Parents, Exercise Caution With Those Popular Baby Neck Floats

Caroline Picard
Photo credit: China Photos - Getty Images

From Good Housekeeping

Babies look cute doing pretty much everything, but think twice before trying one seemingly adorable summer activity. "Baby neck floats" may be popping up all over social media, but the pint-sized swim aids shouldn't go anywhere near infants' necks, experts say, because any air-filled floatie can potentially deflate, putting kids at risk of drowning.

"Neck floats for babies scare me to death, and I hope they scare parents," says Kyran Quinlan, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Rush University Medical Center and former chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. "These are potential death traps ... To have your precious baby one poorly sealed seam away from going under at the pool is frightening."

Baby neck floats first started gaining popularity a few years ago, and parents now regularly use them in bathtubs, pools, and even in "baby spas." Some manufacturers claim that getting children in the water at a young age allows them to move freely and explore. While others agree that infants can enjoy water activities, experts are not convinced this is the way to do it.

"While disengaging from the world in floating tanks can be wonderfully relaxing for stressed adults, this is not what babies want or need – physically or emotionally," said Kaylë Burgham of the Swimming Teachers' Association in a statement. "This isolated activity completely goes against the very essence of baby swimming, which is human contact: bonding with your child so they can explore the water in a safe, relaxed, fun environment."

Even if the neck rings do what they claim, the potential risk is one experts can't get behind. The AAP cautions against babies using any air-filled swimming aids at all (including arm bands or "water wings") because any deflation immediately takes away their buoyancy.

Recent recalls seem to support that sentiment. Two versions sold on eBay were recalled in Australia in 2017 for failing to meet safety standards, and the more well-known brand called Otteroo recalled 3,000 of its products in 2015 after 54 reports of burst seams.

"As a company of mothers and aunties, we place safety as the number one priority that trumps all other goals, and have always ensured that our products, unlike those found on eBay, Walmart, and Amazon, have met U.S. regulations and safety standards," Otteroo founder Tiffany Chiu told Good Housekeeping in 2017. "Since the recall, our Otteroo floaties feature design updates and thickness for safety and comfort."

In fact, says Chiu, Otteroo's floaties are intended as medical devices to aid disabled infants with aquatherapy — not as swimming aids. "Parents need to be diligent and within arm's reach at all times," she says. While it's possible that a neck floatie can deflate, using them with adult supervision lessens the risk involved.

Photo credit: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

While the AAP does not recommend formal infant swimming programs, you can safely enjoy water activities with your baby by staying in direct contact them at all times and avoiding any distractions that may draw away your focus. With that in mind, baby neck floats are one trend parents should feel okay to skip.

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