The U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a warning regarding neck floats for babies. The FDA states that parents, caregivers and health care providers should not use neck floats for water therapy interventions, especially with babies with developmental delays or special needs, such as spina bifida, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) type 1, Down syndrome or cerebral palsy.
The warning comes following the reported death of one baby and hospitalization of another related to the use of baby neck floats. The FDA states that caregivers were not directly monitoring the babies when they were injured in both instances.
What Are Neck Floats?
Neck floats are inflatable plastic rings designed to be worn around an infant’s neck. Babies as young as two weeks old and even premature newborns can float freely in the water with specially designed neck floats that cradle a baby’s head.
Some parents and caregivers use neck floats while bathing babies, in swimming pools or as a tool for water therapy intervention for infants with developmental delays or disabilities.
Are Baby Neck Floats Being Recalled?
Currently, there are no government-issued recalls in effect for baby neck floats. However, the FDA wants parents and other caregivers to understand the potential hazards of using them, particularly for babies with special needs.
“The risks of using baby neck floats include death due to drowning and suffocation, strain, and injury to a baby’s neck. Babies with special needs such as spina bifida or SMA Type 1 may be at an increased risk for serious injury,” the FDA wrote in a safety communication about the product. “While the FDA believes that death or serious injury from neck floats is rare, health care providers, parents, and caregivers should be aware that these events can and do occur. It is also possible that some cases have not been reported to the FDA.”
The administration’s recommendations for parents and other caregivers regarding baby neck floats include the following.
- Don’t use baby neck floats for water therapy intervention.
- Be aware that neck floats can increase the risk of neck strain and injury, particularly for babies with special needs.
- Be aware that the FDA has not evaluated neck floats and is unaware of any benefit to using them in water therapy.
Of course, adults should always supervise children around water to prevent drownings, whether or not they use floatation devices.
“They should never replace adult supervision, which should be close, constant and capable,” Dr. Sarah Denny, an associate clinical professor at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, told Motherly.
Anyone aware of a baby injured by a neck float should report it to the FDA to help identify associated risks. You can use the online voluntary reporting form to do so.