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Posted by on Aug 7, 2012 in Safety and Kids, The First Year of Life | 25 comments

Dear Fisher-Price®…

Dear Fisher-Price®…

Dear Fisher-Price®,

Your company has a long-standing history of providing quality items for children. Stacking rings, creative shape sorters, and play telephones are just a few Fisher-Price® items that have created millions of happy childhood memories. In turn, parents all over the world have developed a trust of the Fisher-Price® name. 

I am deeply concerned, however, that this earned trust is being violated by one of your products, the Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper. 

As a pediatrician and parent consumer, I believe it irresponsible to promote the Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper as an safe, overnight sleeping option for infants. By continuing to do so, you are putting babies at risk. 

The Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper should not be used for extended, unobserved infant sleep for the following reasons. First, design features of this product are known to increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Second, I have personally seen infants with brachycephaly/plagiocephaly and torticollis as a direct result of using this product. Finally, infants are often left with poor sleep habits that continue long beyond the product’s use. 

1. The Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper is not a safe place for overnight, unobserved infant sleep. 

Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper as displayed in local retail store.

The current American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines for the prevention of SIDS includes placing baby on a firm sleep surface without extra padding, pillows, or loose items. The Rock and Play™ Sleeper does not adhere to these guidelines. Specifically, the bottom is not firm. And, some models include padded inserts that can move and shift during sleep.  

Of additional concern, the Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper puts infants in an inclined sitting position which can be accentuated by the included padded head supports. Research has suggested infants in inclined devices may be at an increased risk of upper airway obstruction and oxygen desaturation. 

In my opinion, this product is a portable infant seat with attached sides, and should be categorized and marketed as such. I am concerned that infants in the “sleeper” may be at risk of asphyxiation or suffocation if continued to be used as a place for overnight, unobserved infant sleep. 

2. The Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper puts infants at risk for deformities. 

When an infant is placed in a sleep environment as suggested by the AAP, infants are allowed natural body movements during sleep. They are able to freely move their head from side to side, and move their arms and legs to achieve different comfort positions throughout the night. 

The Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper does not allow body movement to occur during sleep. The soft-bottomed “sleeper” cradles the infant during sleep and secures this position with an included restrictive safety harness. These design elements confine an infant in only one position for the entire duration of sleep (up to 16 hours a day).

As a consequence to babies being restricted to one sleep position for multiple hours per day, infants using the Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper are developing plagiocephaly/brachycephaly (“flat head”) and torticollis. These are significant diagnoses potentially requiring expensive head-molding helmets and physical therapy. 

My observational experience is not unique. There are currently numerous complaints online that should not be ignored. For example, one mother writes: 

We were finally referred to a specialist because we kept voicing our concerns with our pediatrician and it turns out our son was diagnosed with severe brachycephaly and moderate plagiocephaly. We are now getting him fitted for a $3,800 helmet that he’ll have to wear 23 hrs each day. He also has torticollis, which is the tightening of the neck muscles, caused by the way he favored one side in the sleeper. He has to do daily stretches which he hates, but hopefully he won’t need physical therapy. I truly believe that this sleeper caused these problems and I would NOT recommend this product to anyone…it’s just not worth the risk.

 -From Product Review on 

Frequent tummy time during waking hours, and holding babies in upright positions during play time, are not enough to counter the negative effects in head and body positioning that 16 hours a day in this product will produce. 

Lying on a flat, firm surface is a better option for healthy development of our infants; and should be preferred to the physically restrictive, overnight sleep in the Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper. 

3. The Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper hinders the development of infant sleep habits. 

Eye-catching claim on the box of the Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper.

Learning good nighttime habits, including the ability to self-soothe, is a significant part of a child’s growth and development. Patterns surrounding the sleep environment begin at very early ages. Specifically, foundational patterns of sleep-initiation, environmental experience, and nighttime expectations often begin to be established by 4 months of age. 

Similar to infants allowed to sleep in car seats or swings, the Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper sabotages a parent’s effort to teach an infant the discipline of sleep. If used routinely through recommended age/weight limits, important developmental windows of healthy sleep patterns are missed. Meanwhile, an environment of artificial comfort – that is impossible to replicate for the long-term – has already been well-established. 

In my experience, parents who have used the Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper face unexpected challenges once their baby outgrows this space. Families are suffering from many sleepless nights while their older infant re-learns how to sleep, on their backs, in their long-term sleep environment. 

Due to the risk of injury and deformity when using the Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper; I am encouraging my patient families who have an affected infant, as a result of using this product as marketed, to add to the existing complaints on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website. 

Fisher-Price®, your long-lived credible name is trusted by the general public. I am asking you, therefore, to consider re-marketing the Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper as a comfortable, portable infant seat; to be used for observed play, and as a temporary place for brief rest. 

This action would be consistent with your reputation as a leader in children’s products, and as a corporation having the best interest of our children at the heart of your mission.


Natasha Burgert, MD



  1. I’m glad we didn’t have this in the beginning! My son would have slept great in it. And we would have used it. SIDS risk and deformities aside, I cannot imagine how we’d be paying for it now.

  2. I am glad to read this, my daughter is 6.5 months old, she’s slept in the rock n play since she was 1 month old (or there abouts). We are now dealing with torticollis and plaigocephaly. I’m not sure if the RnP caused it, but I definitely think now that it’s made it worse, and wish I hadn’t made the decision to buy that product. We’re paying for it now.

    • Thanks for your constructive comment. A Tucker Sling is very different than a device that wedges a baby in a immobile position. Regardless, sleeping wedges are losing popularity in the community I serve. And babies in utero are surrounded by a cushion of fluid. I’m not sure that argument applies. If you are concerned about the way your child sleeps, however, please discuss your personal situation with your doc. NB

  3. Thank you for posting this letter. I am having a second child and was considering the rock n play because of all the rave reviews online and from some friends. However, whenever i look into it further I have come across a couple negative reviews and I don’t like the overall “look” of the RnP because it puts baby in a similar position as in a swing and I would never have put my first child in his swing all night long! Looks to me like the rock n play is good for quick daytime naps and similar to any bouncy seat but not worth all the extra money and worry!!! I’ll stick with my good old bassinet for nighttime. Thanks again for writing a letter that confirmed my suspicions of an overly popular product that is being mis-represented as a sleep solution for newborns with a hefty price tag to go with it.

    • So glad you found this helpful. I agree with your choice to avoid this product – bassinet is the way to go. Congrats on the new baby! NB

  4. Thank you for this information! I have been using the rnp for my preemie since we brought him home. He is now 3.5 months old. Our Dr told us at his last apt that the SIDS expert she works with said NO to allowing babies to sleep in this at night, but our Dr didn’t know why. I thought it might be because of rolling over, which he cannot do, so I’ve allowed him to continue sleeping in it. I will try and get him out of this ASAP!

    • Thanks for the comment – and feel free to share with your doc. We are all learning together. Best of luck with the transition out! NB

  5. Our three month old has bad reflux and has been sleeping in the rock and play since she was a week old. I tried transitioning her to her crib, but she spits up and vomits when I lay her flat. Even if its been two hours since her last meal. In these types of situations what alternative do you recommend?

    • Kadie, I would talk to your pediatrician about how to modify your crib for better positioning. Every baby has unique needs, and I want the solution to fit your family. NB

  6. I just wanted to say that it’s sad that the parents who used this as a sleeper were not better educated before other issues arose. However, how can you blame the marketer for your poor parenting choices? My firstborn was colicky and cried for pretty much the first 3 months straight. Thankfully, I was better educated through my pediatrician( Priority Care Pediatrics) on how to deal without resorting to a sleeping product. If parents were more informed/ asked more questions of their pediatricians, we would not have to read this article.

    • Heather,

      Thanks for the time to read and comment. Love to hear from KC moms. I think your comment brings up 3 excellent points.

      First, I love to hear about the valuable relationship you have created with your pediatrician. You speak volumes to the positive impact a relationship with a provider can be. And, fortunately, we have so many great pediatricians in the KC area to access. You are clearly in great hands at PCP. Unfortunately, the international reach of this blog spreads to moms and dads who don’t have this option. In that regard, I find it more “sad” that many parents in our Country don’t have a trusted provider to discuss safe sleep/colic with. How else could they be educated about this risk?

      Secondly, I think we – as consumers of baby care items – have an obligation to speak out about our experiences with products companies create. We can crowd-source, share, and start awareness movements easier than ever before. Unfortunately, children are typically already harmed before the FTC takes action against manufacturers. For me, that is unacceptable when the public has means to share our concerns.

      Finally, I don’t “blame” Fisher-Price®, and I don’t believe Fisher-Price® to be intentionally harming kids. However, I believe their ultimate goal is to sell stuff. They will prey upon the fear and desperation of exhausted parents looking for *any* solution for sleep. Therefore, using the RNPS is not a “poor parenting choice” – I think parents are a victims of this misleading and aggressive marketing tactic that Fisher-Price® should take responsibility for.

      BTW – The RNPS was recalled yesterday due to risk of mold. . I was very happy to hear consumers now have another reason to not use/return this product.

      Thanks again for your time, readership, and great thoughts. My best to you and your little one in 2013! NB

  7. I used this RnP with my son for the first 3 months of his life because he hated to lie flat on his back. That said, he did not sleep in it 16 hours of the day. Sometimes he was in a swing, sometimes he was in a wrap carrier (held upright against me) and sometimes asleep on me, tummy to tummy. I think any flat supportive surface will cause flat head if the baby lies on it 16 hours a day. So yes I agree the advertising is poor but the product in and of itself is a good product. I have given this as a gift 5 times and one child had an incident of flat head, but that child spent more time in a crib than the sleeper.

  8. Same here Chrissy, I have my son in the RNP only at night or when we visit my parents for his naps. We do a mix of locations for sleep and my fave is belly to belly for our afternoon naps. I would be interested in the Dr.’s thoughts of using the rnp just at night right beside the parent’s bed? My son sleeps in it 3 hours at a time no more than 6 or 8 hours for a night’s sleep. When he wakes up his head is typically in a different position as well…either on the side of his head or back so he is moving his head. I also at times put my son on his side in his swing … he tends to feel calmer on his side so he is also getting different positions.
    I would see even in a crib for an extended amount of time leading to flat head….

  9. I think the point is in a crib (bassinet or bed), your baby can turn there head and is free to do so. In this RNP the baby is limited to its this sleeping position only. Not only that but all the extra padding and the upright position is putting your baby at risk for SIDS.
    Using swings, bouncers or this RNP sure have there benefits to the parents. However, its a matter of convenience for the parent and not for the baby. There is no way I can say I’ve never used a swing or a bouncer, because I have. But they are not for long term sleeping. During the first month, we all need our sleep. I understand how helpful some of these devices are. I just think that they shouldn’t be a catch all.
    No one is saying you can’t use one or should never use one. I believe that they are saying you should be using it moderately. Baby should have different sleeping arrangements for long term sleeping. Baby should have someone hold them while they sleep as well.

    At the end of the day,
    Pick those babies up people! They won’t be babies for long.

  10. I am an occupational therapist who owns a practice devoted to the prevention and treatment of torticollis and/or plagiocpehlay and/or brachycephaly. I concur compeletely with Dr. Burgert’s opinion on this. I view it daily in my caseload and have developed educational materials for parents so they have information they need to make the best choices for their infants. These devices (there are many more than just the Rock N Play) negatively impact normal development and head shape for far too many infants.
    Susan Slaughter, MS, OTR/L

  11. I am truly upset at reading things like this. My son has GERD and has to sleep beside me reclined in a Boppy. He was sleeping on his back in a cradle beside our bed, until one night when he was 2 months old I heard gurgling, looked over and he had a mouth full of vomit he couldn’t spit out. Thank God I heard the gurgling, I do not want to imagine what would have happened if I didn’t. Reflux babies can choke very easily when laying flat on their backs. I have tried using wedges and even putting them under mattresses and crib sheets, and he just scoots down until he is flat. I was told by family members who had GERD babies to look into inclined sleepers, nap nanny in particular, and was disheartened to learned that people like you have made it illegal. And now you are going for this, what are parents like me suppsed to do? My baby sleeps in these devices, because it is the only way he can sleep comfortably without choking, not because I am too lazy to put him in a crib.

  12. AShuttles I can not agree with you more. There are risks, but when you have a baby who is suffering with a condition such as GERD you do what works for the baby. We tried everything with my poor son and if it was not the Rock and Sleep he would have no relief. This is not poor parenting. Hearing your child choking in the middle of the night is much worse. We tried wedges and every method available. If My husband and I didn’t take turns with staying up all night who knows what might have happened. Since he has been sleeping in the sleeper he has been much better. No choking. This is not to say that he sleeps in it more than 7 hours at a time. He is also monitored by his ped and gastroenterologist. He still suffers but without the rock and sleep next to out bed he would have no sleep at all.

  13. I agree completely with the viewpoint of Dr. Burgert. As a pediatric physical therapist, I have seen far too many babies whose head shape and development in general has been negatively affected by overuse of pieces of equipment such as the Rock N Play. While use of the Rock N Play will not affect all infants to the same extent, it certainly can have unintented and negative consequences for many infants.

    • THanks for your input, Ms. Conder. As a physical therapist who works with these children, your opinion is very valuable. NB

      • Dr. Burgert,
        The company for which I work is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of torticollis and plagicephaly/brachycephaly. We have some wonderful videos that help educate parents on establishing good routines for young infants (with a whole section dedicated to equipment use/overuse!). If you would be interested in viewing them, we are offering our Tummy Time video on youtube for free at: If you would like to view any other videos in our On Demand series, or would like to discuss further, I’d be more than happy to speak with you. Nothing would make me happier than to see more babies spending less time in equipment!! Thank you so much!
        Stacy Conder

    • Overuse of equipment is absolutely an issue for plagio and brachycephaly, but babies are supposed to sleep supine and the RnP, when used only for sleep is no more of a plagio/brachy risk than any other firm surface.

      I’m also a pediatric physical therapist. And the mother of a kid who had torticollis and slept in a RnP without ever developing any sort of head shape changes.

  14. I disagree with you doctor. My 4 month old has been in ther rock and play since birth and sleeps all night up to 11 hours. She has no flat head and naps on a flat surface and still moves her head appropriately when she sleeps. I too have been next to her when she was spitting up laying flat..that’s one of the scariest moments to hear those gurgles. The rock and play is a great product

  15. I also disagree. My son was diagnosed with silent Acid Reflux at 6 weeks old he was in the ICU for 4 days and HAD to sleep on an incline so he wasnt in pain. The wedge didnt work, so we bought this and it worked GREAT. He slept so good in it from not sleeping at all to sleeping all night long with no problems ! It helped greatly with the re flux issue. Theres no problem with this bed i actually highly recommend it specifically for babies with re flux! And we could bring it in our living room with us when he napped during the day, i had it right next to my bed at night and once his re flux went away he was back in his regular bed! Never any problems! No flat head sense i rotated him all the time through the night, no deformities he took his 1st steps at 9 months old! So i really suggest this bed to parents that have an issue with re flux it will help your baby, i dont suggest this for older children or for children who have parents that would keep them in this 24/7 therefore causing a flat head, deformities and SIDS.

  16. My grandson had horrible acid reflux w/ apnea. He was on a heart monitor for the first year of his life.

    To incline him while sleeping we put a Dallas Yellow Pages under the top legs of his bed. (removed wheels) There was a harness the hospital gave us to use that kept him from sliding south. This worked perfectly and he was comfy and could freely move. An R n P type device isn’t the only option.