The FDA Advises Against the Use of Baby Neck Floats

After one baby died and another was hospitalized, the FDA has cautioned against the use of baby neck floats, saying its use as a therapy tool has not been established.

Cute little baby swimming with inflatable ring in bath
Photo: Getty

The 4th of July weekend is prime time to dive into the pool or head to the beach. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising parents and caregivers to avoid using popular baby neck floats. The advisory, released Tuesday, came after at least one infant died and another was hospitalized. The FDA said neither baby was being directly monitored by caregivers when they were injured.

The devices are essentially inflatable plastic rings that allow infants to float in the water without someone holding them. Some of the floats are marketed toward caregivers of children as young as 2 weeks old, premature infants, and children with developmental delays or disabilities like spina bifida.

What's more, the floats are often marketed as a useful tool that aids in mobility, builds muscle tone, and assists children with special needs. The FDA said in its advisory that there is no evidence to support these benefits. In fact, the agency is warning people the opposite may be true.

"The safety and effectiveness of neck floats to build strength, to promote motor development or as a physical therapy tool, have not been established," the FDA wrote. "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 noted injury and death from these devices are rare but felt it was important to make parents, caregivers, and health care providers aware of the risks.

Swimming should be fun and safe for families and babies. Here are a few expert-backed tips ahead of the holiday weekend:

  • Stay close to your baby. You should always monitor your baby and keep them within arm's reach. They can drown in very shallow water.
  • Study up. Learning CPR and basic water safety can be life-saving. The American Red Cross has water safety courses.
  • Forget floaties. In addition to the specific neck floatation devices the FDA is advising against, it's best to avoid floaties altogether. Experts think they give caregivers a false sense of security.

The water is a great way to cool off and bond as a family. Taking a few measures can go a long way in keeping everyone safe.

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