Are Infant Loungers Safe?

From Parents magazine | Jan. 31, 2022

By Nicole Harris

Household duties don’t stop when you have a baby. New parents still need to cook dinner, send emails, fold laundry, and wash the dishes—and it’s tempting to put your little one in an infant lounger while completing tasks. These comfortable and portable pillows have a “groove” that secures your baby without straps or harnesses.

Many parents love the practicality of infant loungers, but unfortunately, they come with a host of safety concerns and recall notices. That’s because the loungers are often linked to suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) when used improperly. SIDS is a sudden and unexplained death of an infant under 1 year of age, usually during periods of sleep, and it’s leading cause of fatality for infants between birth and 12 months of age.

Naturally, the red flags bring up questions for parents: Are infant loungers safe? How do I protect my baby from suffocation? We spoke with a pediatrician and safety expert to learn more.

Are Infant Loungers Safe?

Unfortunately, there have been injuries and deaths associated with infant loungers. “The problem occurs when babies are allowed to sleep” in infant loungers, explains Amy Frias, a community educator at Children’s Health of Orange County, a pediatric healthcare system in Southern California.

Infant loungers are designed for supervised awake time, but some parents don’t follow these directions. If an unsupervised infant falls asleep in a lounger, they could roll over and get stuck against the side walls. They simply don’t the strength to roll themselves back over. Being trapped increases the risk of suffocation, especially if the baby’s nose or mouth gets blocked.

It’s not uncommon for infant loungers to be recalled or investigated. For example, in January 2022, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urged parents to stop using some infant loungers manufactured by Leachco (the Podster, Podster Plush, Bummzie and Podster Playtime). “CPSC is aware of two infants who were placed on a Podster and suffocated when, due to a change in position, their noses and mouths were obstructed by the Podster or another object,” according to a notice by the organization. “The infants, 17-days old and four-months old, died in January 2018 and December 2015 in the U.S.”

As another example, The Boppy Company recalled about 3.3 million infant loungers in September 2021 for a similar reason. “Infants can suffocate if they roll, move, or are placed on the lounger in a position that obstructs breathing, or roll off the lounger onto an external surface, such as an adult pillow or soft bedding that obstructs breathing,” says the CPSC recall notice.​ Eight reports of infant deaths were associated with the Boppy loungers.

Should I Use An Infant Lounger?

There’s really no good answer to this question. Some experts don’t recommend infant loungers at all, citing safety concerns and the increased risk for SIDS. “Just because a product is on the market doesn’t mean it has a pediatrician’s seal of approval,” says Ari Brown, M.D., FAAP, Parents advisor and author of Expecting 411,  Baby 411, and Toddler 411.

Others say it’s fine to use infant loungers as long as you follow all necessary precautions. “Infant loungers are safe to use as long as the infant is closely supervised and remains awake. These products are not designed for sleeping,” explains Frias. “Parents should also be sure to complete and return a product’s registration card so they are notified of any future recalls.”

In the end, parents can weigh the benefits against the risks. Your pediatrician may also have some advice about these infant loungers. Just remember that anyone uses the products should never leave their baby unsupervised in them—even if they’re just running to the bathroom. If your little one falls asleep in the lounger, move them to a safer location (such as their crib) immediately. Also don’t put the lounger on a bed, table, or other surface that could increase their risk of tumbling to the floor.

SIDS Prevention Strategies for Parents

Do you want to put your baby down safely, but feel wary about infant loungers? There are better ways to keep your little one secure, especially if they’re at risk for falling asleep. “In the first months, you do what you have to do to get your kids to sleep, but you have to do it safely,” says Dr. Brown.

The absolute safest place for a baby to sleep is in a crib, bassinet, or portable crib. “Babies are safest sleeping on their backs and on a firm, flat surface, such as a safety-approved mattress covered with a fitted sheet and free of bumpers, blankets, pillows or stuffed animals,” says Frias. “If a baby were to fall asleep on a bed, couch, or in their car seat, parents or caregivers should move them to their crib or bassinet.”

Here are some other ways to prevent SIDS and ensure safe sleep:

  • Babies should sleep alone in their crib and bassinet, but in the same room as their caregivers. “Room-sharing allows a close watch over the baby while preventing accidents that may happen in an adult bed,” like rolling onto the baby, says Frias.
  • The crib should be free of all clutter—no blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, bumpers, or other objects.
  • Babies should always be put to sleep on their backs; avoid placing them on their stomach or side. “Tummy time is important to help strengthen a baby’s neck and shoulders, but this should happen when the baby is awake and can be monitored by an adult,” says Frias.
  • Don’t allow the baby to get too hot.
  • Never smoke around your baby.