Infant Inclined Sleep Product Safety: A Model for Using Biomechanics to Explore Safe Infant Product Design

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Over 450 adverse incidents have been reported in infant inclined sleep products over the past 17 years, with many infants found dead in both the supine and prone positions. The unique design of inclined sleep products may present unexplored suffocation risks related to how these products impact an infant’s ability to move. The purpose of this study was to assess body movement and muscle activity of healthy infants when they lie supine and prone on different inclined sleep products. Fifteen healthy full-term infants (age: 17.7 ± 4.9 weeks) were recruited for this IRB-approved study. Three inclined sleep products with unique features, representative of different sleeper designs, were included. Surface electromyography (EMG) was recorded from infants’ cervical paraspinal, abdominal, and lumbar erector spinae muscles for 60 s during supine and prone positioning. Neck and trunk sagittal plane movements were evaluated for each testing condition. Paired t-tests and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests were performed to compare each inclined sleeper to a flat crib mattress (0° baseline condition). During prone positioning, abdominal muscle activity significantly nearly doubled for all inclined sleep products compared to the flat crib mattress, while erector spinae muscle activity decreased by up to 48%. Trunk movement significantly increased compared to the flat crib mattress during prone lying. During prone lying, inclined sleep products resulted in significantly higher muscle activity of the trunk core muscles (abdominals) and trunk movement, which has the potential to exacerbate fatigue and contribute to suffocation if an infant cannot self-correct to the supine position.