After at least 13 infant deaths in rockers manufactured by Fisher-Price, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warned customers about the risks of inclined products for children in the first months of life.
The deaths occurred in the past 12 years and were associated with the Infant-to-Toddler Rocker or Newborn-to-Toddler Rocker, according to an announcement Tuesday by Commissioner Richard L. Trumka Jr. Expert guidance from doctors and the agency says that infants should sleep only on flat surfaces.
“No inclined product, made by Fisher-Price or any other company, is safe for infant sleep,” Mr. Trumka said. “Only a flat, firm surface is safe.”
A different company product, a Fisher-Price sleeper, was recalled in 2019 after being linked with at least 10 deaths. Sleepers and rockers are similar products, said Dr. Ben Hoffman, chair of the Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention of the American Academy of Pediatrics. They both place the infant at an incline.
Babies under 4 months old don’t have the strength to roll over on a flat bed, but the shape of these products allows them to do so. This can cause them to suffocate with the material on either side, as they can’t roll their bodies onto their backs. Additionally, the angle of these rockers can obstruct infants’ airways.
A Fisher-Price representative said in a statement that the safe use of its rockers includes not using them for sleep, never leaving the child unsupervised or unrestrained and not adding any bedding material.
“The product is safe and provides infants and toddlers with a seat to relax and play — as both a rocker and stationary chair,” the representative said. “However, parents and caregivers should not use these products for sleep, never leave infants in these products unsupervised or unrestrained, and never add bedding material, due to the risk of suffocation.”
The commission also included a warning about a Minnie Mouse-themed Kids 2 rocker for infants to toddlers, which the commission said was associated with one death. The company had not responded to a request for comment.
“This is a tragic reminder of how important safe infant sleep is,” Dr. Hoffman said.
Car seats, when installed at the proper angle with a harness, are safe for a baby to fall asleep, he said. But the same car seat isn’t recommended when taken off its base.
“As a parent and pediatrician, I know that it is challenging to think about taking a sleeping baby out of a car seat and moving them to an approved sleep space,” he said. “But that is the recommendation.”
In May, Congress passed the Safe Sleep for Babies Act, which outlawed the manufacture and sale of inclined sleepers for infants. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, one of the leading causes of death of babies in the United States, can be caused by sleeping conditions that aren’t recommended like the use of an inclined rocker.
The Infant-to-Toddler Rocker and Newborn-to-Toddler Rocker have not been recalled, but Mr. Trumka said the commission will determine if they fall under the congressional ban. The 2019 recall included 4.7 million products.
The announcement about the 13 infant deaths, which took place between 2009 and 2021, was delayed by two months by a restriction that prohibits the commission from disclosing information about consumer products without taking certain steps to ensure its accuracy and fairness. Mr. Trumka called upon Congress to repeal this “gag rule.”
“Even with cooperation from Fisher-Price, we fought an uphill battle to release this information to warn parents and caregivers,” Mr. Trumka said.
Alex D. Hoehn-Saric, chair of the safety commission, said the organization is continuing investigations into the deaths. A new rule goes into effect on June 23 enforcing a requirement that the surfaces of sleep products have an angle of 10 degrees or less.
“Your infant’s sleep environment should be the safest place in your home, so we want to remind parents and caregivers: The best place for a baby to sleep is on a firm, flat surface in a crib, bassinet or play yard, without blankets, pillows, or other items,” he said. “Babies should never be unsupervised or unrestrained in rockers, gliders, soothers, or swings.”