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.
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 Amazon.com
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.
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