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Rethinking Infant Sleep Safety: The Hazards of Weighted Sleep Sacks

The country’s largest association of pediatricians is warning that a product designed to help infants sleep more soundly could be deadly. 

The makers of weighted swaddles and sleep sacks liken them to a parent’s hand resting gently on an infant’s chest or to the sensation of “being held and hugged.”

But the American Academy of Pediatrics says placing weight on babies while they’re sleeping poses an alarming and potentially fatal risk — and the group is calling for a closer examination of the potential danger. 

Weighted sleep sacks and swaddles could hypothetically increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by making it harder for babies to arouse themselves in response to hazards, such as lack of oxygen, the AAP said in a letter Thursday to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and ASTM International, a technical standards development organization.

“Why would anyone put a weight on top of a child’s chest — particularly a newborn?” said Dr. Michael Goodstein, a neonatologist and member of the AAP’s task force on SIDS. Infants’ rib cages are more elastic and flexible, so adding weight could also potentially compress their chests and affect their breathing, he said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has not put out any warnings about infant deaths linked to weighted sleep sacks or swaddles. An agency database lists one infant who died while wearing a weighted sleep sack, though it’s not clear whether the sleep sack played a role in her death. 

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