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Infant inclined sleepers have been linked to dozens of fatalities. Here’s what experts say parents can do to help babies sleep safely.
At least 36 infant deaths have been linked to infant inclined sleep products such as the Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper, the Kids II Ingenuity Moonlight Rocking Sleeper, and the Kids II Bright Starts Playtime to Bedtime Sleeper.
Consumer Reports and the American Academy of Pediatrics have urged the Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall the Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper and to investigate all other infant inclined sleep products. CR also thinks the Kids II products should be recalled.
In the meantime, exhausted parents—many of whom have relied on these kinds of inclined sleep products—are rethinking their sleep strategies.
To read the latest news on these products, see CR’s ongoing coverage of infant inclined sleepers.
“When I read about the deaths linked to the Rock ’n Play, my heart dropped,” says Tiffany Sundelin, who thought the product was like “magic” when she used it for her fifth child, who is now 2 years old. “I am a really cautious parent and I never would have bought it if I knew there was a risk.”
But Sundelin, who lives in Seattle, says she had no idea that she was taking any risk by using the inclined sleeper because it was marketed as a safe sleep space for naps and nighttime. What’s more, she remembered that after she gave birth to each of her children, the nurses in the hospital would always put the bassinet at an incline, so she assumed that positioning was safe.
“That’s a problem even in the hospital. We still see many staff members in hospitals continuing to place things underneath the mattress to elevate the head of the bed for a variety of reasons, whether it’s reflux or sleep apnea or whatever the problem is,” says Lori Feldman-Winter, M.D., a member of the AAP Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and a professor of pediatrics at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, N.J. But she explains that putting babies to bed at an incline is not recommended except in certain medical cases. Parents who see that in the hospital may “think that’s okay and then they take that into the home setting.”
Donna Podnos, of Montclair, N.J., says that both of her sons (ages 4 months and 4 years) slept in the Rock ’n Play Sleeper and she assumed it was safe. “We’ve had such a great experience with it and are horrified to read that babies are dying in there," she says. "If I could go back, I would absolutely not use it at all, not even for naps.”
What else can parents do to help soothe their babies to sleep? “It’s important for all parents to know that babies, for their whole first year of life, don’t have a lot of consolidated sleep, and it’s just normal that babies wake up throughout the night,” Feldman-Winter says. “Knowing that and knowing that your baby is normal and not unhealthful in terms of the baby’s growth and development, I think is just reassuring.” Parents can also try these safe sleep tips:
Rachel Rabkin Peachman
I’m a science journalist turned investigative reporter on CR’s Special Projects team. My job is to shed light on issues affecting people’s health, safety, and well-being. I’ve dug deep into problems such as dangerous doctors, deadly children’s products, and contamination in our food supply. Got a tip? Follow me on Twitter (@RachelPeachman).
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