According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants should sleep alone, on their backs, without restraints, on a firm, flat surface free from soft bedding or padded bumpers.
Inclined infant sleepers do not conform to these guidelines. They are not flat or firm but bouncy and soft. They incline the child by between 10 and 30 degrees. They have restraint harnesses. Their sidewalls and head supports are constructed of soft bedding.
These factors make inclined infant sleepers a serious health risk. The main issue? Potential for suffocation.
- One major problem is that the incline can allow infants to roll over when they would not otherwise be able to. This can position their heads against the fabric, creating a suffocation risk.
- Another is that, even if the infant remains on their back, their neck may not be strong enough to keep their head in an upright position. The chin can drop downwards and cut off the child’s airway.
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) say to avoid using any inclined infant sleeper, even if it has not been recalled. But more than five million of these sleepers have been recalled after causing infant deaths.
In October, the CPSC announced that 73 children were known to have died using inclined infant sleepers. A Consumer Reports analysis turned up 19 additional fatalities tied to the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, bringing the fatality total to 92.
There may be more. While the CPSC and Congress consider a ban on all inclined sleepers, many remain on the market. Others have already been purchased and are in use in homes and daycares.
Infant sleeper deaths may be under-reported
According to physicians and researchers, we may never know just how many deaths are tied to inclined infant sleepers. This is because there is no uniformity in how infant deaths are evaluated and reported.
Parents should know that sleep-related infant deaths are, unfortunately, relatively common. Approximately 3,600 American infants under the age of one die in their sleep each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of those incidents, about one quarter are attributed to accidental strangulation or suffocation in bed, which is often tied to the use of soft bedding. However, a cause-of-death finding requires there to have been a death scene investigation and an autopsy with enough evidence for a medical examiner to make a determination.
Another 38% of sudden, unexpected infant deaths are classified as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This determination, too, requires a full investigation and autopsy, although it generally means that the medical examiner found no obvious cause of death.
The cause of the remaining 36% of sudden, unexpected infant deaths is never determined or is labeled unknown. That may mean there was no death investigation or that there was insufficient evidence to determine a cause.
All of this means that the full death toll from inclined infant sleepers may never be truly known. Experts agree, however, that removing hazards from baby’s sleeping spaces is likely to sharply reduce the chances of an infant’s death.
“The huge number of unsafe products on the market, like inclined sleepers and padded crib bumpers, massively contribute to the number of sleep deaths each year,” notes the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Inclined infant sleepers are not safe. Do not use them and do not pass them on. If yours is recalled, return it to the manufacturer. If your child has been injured, discuss your options with an attorney experienced in product liability law.