What’s Causing the Deaths?
The main problem with the sleepers seems to be that some babies are able to roll over while inside, which knocks the bassinet off balance, sending it crashing to the floor. Another suspected issue, according to some medical experts, is the inclined angle of the sleeper. One expert told Consumer Reports, “… babies should be placed flat on their back alone and free of soft bedding—and not at an incline—to minimize the risk of accidental suffocation.”
CPSC says that none of the inclined sleepers should be used after babies reach the age of three months, or “as soon as an infant exhibits rollover capabilities,” but others are warning parents not to use the beds, ever.
“The danger goes beyond the risk of rollovers, and that’s why medical experts explain that products like the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper should not be used by any infant for unsupervised sleep,” said Rachel Rabkin Peachman, Consumer Reports Deputy of Special Projects.
On April 12, Mattel, Inc., the company that owns Fisher-Price, issued a recall for 4.7 million Rock ‘n Play Sleepers, but did so only grudgingly in response to public outcry, dragging its heels for months while dozens of babies died. The deaths occurred “… after the infants rolled over while unrestrained, or under other circumstances,” CPSC said. Recalls for similar products were quick to follow.
Kids II, an Atlanta-based baby product manufacturer, recalled 694,000 Rocking Sleepers on April 26 after reports surfaced of 5 infant deaths, all of which occurred under similar circumstances to the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper deaths, according to the CPSC. The recall affected all models of Kids II Rocking Sleepers made between March 2012 and April 2019, which were sold at major retailers across the U.S. including Walmart, Target, and Toys ‘R Us for $40 to $80.
Two months later, Mattel issued a second recall over the same rollover problem, this time for about 71,000 Fisher-Price Inclined Sleeper Accessories sold with its Ultra-Lite Day & Night Play Yards. The recall affected sleeper accessories with model numbers CBV60, CHP86, CHR06, CJK24, and DJD11. Ultra-Lite Play Yards included in the recall were sold from October 2014 to June 2019 for $90-$110. No injuries or deaths have been linked to the sleeper accessory, CPSC said.
Although these recalls are adequately effective at removing suspect products from store shelves and blacklisting them from the marketplace, they do almost nothing to ensure that said products actually get taken out of circulation, and are no longer being used by those they could hurt. The sad reality is that most recalled products — not just baby sleepers but many children’s goods — stay in circulation indefinitely and are commonly used, sometimes for years with none the wiser, no matter how dangerous.
Take the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, a product linked to the deaths of not just 1 or 2 babies, but 32. Pretty dangerous, wouldn’t you say? However, as much publicity as the recall sparked initially, the Rock n’ Play was not only not removed, but is still rocking and playing across the U.S., likely in a childcare facility near you.
A recent survey by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the non-profit Kids in Danger found that 1 in 10 of 376 licensed childcare facilities were still using the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper and the Kids II Rocking Sleeper. The sleepers were even found being used in states that have banned all products subject to recall, including Texas and Wisconsin, according to the survey.
So what does all this mean? It means that you can’t count on the CPSC (or any other government agency) to safeguard your children from dangerous sleepers. They’re out there, and in all likelihood, these and other potentially harmful products will continue to be bought and sold, placing our loved ones at risk. There’s no app, no doohickey, no quick fix to solve this problem. The responsibility for protecting your most precious and vulnerable asset ultimately lies, as it always has, with you, the parent(s) and/or caregiver(s). That’s your job. It’s a thankless chore, but a worthy cause.