Infant sleep can be one of the hardest things a parent, provider or another caregiver must handle when caring for a baby. However, not all sleep places are created equal; in fact, some can be downright deadly.
Hopefully, you have heard about the 2019 recall of a popular sleep product, the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper. This product was recalled – following warnings from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Consumer Reports and others – after the deaths of more than 30 babies were associated with the inclined sleeper. That number would grow to more than 90 as reported by a nearly two-year-long Congressional investigation of infant inclined sleep products. The fatalities appeared to be caused by accidental suffocation, sometimes occurring when babies rolled onto their stomachs in the device.
Even worse, a Washington Post investigation in 2019 found that Fisher-Price developed the Rock ’n Play based on faulty beliefs about infant sleep, with no clinical research into whether it was safe. But Fisher-Price was not the only manufacturer of deadly sleep products for infants. Inclined sleepers manufactured by Kids II, Graco, Dorel and other companies were also recalled in 2019 and 2020.
In light of these revelations, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently approved a major new federal safety standard for infant sleep products. The new standard requires that infant sleep products meet the requirements for safe sleep applied to bassinets by ensuring that infant sleep products are as flat as possible (specifically, that they do not maintain a sleep surface with an incline greater than 10 degrees). Many of the sleep products that were recalled were not flat, with much steeper inclines, which is believed to have contributed to preventable injuries and fatalities.
The new federal standard is a welcome requirement and will help ensure that products marketed or intended for infant sleep will provide a safe sleep environment for babies in their earliest months of life.
6 Safe Sleep Steps to Take
Here are some steps child care providers can take to make sure the children in your care are sleeping safely:
- Immediately Stop Using Recalled Products. Do not use recalled products, and do not pass them on to others to use. Sometimes manufacturers will provide consumers with a refund or a voucher if they purchased a product that was later recalled. Make sure you check the product recall notice at gov to see if such a remedy has been provided by the manufacturer. (See the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper recall notice as an example.)
- Back to Sleep is Safest. Each year, about 3,400 infants in the United States die unexpectedly during sleep. This can happen from accidental suffocation, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or unknown causes. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all infants should sleep on their backs on flat and firm surfaces. Babies should sleep by themselves, without any bumpers, soft bedding, pillows or stuffed toys. Crib bumpers and inclined infant sleeper products can cause a baby to suffocate.
- Learn Which Products to Avoid. The AAP has also created a list of baby products to avoid, whether in the home or in a child care facility. That list of products can be found here.
- Don’t Assume the Manufacturer Has Tested for Safety. Many of us assume that if a product – particularly a product meant for babies – is on store shelves, it has been tested for safety. Sadly, that is not always the case. For example, during the congressional investigation referenced above, it was revealed that rather than seeking the advice of pediatricians, Fisher-Price consulted just a single-family physician whose expertise had already been questioned by judges and who would later lose his medical license. To be safe, check org for safe sleep advice from the AAP’s experts.
- Sign Up for Product Recall Information. Sign up for product recall notices from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal agency that regulates the safety of over 15,000 types of consumer products, including many (but not all) infant sleep products. You can sign up for specific categories of recalls at gov/Recalls.
- Inclined Sleeper and Other Baby Registry Items to Avoid, American Academy of Pediatrics
- Sleep and Rest, Child Care Aware of America
- Safe Sleep, American Academy of Pediatrics
- Safe Sleep for Babies, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention