It's not just Rock n' Plays — any inclined sleep product could put a baby's life at risk

GettyA new report urges parents to not use any inclined sleepers for their babies.
  • Parents should stop using all inclined sleepers, according to a new report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Some experts say that these sleepers should be removed from the market altogether.
  • From 2005 to 2019, there were more than 1,000 incidents related to inclined sleepers, including 73 infant deaths.
  • Babies are at a heightened risk of suffocation after rolling over in these devices. More research is needed to understand why infants who are stationary have died while sleeping in these products.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories

Parents should stop using all inclined sleepers for their babies since the products increase risk for injury and have been linked to 73 infant deaths, according to a new report.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released the report last month, instructing parents and caregivers to cease using any infant sleep product with an incline of more than 10 degrees, significantly expanding on its original warning to just avoid certain models. The new recommendation essentially eliminates any products marketed for sleeping that are not flat.

The stern guidelines were a result of a comprehensive investigation into the risks associated with inclined sleepers. It found that between 2005 and 2019, there were more than 1,000 incidents related to babies sleeping on inclined surfaces. Of those incidents, 73 resulted in death.

“In the past, all they were calling out was one particular brand,” Dr. Gina Posner, a paediatrician in Fountain Valley, California, told Insider. “The reality was that all the inclined sleepers were unsafe. This latest warning is saying you should not use any of them. It’s a lot more firm.”

There were over 1,000 incidents related to inclined sleepers; 73 of which resulted in infant deaths

Sleeper recallGettyThere were over 1,000 incidents related to inclined sleepers — 73 of which resulted in infant deaths.

Some industry experts have gone so far as to call for the removal of these sleepers from the market entirely. This warning goes well beyond the recent individual recalls that made waves among parents who said they relied on these products to help their babies sleep more soundly.

This year alone, four sleepers were recalled, including the popular Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play, a sleeper with a 30-degree incline. More than 30 babies died while using them.

Erin Mannen, a baby biomechanics expert and mechanical engineer at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science, conducted the research for the CPSC report and focused on how infants move in an inclined sleeper.

Part of the issue is that the design makes it easier for infants to roll over, which increases their risk for suffocation, Mannen told the University of Arkansas for Medical Services. Many of the infants who died in the sleepers had been placed on their backs, but rolled to their stomachs, often for the first time. Children can become wedged in this position, which makes it difficult for them to breathe.

It may be easier for a baby to roll over, and subsequently suffocate, while in an inclined sleeper

This report didn’t look into why babies who aren’t able to roll over are at risk while using inclined sleepers. But previous research suggests the angle can contribute to the compressing of a baby’s airway.

When Sara Thompson found her 15-week-old son dead in his sleeper in 2011, he hadn’t rolled over. She reported that his head was positioned at an odd angle.

Parents who are looking for a crib-alternative for their infant to sleep should choose well-ventilated products with a flat sleeping space, like a portable crib or bassinet, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. If a child falls asleep in a car seat, stroller or other inclined device, they should be moved to a flat surface once they reach their destination.

Stroller sleepingGettyIf a baby falls asleep in a car seat or stroller, they should be moved to a flat surface once they reach their destination.

The only instances when products like bouncers and swings, which have inclined seats, are safe are when an adult is actively watching the child, Posner told Insider. Still, it’s reasonable even for the most cautious parent to get distracted in those situations.

This was the case when Thompson’s son died. The mother said she left her baby unattended for no more than 15 minutes while she helped her other child with a toy.

The safest place for a baby to sleep is in a flat crib, on a firm mattress

“The reality is most parents don’t use them for [supervised sleep],” Posner said. “They use them so they can get things done.”

Parents are often drawn to inclined sleepers because they can help infants to fall asleep and remain asleep.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasises that the safest place for a sleeping baby is in a flat, firm crib with a tight sleet – and no other bedding. Infants should be put on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Posner understands that new parents are often desperate for sleep, and may look to other families who have used these devices to justify using them too.

“Just because one child made it through safely,” Posner said, “doesn’t mean the next child will.”

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