Most parents are well versed in the importance of “safe sleep” — a list of must-dos when putting infants down to sleep. Placing infants on their back to sleep, a firm mattress, and no loose pillows or blankets are some of the most common advisories given by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) when it comes to keeping babies safe during sleep and lowering their risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
However, there are some products on the market that may be deemed safe, but they are not recommended by professionals. This includes head shaping pillows. This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that these pillows can create an “unsafe sleep environment” for babies and raise their “risk of suffocation and death,” as well as their risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
Head shaping pillows typically look like a small, cushioned mat with a hole or indent in the middle. The hole is designed to cradle the back of an infant’s head.
According to the FDA, head shaping pillow manufactures claim that they can improve an infant’s head shape and symmetry due to a condition some babies get called flat head syndrome, also known as positional plagiocephaly. Flat head syndrome usually occurs when babies spend a lot of time on their backs or sides with little tummy time or carrying, according to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
Despite marketing claims that these pillows work to prevent or treat flat head syndrome, the FDA said it is not aware of any “demonstrated benefit” of the products for “any medical purpose.”
If you own a head shaping pillow currently, the FDA wants you to throw it away immediately. “... do not donate or give it to anyone else,” the FDA said in its advisory.
It added that these pillows could actually do more harm than good. “The use of infant head shaping pillows may delay the necessary evaluation and management of harmless conditions, such as flat head syndrome, or more serious conditions, such as craniosynostosis.” Craniosynostosis is a condition in which a baby’s skull bones join together too early.
Parents should take comfort in knowing that if they were worried about flat head syndrome in their baby, according to the FDA, in most cases, it goes away on its own. No reason to spend money on products that don’t have scientific backing, let alone products that might be dangerous.
Learn more about safe sleeping environments by visiting FDA’s Recommendations for Parents/Caregivers About the Use of Baby Products.