Fisher-Price: Stop selling your unsafe Rock-n-Play Sleeper

The Pediatric Insider

© 2016 Roy Benaroch, MD

The Rock-n-Play Sleeper, made by Fisher-Price, is marketed and sold as a “sleeper”. You can tell, because the word “sleeper” is in the name of the product. One might think that it’s a good, safe place for a baby to sleep. But it’s not. It’s long past time for Fisher-Price to stop selling it, or at least change its name and marketing.

I first wrote about the RnP in 2013, in one of my most-read and most-pingbacked posts. I closed the comments last year, mostly because everything that needed to be said had already been said. My favorite comment began “You sit are an idiot.” I was also accused of having a vendetta against the Rock-n-Play, a charge that I gladly accepted. I am, admittedly, against things that are spelled in an unnecessarily cutesy way, especially when they kill babies. I’ve since written related posts critical of Fisher-Price for selling a gizmo making it easy for newborns to use an iPad, and another post reviewing a study of 47 deaths among babies who were died while sleeping in unsafe devices.

Since the first post was published, I’ve heard from several people who have been actively pressuring Fisher-Price to change their ways. The most chilling calls have come from an attorney who’s representing a family whose child died in a Rock-n-Play. The autopsy report was heartbreaking – because the baby was sleeping on the curved, soft surface of the Rock-n-Play, his neck was bent forward, closing his airway. No airway, no breathing, dead baby. This same attorney has heard from several families who’ve had near-death experiences with their babies in a Rock-n-Play. One even documented that their baby’s breathing stopped several times a night while in the sleeper (and was normal when slept correctly, flat on his back, on a firm flat surface.)

I’m not always a fan of lawyers and litigation, but this is a case where legal action might be the only way to compel Fisher-Price to adhere to the well-established guidelines for a safe sleep environment for babies. For now, they’re apparently still selling tons of these things, but a few big-money lawsuits may just open some eyes over at Fisher-Price, Inc. I hope so, before more families are misled into thinking the Rock-n-Play is a safe place for babies to sleep.

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23 Comments on “Fisher-Price: Stop selling your unsafe Rock-n-Play Sleeper”

  1. Ashley Says:

    Should we be worried about babies falling asleep in the car when driving? Wouldn’t that create the same issue?

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  2. Dr. Roy Says:

    Ashley, occasional naps in a correctly-installed car seat, riding in a car, are not a problem. But car seats are not for routine sleep at home.

    https://pediatricinsider.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/swings-slings-and-car-seats-are-not-for-sleeping/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cara Says:

    Hi Dr. Roy. Your blog is the only place I’ve been able to find information on actual cases of babies having trouble breathing due to the Rock N Play. I’d heard about it in theory, but our pediatrician recommended we use it due to reflux about 7 months ago (reflux had caused our 3 week old daughter to stop breathing), and since I couldn’t find anything online other than theories about the RnP being unsafe versus actual incidents, we went ahead and used it. (Thankfully my kids are fine and now in their cribs)

    Do you know why these incidents you’re mentioning are kept under wraps? Are they very rare? Is it about privacy (which I certainly understand). Legal issues? Parents, including myself, love the Rock N Play because they find their babies sleep great in it, and it’s rapid word of mouth on social media recommending it when parents have trouble putting their newborns down for sleep. The dangers are not well-known – but if actual incidents were publicized that could drastically change things. Thoughts?

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  4. Dr. Roy Says:

    Cara, I don’t think the incidents I’ve mention have been kept a secret or under wraps. But for the time being, no one is really paying attention or tracking these. I suspect, in time, more of these incidents will come to light, and the snowball effect will kick in. There are several lawsuits re: the RnP and similar devices in the early stages (this is what I’ve been told by the attorney who contacted me), and the legal teams involved are finding that when they ask around, many people seem to know of a few more cases.

    I have no doubt that many babies sleep well in this, and in slings and other devices. Some babies sleep better when placed on their bellys, too. That doesn’t make these device or that style of sleeping safe. Parents should learn an honest assessment of risks and benefits, and can then decide what’s best for their children. My regret is that all they’re hearing from Fisher-Price are the positives with tender photos of babies sleeping peacefully. That’s not the whole, honest story.

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  5. Cara Says:

    I really hope information on these incidents becomes common knowledge, because a vast majority of people do not realize the dangers!

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  6. lawyer jane Says:

    Dr. Roy, congratulations, you’ve sealed the deal – not having another baby, and my child will be an only child! My son slept in a Rock n Play every night for his first three months, swaddled. I always felt nervous about it, but didn’t know what else to do because I was catastrophically sleep deprived and he wouldn’t sleep on his back in a crib. The rock n play solution seemed safer than falling asleep with him on the sofa, which was what was on the verge of happening.

    This isn’t a criticism – I am glad you are bringing attention to an unsafe product – but more of a challenge: what are catastrophically sleep deprived parents supposed to do with a newborn that won’t sleep anywhere but in their arms? Pediatricians need to come up with some kind of answer, beyond “back to sleep.”

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  7. Kami Says:

    This product will not be recalled until there are more complaints. I checked saferproducts.gov and there were no complaints about it being unsafe for sleep. The only complaints were about the mold issue. Most products are only recalled after numerous complaints on safer products.gov. Even if Fisher-Price is sued they still may not recall the product unless the CPSC pressures them to do so. It took 5 infant deaths before the CPSC pursued a Nap Nanny recall.

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  8. McRae Says:

    Laywer Jane, there is an often unknown professional called a postpartum doula that can help during days and/or overnights with non judgemental support to help baby to cope with sleeping on their back, they do many other things as well like laundry, dishes, and answering any of your questions from an evidence based perspective. Find one in your area at doulamatch.net

    And Dr. Roy, thanks for writing this. I am seeing it recommended in moms groups and among clients a ton and do my best to teach other methods. Very frustrating!

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  9. A mom Says:

    Dr. Roy, please feel free to reach out to me. My son suffocated during a nap at daycare in a rock n play. http://www.rememberethan.info.

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  10. Dr. Roy Says:

    A mom, thanks for posting the link to your site about Ethan’s story. I urge everyone visiting here to visit http://www.rememberethan.info, and consider committing your own random act of kindness in Ethan’s memory.

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  11. Stephanie Hull Says:

    What about other swing seats? My daughter has fallen asleep in them, not for bedtime but sometimes while playing after she’s worn herself out, and I worry about the breathing issue. Any info or advice?

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  12. Dr. Roy Says:

    Stephanie, a few minutes of sleeping there is probably OK. But I’d move her to a more appropriate place is she’s down for a long nap.

    https://pediatricinsider.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/swings-slings-and-car-seats-are-not-for-sleeping/

    Like

  13. Simy Says:

    Hi ,
    I would like to know if the breathing diff incidents happened only for one brand or for all the swings ? Also are the issues happening for babies with pre exciting medical problems or for healthy babies too? AAP only recommends back to sleep , doesn’t mention anything against swings !if your theory is right then car seats and all swings are unsafe! As per lot of parents and from personal experience swings are the only one some babies like especially in the first few months and help them with reflux!

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  14. Dr. Roy Says:

    Simy, swings are safe for swinging, and car seats are safe for use in the car. Neither is meant to be used as a routine sleeping place (it says this all over their packaging.)

    If your baby has reflux or some other medical problem, discuss appropriate treatment with his or her doctor.

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  15. Robyn Says:

    For the first four months of my daughters life, it was the Rock and Play that kept her from choking on her own saliva every time she slept. The first incident was on her first night home and it was terrifying, to see your baby unable to take a breath while foaming at the mouth… it happened again the next night too. After that we decided to bring the rock and play upstairs and have her sleep in there. Everytime we attempted to sleep her on her back she choked. She also had feeding issues, choking on any liquids given to her. The doctor affirmed our choice to sleep her on the rock and play or a swing/bouncy seat because of these issues. If we had left her to sleep flat on her back during this time period I hate to think what would have happened to her.

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  16. Brittani Says:

    I have a product like this. But made by Ingenuity. No where on the warning tags does it say to not let baby sleep in it overnight. So this is also a product to look into. Luckily, I am already educated on the dangers of positional asphyxiation, so it is used only as a daytime place for her to lay and play or nap occasionally.

    Like

  17. G Says:

    Many people in your earlier post commented about having to put their baby in this thing, because they couldn’t sleep flat, because of the reflux. Is this really true? Or did they convinced themselves of it, and then got the baby used to sleeping in the rocker?

    Anecdotally, my baby had major reflux but slept in his crib just fine.

    Like

  18. Helena Says:

    Baby has died this year, sleeping in a rock n play. The official diagnosis was SIDS. The mother’s blog is called Alice and After. Thought you might want to know. 😢

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  19. Dr. Roy Says:

    Thanks Helena. The blog is here: https://www.aliceandafter.com/. It’s well-written, and very moving. I don’t know any other medical information, but the baby did die in a rock n play. It’s not clear whether one thing had anything to do with the other. The blog isn’t about pointing fingers for placing blame, but about learning and growing from the family’s terrible loss.

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  20. Helen Says:

    Yes, her blog led me to google search the rock n play and your articles came up. It’s such a tragic circumstance. I’m not blaming anyone, but I see you’ve written about this product a long time ago now and even communicated with fisher price about the issues… yet it’s still on the marketplace. 😑

    Like

  21. Suzanne Rowe Says:

    We just buried my grandson today because he was sleeping in a rock and play sleeper and his head moved forward cutting off his circulation. Obviously, after researching this now, this isn’t the first time this has happened to an infant. RIP Brentley.

    Like


  22. My nephew just died yesterday while sleeping in a rock and play and this led me to your page. I am furious and saddened.

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  23. Cara Says:

    Blair and Suzanne – I am so incredibly sorry for your loses. It really isn’t common knowledge that there are dangers to using Rock N Plays for sleep. Once you feel capable after mourning, maybe you could work with Dr. Roy to try to get the stories out there? Try to stop this from happening again? Just a thought. Sending prayers your way.

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