Fisher-Price and federal product safety regulators are warning parents not to let babies fall asleep in certain rockers after at least 13 reported deaths over a 12-year span.
The rockers in question come with reclining seats, which are designed to swing back and forth to relax the child. However, the reclining position can put a baby at suffocation risk and goes against guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which specifies that infants should sleep on their backs in an empty crib or bassinet. Extra materials, such as pillows or toys, also increase the risk of suffocation.
“No inclined product, made by Fisher-Price or any other company, is safe for infant sleep. Only a firm, flat surface is safe,” CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. said in a statement. The Safe Sleep for Babies Act passed by Congress last month could ban such products starting June 23, he noted.
Trumka referenced an April 2019 recall involving another Fisher-Price product, the Rock ’n Play Sleeper, that the agency tied to more than 30 infant deaths. It, too, has an incline seat, and some models came with headrests and toys.
At the time of that recall, Fisher-Price had manufactured 4.7 million units of the sleeper, which were sold from $40 to $149 each. For parents struggling for keep their infants asleep, it was a popular alternative to high-end bassinets.
Janna Day, Injury Prevention Project Coordinator with Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, said that an inclined sleep surface is warranted only when there is an identified medical need consultation with the child’s health care provider.
It does not mean that caregivers should not use such products; they are considered to be safe when used under adult supervision and the child is properly harnessed in. “They are more of an area for the baby to sit, maybe play with their toys,” Day said, but it is not suitable for sleeping.
The agency issued a safety alert, not a recall, because the incidents are still under investigation, said Pamela Springs, director of communications at the CPSC. Once it’s completed, the agency will determine whether a recall is warranted.
Separately, the CPSC also issued a warning about a 2019 infant death associated with infant product manufacturer Kids II’s inclined rocker.
Trumka said the agency first learned about the infant deaths two months ago, but needed to negotiate with Fisher-Price about the response before notifying the public. He condemned the “needless” delay and called the requirement a “gag rule.”
“Congress must immediately repeal the Gag Rule,” he said in the statement. “If CPSC cannot issue timely warnings, dangers will remain hidden in people’s homes.”
In some cases, talks between safety regulators and companies break down, forcing the agency to take action. For example, in July 2021, CPSC sued Amazon over hundreds of thousands of hazardous products sold on the company’s platform, including faulty carbon monoxide detectors and flammable children’s sleeping garments. The agency was unable to reach an agreement with the company for a voluntary recall after months of behind-the-scenes negotiations. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Members of the public can report any incidents involving baby rockers at www.saferproducts.gov. Consumers can reach Fisher-Price at 800-432-5437 to report related incidents and view safety videos at the company’s Safe Start webpage.