The Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, developed as an alternative to cribs, elevates the baby’s head to a 30 degree inclined position. The intended use is for infants to lie on their backs on the padded frame as if it were a recliner. The design of the sleeper was inspired by incorrect assumptions about infant sleep that overlooked updated safety guidelines. Concerns were raised after a recent Consumer Reports study linked the crib to infant deaths. The news of this study was followed by a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics calling for the recall of the crib. After several days, Fisher-Price announced that it would be working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to fast-track the crib’s recall.
A Miracle Crib?
Since its release in 2009, 4.7 million Rock ‘n Play Sleepers have been sold. Before it entered the market in 2009, there was no clinical research done to evaluate the safety of the product for babies. In fact, according to the Washington Post, Fisher-Price did not hire pediatricians to evaluate the product until it was involved in a product liability lawsuit in 2017. Over 30 infant deaths were attributed to the crib. The main feature of crib is at a slight incline, so babies sleep at an angle. Some parents and pediatricians like this type of crib because it is supposed to help infants sleep easier. However, there is significant evidence that indicates infants are much more at risk of having their airflow constricted when sleeping at an incline for long periods of time.
What is the Safest Sleeping Position for Infants?
The Back to Sleep campaign, now Safe to Sleep, was an initiative launched in 1994 by the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development intended to encourage safer sleeping habits for infants to reduce the risk of accidental sleeping deaths. This campaign recommends parents place their infants on their backs in an empty crib or bassinet and warns against babies sleeping for long periods in inclined devices such as car seats or infant swings.
Fisher-Price finished working on the product in 2009, specifically marketing the incline as a way to help babies sleep. The reasoning was that car seats are at a greater incline than their Rock ‘n Play Sleeper car seat. Fisher-Price contacted a physician who informed them that babies are able to sleep in a car seat for months or even a year without adverse effects. This advice from the single consultant, who was not a pediatrician, was the only safety consultation the company performed on the product during development. The company did not perform any safety tests on the product before releasing it to the public. The consultant later was reprimanded for practicing unsafe medical treatments with an expired license in unrelated incidents.
Fisher-Price marketed the Rock ‘n Play in the US as a replacement for cribs that would be more comfortable for the baby than a conventional crib. The packaging emphasizes this, prominent text reading, “Baby can sleep at a comfortable incline all night long!” However, stricter regulations in Canada led to a different approach. When Fisher-Price began selling the product in the Canadian market in 2011. The product is not sold as a crib replacement; instead it is a “soothing seat,” with a warning on its package that reads the following: “This product is not intended to replace a crib or bassinet for prolonged periods of sleep.” While they changed the purpose of the product for the Canadian market, Fisher-Price continued to push the Rock ‘n Play as a crib replacement in the US until the recall in April.
If an unsafe product has caused you or a loved one to suffer, you owe it to yourself to take action. The team at Regan Zambri Long PLLC can help. Reach out today to learn how we can assist you with your product liability case.