Why Health Care Providers Need to Stop Recommending Dresser Drawers and Laundry Baskets for Safe Sleep


By Meena Nutbeam

Many times I have heard health care providers list both of these places as appropriate “emergency” safe sleep environments for infants: dresser drawers and laundry baskets.  You would think that this is better than bed-sharing or co-sleeping, but it can be just as dangerous to lie on soft bedding inside either of these two places. A large amount of infant deaths in unsafe sleep environments are actually due to the presence of soft bedding, such as pillows and blankets.

For this reason, the current American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations for a Safe Sleep Environment do not list dresser drawers or laundry baskets as appropriate safe sleep environments (1). There have been multiple cases of babies suffocating on blankets or pillows that were placed in the laundry baskets they were sleeping in (2, 3).  Even when parents try to fit pillows, blankets, towels, etc. snugly into a laundry basket or dresser drawer, the chance of suffocation still exists.

It is almost impossible to make sure a pillow or blanket is perfectly fitted and will not shift, presenting a suffocation hazard.  This is why the AAP recommends only using mattresses that are designed specifically for the safe sleep product being used (1).  Of course, there are no mattresses designed for use in laundry baskets or dresser drawers approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  The AAP also highlights that even if covered by a sheet, soft objects (including pillows, comforters, and quilts) should not be laid underneath a sleeping infant (1), as this still poses a hazard of suffocation.

Although the concept behind using a laundry basket or dresser drawer for an alternative safe sleep environment is a well-intentioned solution to prevent co-sleeping or bed-sharing, it can still present real dangers to infants if any type of soft bedding is added to make it more comfortable for an infant.  Unfortunately, for many individuals, they may not have an alternative place to put their baby for safe sleep.  This is why many health care providers have tried to offer the dresser drawer or laundry basket as a solution.  However, it is very unlikely for anyone to use a laundry basket or dresser drawer without trying to add pillows or blankets to create a soft surface for their baby to lie on.  This is why it is important to be wary of the dangers blankets, pillows, and soft bedding can pose when using a dresser drawer or laundry basket as a sleep environment for your baby.

Fortunately, if you live in Milwaukee there are many other resources available to you.

If you live in Milwaukee, you qualify to receive a free Baby Box, or infant bed, designed specifically for safe sleep. All you have to do is complete a short, free online education program called Baby Box University on your computer or smartphone.  Stork & Company will also help you to get internet access if it is not readily available to you.

To get in touch about receiving a free baby box, fill out the following survey.  You may also see if you qualify to receive a Pack ‘n Play from Milwaukee’s Cribs for Kids program by calling 414-286-8620.


(1) http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/10/20/peds.2016-2938
(2) http://www.startribune.com/mpls-parents-charged-after-death-of-6-week-old/271773081/
(3) http://kxan.com/2014/02/19/child-deaths-on-the-rise-in-travis-county/