Increase in Infant Deaths Linked to Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper Raises Safety Concerns

The Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play sleeper and several other baby products are scrutinized after being linked with infant fatalities. Continued purchasing from second-hand e-commerce retailers suggests a lack of awareness among consumers.

As Jalan Burton, M.D., MPH, CLS, prepared for the arrival of her third child in 2020, she was surprised to discover that her Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play sleeper, long stored away since her previous child's infancy, was implicated in multiple infant fatalities.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Rock 'n Play product was first recalled in 2019 following the deaths of 30 infants who had rolled over while unrestrained, or in other circumstances. Four years later, the CPSC announced another recall when an additional estimated 70 fatalities occurred. This recall underscored that selling or distributing recalled sleepers was illegal.

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Unsafe Baby Products Still in Circulation

Despite these warnings, hazardous baby products such as the Rock 'n Play, the Boppy Newborn lounger, and the DockATot Deluxe+ pillow can still frequently be found on e-commerce second-hand stores such as Facebook Marketplace and eBay, where they are purchased by uninformed families.

Increase in Infant Deaths Linked to Fisher-Price Rock

The fact that these items - not only sleepers but also recalled strollers, swings, and monitors - can still be found in homes and on social media platforms highlights the danger posed by lack of adequate recall measures.

Why are Baby Products Recalled So Often?

The CPSC, a government agency tasked with protecting the public against dangerous products, announces more than 300 recalls involving millions of defective or hazardous items annually. However, these recalls only happen after the product hits store shelves. Hence, it falls upon manufacturers to ensure they comply with safety standards during production or importing, and to identify potential hazards before launching the product. If a hazardous product is overlooked, a recall can be instigated to remedy the situation, however, by then, hundreds or thousands of unsafe products could have already found their way into homes, nurseries, and daycare centers.

Why are Unsafe Baby Products Still in Circulation?

Around 34% of all recalls last year were children's products, and ensuring consumers return or dispose of these products is challenging. Companies are legally mandated to report defects, hazards, and safety issues associated with their products to the CPSC, after which prompt action is crucial. Unfortunately, even after successful recalls and public alerts, it is often near impossible to keep track, leaving numerous hazardous products in circulation.

Addressing the Unsafe Baby Product Problem

However, it should not be up to caregivers and parents alone to ensure dangerous baby products are kept out of homes and daycare centers.

Enforcing Regulatory Measures

The CPSC has criticized resale platforms and called for greater responsibility in ensuring recalled products are not sold. Manufacturers and regulators can also help by providing regular and accessible information on recalls. Translating recall announcements into multiple languages and frequently updating social media pages can help ensure the information reaches a wider audience.

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Raising Awareness Without Judgement

Regular reminders of recalled products are important to remind not only skeptical consumers but also to counteract any tendency of blaming caregivers who are just trying to do the best for their children and maybe unaware of the recall due to various reasons, including financial constraints and lack of time to stay updated on product recalls.

Role of Pediatricians and Parents

Pediatricians can play a crucial role in disseminating information about recalls to parents and caregivers in a judgment-free manner. Regular updates in newsletters and patient interactions can provide an additional level of protection for children. Once informed, parents can help further by passing the information to their networks of other parents and caregivers.

Staying Informed about Recalls

Staying informed about recalls is not just a precautionary measure, it is a responsible action that can protect the most vulnerable population. Everyone, from companies to government agencies, media, doctors, and parents, can play their part in keeping children safe.