FDA: Misleading Ads Over SIDS Can Lead To False Sense Of Security


Parents want the best for their infants; whatever it takes to keep them safe. Are marketers preying on this desire, especially when it comes to SIDS? The Federal Drug Administration says that may just be the case.

New parents do the best they can. They read, they talk to friends and family, and listen to the experts when it comes to raising their little one. Most often, the early days with a new little one are plagued with how to keep the baby safe, and baby product marketers are happy to sweep in and fill every concern with a ‘safe’ product that will magically protect their child.

But, are these highly touted products safe? Is it fair to parents to market something as preventing something catastrophic from happening? Can marketers back these claims up?

The Federal Drug Administration emphatically says, “No,” that is not the case.

According to the FDA, companies who market products (often with high price tags) focusing on the safety aspect of the product, and particularly when it comes to keeping babies safe, may be leading parents into false senses of security when trying to sell their products. Basically, they make claims they just cannot sustain with science.

Related: Is Swaddling Really Safe? Here are the Current Recommendations

Take ‘breathable mattresses’ made by Secure Beginnings, for example. Here’s what their website implies about the how the purchase of their mattress will save your baby’s life:

“Avoid the possible threat of waking up to a tragedy. Putting your baby to sleep on their back is not always enough since your baby will begin to roll around 4 months of age.” It’s not surprising that a parent may find security in the mattresses offered by Secure Beginnings.

Secure Beginnings, like many baby product companies, wants so much to prove to parents that their products really are the safest and provide security others don’t. That’s why they campaigned the American Academy of Pediatrics Sleep Safe Task Force to include wording that would again imply that their breathable mattresses offered protection against things like SIDS where others didn’t.

And while the report from the task force admittedly did say that the breathable mattresses were designed to reduce the amount of expired gases a baby may re-breathe, which may be preferable to others with air-impermeability, they also stated that there was no evidence that special crib mattresses or sleep surfaces reduced the chance of rebreathing carbon dioxide when an infant was in a certain position, thus reducing the risk of SIDS.

The report went on to say there was no harm in using the mattresses, though, provided they met all other safety standards, but the bottom line?

There is no product that can truthfully claim that it prevents SIDS. Not.one.

No mattress, or product, for that matter, has been proven to reduce SIDS, and when claiming to be able to do so, companies are essentially relying on a parent’s fear factor of death to propel them into purchase.

Related: Increasing Breastfeeding Rates Could Save Over 800,000 Lives Worldwide

The FDA has strong words about the this type of marketing, and specifically tells consumers NOT to buy baby products simply because of the claim to reduce SIDS risk. In fact, the FDA says, “They will not.”

It doesn’t get more clear than that.

In fact, the FDA has never approved any baby product as one that prevents or reduces SIDS risk because there are no scientific studies that would prove something could do so. None. They have a list of products marketers typically claim will prevent or reduce the risk of SIDS–things like monitors, mattresses, pillows, bedding, bumpers and infant positioners to name a few. None of those have been proven to reduce ANY risk, and in fact, some of the products have been connected with 13 infant deaths in the past 13 years.

The FDA lists the following products as those that are often marketed as preventing or reducing the risk of SIDS: baby monitors, mattresses, crib tents, pillows, crib bedding, pillows, crib bedding such as bumpers and blankets and infant positioners. None of these can actually prevent a fatal medical condition, no matter what the advertisements say.

So what can concerned parents do? They can listen to the experts and pay attention to the research (or the lack thereof) made by marketers.

Photo credit:pavel venegas/flickr

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *