In this day and age, it’s hard to shield ourselves from all of the news circulating out in the world. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to imagine products that are unsafe for our babies still being used, without parents and child care providers knowing they are dangerous.
Inclined infant sleepers like the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play and the Kids II Rocking Sleeper have been linked to 50 infant deaths. The sleepers go against health and safety guidelines for safe sleep, but were not required to meet those standards. The Rock ‘n Play and all Rocking Sleepers were still manufactured and sold in stores up until their recalls in April of 2019.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants sleep on a flat, firm surface with no restraints. Sleeping surfaces should be free of soft bedding, toys and crib bumper pads to help prevent overheating and accidental suffocation or strangulation. Inclined sleepers like the ones recalled are cushioned and also provide the option of strapping in the infant.
Dangerous recalled sleepers are still in use.
The products have been extremely popular since their introduction about a decade ago. With features like rocking, vibrating inclined cushioned seats, exhausted parents and caregivers welcomed a way to soothe babies to sleep without needing to be held. Despite the recalls, a survey of nearly 400 daycares found that one in 10 child care facilities were either unaware of the recall or still using the sleepers.
Part of the issue may lie with education around safe sleep practices. More parents are putting babies on their backs to sleep thanks to the “Back To Sleep” awareness campaign the government started in 1992, which helped drop the rate of SIDS in the US 45 percent by 1998. But parents have missed some of the other key safety guidelines, a new report says. “Less than one-third [of parents surveyed] said they only put their babies to sleep on ‘approved’ surfaces, namely, a crib, bassinet or ‘pack and play.’ And just 42% kept their babies’ sleep area free of blankets, pillows and toys.”
Companies need to improve communication.
A lack of awareness over product recalls seems to be among the biggest problems we face in product safety, though. Rather than the onus being on companies to make sure consumers know about their product’s safety, or lack of, it’s up to consumers to make sure we’re being informed of changes to products once we’ve purchased them.
A troubling report published in September found that most companies do very little to communicate their product recalls. They communicate with the few customers who have filled out that little white paper most toss aside when opening a new product. They might share the news on their social media channels. But they are not required to provide a specific level of communication once a recall has been issued.
Better regulation is a good first step.
Currently, these sleepers aren’t required to meet the safety guidelines for infant sleep. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is proposing a rule that would require future sleepers to meet those guidelines.
Grace Brombach, a Consumer Watchdog Associate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, recently gave her feedback on the lack of communication over the infant sleeper recall. “Having recognized the clear and present danger from these products, the CPSC should work with companies to recall all inclined sleepers and aggressively notify caretakers about the danger they pose to infants lives.”
Companies like Fisher-Price and Kids II have no problem getting our attention when they create a new product or hope we add something to our baby registries. These companies need to put that same amount of effort into making sure our babies are safe.