FDA Warns Parents and Healthcare Providers Against the Use of Baby Neck Floats

In a safety communication issued on June 28, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers not to put neck floats on babies for water therapy interventions, especially babies who have developmental delays or special needs, such as spina bifida, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) type 1, Down syndrome, or cerebral palsy.

One baby died and another was hospitalized with injuries related to the use of baby neck floats; in both incidents the caregivers were not directly monitoring the infants, according to the statement. The agency left open the possibility there are other cases that have not been reported.

What Are Neck Floats?

Neck floats are inflatable plastic rings that can be placed around a baby’s neck to cradle the head while the baby floats freely in water. Some neck floats are marketed for babies as young as 2 weeks old, as well as babies with conditions such as spina bifida, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) type 1, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or traumatic brain injury (TBI). A number of manufacturers promote baby neck floats as a tool used by therapists in water therapy. Parents and caregivers also use these devices during a baby’s bath and while their baby is swimming.

No Data Indicates That Neck Floats Are Beneficial

“There is no data to support these neck floaties. So I think that is the most important piece for parents to know,” said Sarah Denny, MD, a pediatrician at Nationwide Childrens Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and a spokesperson for the AAP, in an interview with ABC News.