You might think a thing sold by a huge manufacturer of children’s toys and furniture as a “sleeper” would a safe, appropriate place for a baby to sleep. It is, after all, called a “sleeper.” But it is not a safe place for your baby to sleep.
The Fisher Price Newborn Rock ‘n Play Sleeper is a sling-shaped baby holder sort of gizmo, fitted into a frame that allows it to rock back and forth. The baby is held kind of snuggled in a pouch, in a sitting-like position, tilted up maybe thirty degrees or so. The name implies that it’s for rocking and for playing. The problem I’m worried about is that last word in the name, the “sleeper”. This slingy soft thing is not a place to leave your baby to sleep.
Why? Because we know that to best prevent sudden infant death syndrome, and to best encourage normal physical and motor development, babies ought to be put down to sleep flat on their backs, on a firm, flat surface. The Rock ‘n Play Sleeper is not firm, and it’s not flat—so it is not a safe place to routinely sleep.
The American Academy of Pediatrics published detailed guidelines about safe sleeping environments for babies in October 2011. The Rock ‘n Play Sleeper clearly doesn’t fulfill many of these evidence-based criteria. I contacted Fisher Price in February, and spoke with a very nice person, the “manager: risk management.” I’ve sent her a detailed e-mail with my concerns that she said she would forward to the director of safety management.
Since then, all I’ve heard from Fisher Price is:
Thank you for your inquiry and comments. We did receive your email on February 7. 2013. We have provided these comments to the appropriate people within Fisher Price.
The Rock ‘n Play Sleeper complies with all applicable standards. We encourage consumers who have questions or concerns about providing a safe sleeping environment for their babies to discuss these issues with their doctors or pediatricians.
We appreciate your taking the time to contact us.
OK, since they say they encourage consumers to discuss these issues with their pediatricians, let’s discuss it.
Below is what I had sent to Fisher Price: the details of my concerns, based on the AAP’s recommendations. The numbers refer to each recommendation in the AAP document.
1. To reduce the risk of SIDS, infants should be placed for sleep in a supine position (wholly on the back) for every sleep by every caregiver until 1 year of life. The Newborn Rock ‘n Play Sleeper does not keep a baby wholly on the back, but rather in an inclined position. It is not a safe way for babies to sleep.
2. Use a ﬁrm sleep surface—A ﬁrm crib mattress, covered by a ﬁtted sheet, is the recommended sleeping surface to reduce the risk of SIDS and suffocation. The Newborn Rock ‘n Play Sleeper is not a firm crib mattress.
3. Sitting devices, such as car safety seats, strollers, swings, infant carriers, and infant slings, are not recommended for routine sleep in the hospital or at home. Though this sentence doesn’t specifically mention your product, the Newborn Rock ‘n Play Sleeper is shaped like the devices in this category, and is therefore not recommended for sleep.
4. If an infant falls asleep in a sitting device, he or she should be removed from the product and moved to a crib or other appropriate ﬂat surface as soon as is practical. Again, babies should not be left to sleep in a device like your Rock ‘n Play Sleeper.
5. Media and manufacturers should follow safe-sleep guidelines in their messaging and advertising. From the website describing this product: “The seat is also inclined, which makes napping more comfortable for babies who need their heads elevated.” This implies that babies need their heads elevated, or that perhaps some of them need their heads elevated for comfort for napping. This is incorrect and contradicts the AAP, and is inconsistent with the safe sleeping guidelines.
In short, the Fisher Price Newborn Rock ‘n Play Sleeper does not meet the standards established by the AAP for safe sleep. Parents, do not leave your babies sleeping in this gizmo. Their safety is too important.
Roy Benaroch is a pediatrician who blogs at The Pediatric Insider. He is also the author of Solving Health and Behavioral Problems from Birth through Preschool: A Parent’s Guide and A Guide to Getting the Best Health Care for Your Child.