After at least 13 infant deaths in rocking chairs made by Fisher-Price, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has warned customers about the risks of tilted products for children in the first few months of life.
The deaths occurred within the past 12 years and were associated with Infant-to-Toddler Rocker or Newborn-to-Toddler Rocker, according to an announcement Tuesday from Commissioner Richard L. Trumka Jr. Expert guidance from doctors and the agency says babies should sleep only on flat surfaces.
“No tilted product, made by Fisher-Price or any other company, is safe for babies to sleep on,” Trumka said. “Only a flat, firm surface is safe.”
A different product from the company, a Fisher-Price sofa bed, was recalled in 2019 after being linked to at least 10 deaths. Sleepers and rocking chairs are similar products, said Dr. Ben Hoffman, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. Both place the baby on a slope.
Babies under 4 months of age do not 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 choke on the material on either side, as they cannot roll their bodies onto their backs. Also, the angle of these rockers can obstruct the airway of babies.
A Fisher-Price representative said in a statement that safe use of its rocking chairs includes not using them for sleeping, never leaving a child unattended or unrestrained, and not adding bedding.
“The product is safe and gives infants and toddlers a seat to relax and play in, both as a rocking chair and as a stationary chair,” the representative said. “However, parents and caregivers should not use these products for sleep, never leave infants in these products unattended or unrestrained, and never add bedding, due to the risk of suffocation.”
The commission also included a warning about a Minnie Mouse-themed Kids 2 rocker for infants and toddlers, which the commission said was associated with a death. The company had not responded to a request for comment.
“This is a tragic reminder of how important safe childhood sleep is,” said Dr. Hoffman.
Car seats, when installed at the proper angle with a harness, are safe for a baby to fall asleep in, he said. But the same car seat when its base is removed is not recommended.
“As a parent and a pediatrician, I know it’s hard to think about getting a sleeping baby out of the car seat and into an approved sleep space,” he said. “But that’s the recommendation.”
In May, Congress passed the Safe Sleep for Babies Act, which banned the manufacture and sale of inclined beds for babies. Sudden infant death syndrome, one of the leading causes of infant death in the United States, can be caused by sleep conditions that aren’t recommended, such as using a tilted rocker.
Infant-to-Toddler Rocker and Newborn-to-Toddler Rocker have not been recalled, but Trumka said the commission will determine whether they are subject to the congressional ban. The 2019 recall included 4.7 million products.
The announcement on the 13 child deaths, which occurred between 2009 and 2021, was delayed two months by a restriction that prohibits the commission from disclosing information on consumer products without taking certain steps to ensure its accuracy and fairness. Mr. Trumka called on Congress to repeal this “gag rule.”
“Even with the cooperation of Fisher-Price, we fought an uphill battle to release this information to warn parents and caregivers,” Mr. Trumka said.
Alex D. Hoehn-Saric, chairman of the safety commission, said the organization continues to investigate the deaths. A new rule goes into effect on June 23, imposing a requirement that the surfaces of sleeping products have an angle of 10 degrees or less.
“Your baby’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 crib. playground, no blankets, pillows or other items,” he said. “Infants should never be left unattended or unrestrained in rocking chairs, bouncers, pacifiers, or swings.”