June 7, 2021 — The Consumer Product Safety Commission last week banned a range of infant sleeper products to address the more than 100 deaths caused by them.
The CPSC voted 3 to 1 to pass the new rule, which requires all products designed for sleeping babies to meet mandatory federal standards already in place for cribs, bassinets, and play yards. Many products marketed as infant sleepers do not fit within those categories, but now will be expected to uphold the same safety standards for all baby devices.
The new regulations will cover any inclined sleep products and any product claiming to help a baby sleep safely in a parent’s bed, along with baby tents and travel beds.
Supporters of the new rule believe it will address the many untested infant sleep products that do not align with federal guidelines. Those guidelines recommend that babies sleep on simple, flat surfaces. Inclined sleepers allow babies to sleep at a 30-degree angle.
“What we’ve done today fulfills the most sacred of our obligations as commissioners — to take steps to protect vulnerable consumers, including babies,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler after the rule was passed. “Today’s vote ensures that when a product is intended or marketed for sleep, it will indeed be safe for an infant to sleep.”
Millions of these products were already recalled voluntarily, including the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper in 2019, which was linked by the CPSC to more than 30 deaths. Fisher-Price recalled 4.7 million of them, although some are still being sold in places like Facebook Marketplace.
Fisher-Price also recalled its 4-in-1 Rock ‘n Glide Soothers and 2-in-1 Soothe ‘n Play Gliders last week after four babies died. In each case, a baby was placed in the glider unrestrained and was later found on their stomachs.
Another company, Kids II, recalled about 700,000 of its inclined sleepers. The CPSC says five infant deaths have occurred in them.
“Companies tried to downplay the issue and make it sound like the parents’ fault and not the product,” says Nancy Cowles, the executive director of Kids in Danger. “Parents are busy people and willing to try anything to get their babies to sleep, and it’s very hard to get the message about safe sleep out to them and provide support to these new parents.”
Inclined sleepers have been controversial ever since Fisher-Price invented them in 2009. However, the inclined sleepers have been allowed to stay on the market because it was not classified as a crib or bassinet, which are required by federal rules to have flat sleep surfaces.
According to a Washington Post investigation, Fisher-Price had invented the inclined sleeper without medical safety testing or input from a pediatrician. A later CPSC-funded study found that the product’s design was dangerous because it increased the risk of infant suffocation.
The CPSC then moved to ban inclined sleepers by requiring them to limit the incline to 10 degrees instead of 30. Then they applied the rule to any product intended for sleeping infants younger than 5 months old. They believe this move will “effectively eliminate” potentially hazardous sleep products.
Experts are warning parents to stop using their products if they have them and not to sell or donate them. They recommend reaching out to the company for a refund or voucher.
“Companies need to make sure products are safe before they are sold, not once babies are using them,” Cowles says. “We still need innovation in baby products, but they should be safer.”
The CPSC’s decision comes days before a congressional hearing on infant product safety failures, focused on the Rock ‘n Play. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing is set for Monday. Executives from Fisher-Price and its parent company, Mattel, are expected to testify.