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Safer sleep for babies

researchers in baby sleep lab
Erin Mannen, COBR lab, for Boise State Magazine, John Kelly photo.

Kids in Danger, an organization that fights for product safety for children, presented their Best Friend Award to Erin Mannen, an assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering and director of the Boise Applied Biomechanics of Infants lab, “for her groundbreaking infant sleep research that has led to policy changes and saved lives.”

Mannen’s research focuses on how babies move and use their muscles when they use various commercial products. Her findings led to the recall of millions of dangerous inclined baby sleepers by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. As a result, a new standard for infant sleep products takes effect next year.

Mannen, who came to Boise State in 2020 from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said that she started asking questions about infant biomechanics after she had her first child about seven years ago. She wondered how products were impacting her baby’s body position and development, but couldn’t find answers in scientific literature.

“As a mechanical engineer and a mother, I thought that if I didn’t try to answer these questions, who would?” Mannen said. “By working with a fabulous team of clinicians and engineers, we have started answering some of those very questions I had several years ago.”

Mannen said she and her team will continue their work related to infant safety.

“Sometimes when you’re in the lab doing the day-to-day nitty-gritty research, it is difficult to see how the effort will ever make a difference in the real world. I am fortunate to work in an area where the application is obvious and almost immediately impactful.”

Read more from the Consumer Product Safety Commission about inclined sleepers and Mannen’s study.