at that moment in time. This was the right decision for your baby. Well done on sharing a brave post x

  8. Oh my goodness, how scary. I really think people should do what is best for their baby. All mine hated sleeping on their back and slept on their fronts, much to the disgust of the HV but they were safe, content and happy – that is what matters

    • My wife and I did the same with our daughter. We swaddled her for the first couple of months and then she started sleeping on her front. Never had an issue, but I understand it goes against the professional advice. You sometimes have to go with what you feel is safe for your baby.

  9. Oh dear, I cannot imagine myself with this situation. I guess it is really better to consider the safety instead of reacting afterwards when something bad happened.

  10. My twins hated sleeping on their back, had reflux too and I think it was more comfy for them. You do what your baby needs and advice is changing all the time too. How scary for you to have to experience that with your baby, and lots of hugs xxx

  11. I have never used sleep positioners with my children, however, my daughter chocked on curdled milk she sicked up in her sleep too as a tiny newborn. I was lucky that I was first aid trained via my work or I don’t think I would have known what to do or acted so quickly. We ended up having breathng monitors fitted to her cot to be safe, she is 4 now and I still worry and check on her during the night x


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