In April 2019, Fisher-Price recalled nearly 4.7 million Rock ‘n Play Sleepers following more than 30 infant deaths. The recalls included all models of the product, which was marketed for “all-night” sleeping despite the fact it did not meet the safe sleep guidelines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other experts.
Some parents use the hammock-like product as a solution for babies plagued with reflux. But babies can roll over in the inclined sleeper and end up smothered or their heads can slump forward and obstruct their airways.
Two weeks after the Fisher-Price recall, a company called Kids II recalled 694,000 rocking sleepers sold at Walmart, Target and other major nationwide retailers. At least five infants died in the Kids II Rocking Sleepers, which go by a variety of names, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
Both recalls came on the heels of an investigation by Consumer Reports magazine that questioned the safety of the popular sleepers. In June 2019, the magazine reported that the number of reported deaths linked to inclined baby sleepers had grown to 50. That same month, Fisher-Price recalled an inclined sleep accessory product included with its Ultra-Lite Day and Night Play Yard because of deaths involving other inclined sleep products.
Investigation Uncovers 32 Deaths, Raises Concerns over Design and Marketing
The Consumer Reports investigation uncovered at least 32 deaths associated with the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper since the product first came to market in 2009. The report also raised troubling questions about how the product was created and marketed.
In particular, it was marketed for napping and overnight sleeping, even though numerous expert bodies — including the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Pediatrics — advise against the practice.
Fisher-Price denied that any of the deaths were directly caused by its product. The company told Consumer Reports that the fatalities were related to extenuating medical circumstances or instances when the product was used incorrectly.
Consumer Reports acknowledged that some of the deaths did involve “contributing factors such as illness or additional bedding.” But the magazine noted that medical experts have consistently warned against allowing infants to sleep on anything other than a flat surface — and that the sheer number of deaths should have raised concern.
The American Academy of Pediatrics agreed, and in an April 9, 2019 statement it urged the Consumer Product Safety Commission to immediately recall the “deadly” sleepers to prevent additional tragedies. Fisher-Price issued a recall of the product three days later and said parents should immediately stop using it.
Risks of Inclined Baby Sleepers
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to place babies to sleep on their backs on a firm and flat surface, and it doesn’t recommend inclined sleep products, such as the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper. It says inclined sleepers and other products that restrain babies — including car seats and strollers — are risky because a baby can roll into an unsafe position and suffocate or end up strangled.
That appears to be what happened to a 2-month-old in Texas who was placed in her Rock ‘n Play Sleeper in fall 2013 to sleep overnight. According to Consumer Reports, the baby appeared to be fine when her mother checked on her at 4 a.m., but three hours later, she had stopped breathing.
Her head had fallen to the side, compressing her airway, and she suffocated to death. The phenomenon is known as positional asphyxia, and it’s one of the reasons that parents should adhere to safe sleep guidelines when babyproofing. Her parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Hidalgo County, Texas, according to Consumer Reports.
Keenan and Evan Overton experienced a similar tragedy in December 2017, when they awoke to find their 5-month-old son unresponsive in his Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper. Keenan told CBS News that his baby was “face down with his nose squished into the back of the seat,” and when Keenan scooped up the boy, he was limp “like a doll.” He was already gone.
Infants and children 2 years of age and younger should be properly restrained and not be left unsupervised in sitting and carrying devices.
Research shows that deaths in sleepers and other sitting and carrying devices can occur quickly. A 2005 study in The Journal of Pediatrics analyzed 47 such deaths and found that the average time between when the child was placed in the device and found dead was 2.3 hours in car seats, 5 hours in swings, 2.5 hours in bouncers and 32 minutes in strollers.
In all but one case, the infants died from asphyxiation and more than half of the babies who died were strangled by the devices’ straps.
“Infants and children 2 years of age and younger should be properly restrained and not be left unsupervised in sitting and carrying devices,” the study’s authors concluded.
If You Own a Recalled Sleeper
If you own a recalled sleeper, the Consumer Product Safety Commission advises you to immediately stop using it and contact the company that makes it for a refund. If your baby was injured in a Rock n’ Play Sleeper or a Kids II inclined sleeper, you should also file an incident report with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The federal agency monitors and regulates harmful products that endanger consumers’ safety.
You can contact Fisher-Price by calling 1-866-812-6518 or by going online to the company’s Recall & Safety Alerts page. People who purchased a Rock ‘n Play Sleeper on or after Oct. 12, 2018, are entitled to a full cash refund of the product. If you purchased the product prior to that date, the company will send you a voucher that you can use toward another Fisher-Price product.
Fisher-Price also advises the public to stop using the inclined sleeper accessory associated with the Ultra-Lite Day & Night Play Yard. The company is also providing vouchers for another Fisher-Price product to those who purchased the play yards prior to Dec. 19, 2018. You can get more information about this specific recall by visiting the Fisher-Price website.
If you own a recalled Kids II sleeper, you can contact Kids II by calling 1-866-869-7954 or visiting www.kids2.com and clicking on “Important Recall Information” at the top of the page. While the original sleepers sold for between $40 and $80, the company will provide a refund or voucher based on how long you’ve owned it.
16 Cited Research Articles
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