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Bouncinettes - mother’s little helper or danger undiagnosed?

27 Nov, 2023

For the past couple of generations, bouncinettes have been part and parcel of baby’s nursery. However, as in many situations, unsupervised use of some typical nursery equipment is hazardous and, unfortunately, the handy bouncinette is one of them.

Bouncers/bouncinettes or sitting type products are dangerous when used unsupervised or as a place to sleep babies. It is not safe to leave a baby asleep propped up in any of these devices and improper use of bouncinettes, swings, bean bags and car seats can lead to fatal sleeping accidents.

Recently published research reviewing 47 deaths of children under two years of age occurring in sitting and carrying devises to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission between 2004 and 2008 reported, noted all but one of the cases was attributed to asphyxia (positional or strangulation). Two thirds of the cases involved car seats and the remainder occurred in bouncers, slings, swings and strollers. The elapsed time from when the infants were seen alive to when they were discovered in a compromised situation ranged from as little as 4 minutes to up to 11 hours.

Babies can move and slip down into the straps, becoming trapped which can increase the risk of a sleeping accident from strangulation. Furthermore, a young baby has low neck strength. When awake they may be able to hold their head up for a short time but when a baby falls asleep in a propped up device the head can fall (flop) forwards, pushing the chin down towards the chest. This can lead to the airway becoming blocked and reducing airflow. Young babies may experience respiratory (breathing) problems.

Bouncers/bouncinettes, swings, car capsules, seats and bean bags are dangerous when used as a place to sleep babies. If baby falls asleep whilst tilted in these type of products, they should be removed immediately and placed to sleep on their back on a firm, well fitting, clean and flat surface.

Placing babies with reflux in these devices is not recommended. They should be placed to sleep on their back on a firm, flat mattress that is not elevated or tilted. Elevating or tilting the cot or mattress or propping baby up on a pillow does not reduce reflux.

Car seats and capsules have been designed as restraints to keep baby safe whilst travelling in a car – they should not be used as a sleeping environment in a child care setting or in the home. Other sitting baby equipment such as bouncers/bouncinettes and swings should only be used when the baby is awake, strong enough to support their own head and when supervised by an adult care giver.

Try this simple test

Tilt your own head forward and place your chin on your chest. Try to breathe through your nose. Can you breathe freely? No? Neither can bub.

Babies breathe better when they are lying on their back on a firm, well fitting, flat (not tilted or elevated) mattress.

Key tips if you are using a bouncer/bouncinette:

  • Never leave a baby unattended in a bouncinette
  • Restraints should be used according to manufacturer’s instructions
  • A waist strap and crotch strap to secure baby
  • If baby falls asleep whilst in a bouncer/bouncinette remove them and place them into a safe cot. The safest place to sleep baby whilst in your service is in a cot or portable cot that meets the current Australian mandatory standard
  • Never place the bouncinette on a table or other raised surface that could cause your baby to fall
  • Put the bouncinette on a flat floor surface and away from potential hazards, such as stairs and furniture
  • Never carry your baby around in the bouncinette in case you trip or fall
  • Stop using the bouncinette when your baby starts to roll
  • Never let your baby fall asleep in a bouncinette. It is not a safe sleeping environment for a baby!

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