At Least 8 Infant Deaths Linked to Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleepers Occurred After the Product Was Recalled

Millions of the sleepers remain in homes, records obtained by Consumer Reports suggest

Fisher Price rock and play Photo: Consumer Reports

When Fisher-Price issued a recall in April 2019 for all of its almost 5 million Rock ’n Play Sleepers on the marketplace, the company said it was doing so to let parents know that safety “will always be a cornerstone of our mission.” Almost three dozen infant deaths had been linked to the product by then, a number that has since more than tripled. 

Yet by the end of 2020, 18 months after the company’s announcement, fewer than 1 in 10—about 8 percent—of the dangerous sleepers had been accounted for, according to records obtained by Consumer Reports. 

Fisher-Price disclosed the number of returned products in monthly reports to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal agency that oversees thousands of household products, to document the progress of the recall. The reports, typically not available to the public, were filed in an ongoing lawsuit by dozens of consumers who purchased the Rock ’n Play against Fisher-Price and its parent company, Mattel, and reviewed this week by CR. The plaintiffs allege that they never received a recall notification, according to the complaint. On March 13, Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Representative Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., ordered Fisher-Price to answer questions on its handling of the Rock ’n Play recall, citing CR’s reporting.

More on Safe Sleep

Low response rates are common for consumer product recalls, averaging less than 10 percent, according to the CPSC. That may stem from some individuals deciding to simply throw away recalled products, or because manufacturers don’t aggressively spread the word about the recall or make it easy for consumers to return their products.

But with a product linked to dozens of infant deaths, Fisher-Price’s response rate is unacceptable, says Oriene Shin, CR’s policy counsel for product safety.

“It’s outrageous that millions of these dangerous products could still be out there, with babies at risk of being seriously injured or killed,” Shin says. “Fisher-Price has had years to get Rock ’n Plays out of people’s homes yet, at best, appears to have done the bare minimum. Slow and ineffective recalls can have terrible consequences, and parents deserve better from a company they rely on for safe baby and toddler products.”

Indeed, Fisher-Price learned of seven additional deaths that occurred after the Rock ’n Play recall had been announced, according to a review of the recall progress reports. Separately, in 2021 the CPSC was notified that a 4-month-old infant died after rolling over in a Rock ’n Play while sleeping, according to an incident report on the agency’s website.

Inclined infant sleepers like the Rock ’n Play are dangerous because they position babies at an angle of greater than 10 degrees, which can allow an infant’s head to fall forward, and are made with soft padding. Both increase the risk of suffocation.

Fisher-Price has had years to get Rock ’n Plays out of people’s homes yet, at best, appears to have done the bare minimum.

Oriene Shin

Policy Counsel for Product Safety, Consumer Reports

Catherine Frymark, a Mattel spokesperson, declined to answer questions about the company’s current recall rates or its monthly progress reports, citing the pending litigation. 

She referred to a company statement issued last June around the time of a congressional hearing on the Rock ’n Play, which said the product was “safe when used in accordance with its instructions and warnings.” The company continues to work to remove “all recalled products from the market,” the statement said.

Just days before the congressional hearing, the CPSC voted to approve a final rule for all infant sleep products that essentially banned infant inclined sleepers like the Rock ’n Play because of their safety risks.

Jason Levine, a CPSC spokesperson, says the agency cannot make public “any information regarding completion rates” on recalls without first consulting the manufacturer. “This is especially true in the context of an ongoing investigation,” Levine says. 

He said that in general consumer response to recalls is greatest in the first few months after the announcements and then quickly diminishes. 

“CPSC is always looking for ways to improve consumer awareness of recalls and remedies for products they already own,” Levine adds, “including urging recalling firms to use a variety of tactics, such as electronic notification where feasible.”

Many Fisher-Price Rock ’n Plays Remain in Homes

Products corrected by firm as applicable under cap information
As of December 2020, fewer than 400,000 of the almost 5 million products sold had been returned or otherwise accounted for, according to reports submitted by Fisher-Price to the CPSC.

Source: Federal court records via LexisNexis CourtLink Source: Federal court records via LexisNexis CourtLink

Recall Effort Quickly Peters Out

The monthly progress reports provide unique insight into how recalls are supposed to work—and why they can fail

Overall, through the end of 2020, Fisher-Price reported that only 395,239 of the sleepers had been returned or otherwise accounted for, about 8.2 percent of the total 4.84 million units the company manufactured for the U.S. 

The CPSC says it uses the reports to document whether a recall is working. 

“A recall is effective when the consuming population has received notice that a product is being recalled and has taken the appropriate action to remove the hazard,” the CPSC says

Fisher-Price processed the bulk of its recalls in the first few months, after notifying more than a half-million customers by mail and email about the issue, the reports show, beginning in April 2019.

But the number of consumers contacted and responding to the recall quickly petered out, dropping to 8,700 Rock ’n Plays returned in November 2019 and ultimately hitting a low in December 2020–the most recent data available in the reports–with just 1,128 Rock ’n Plays returned that month. 

CR’s product safety advocates say that Fisher-Price needs to redouble its efforts to get these sleepers out of consumers’ homes.

“Recalls should not be treated as short-term campaigns, but rather as dedicated efforts to keep people from getting hurt, and to make them whole after putting them at risk,” CR’s Shin says. “Fisher-Price should go back to the drawing board and do whatever it can to get more of these sleepers returned. The company spent a lot of money getting parents to buy these products, and it should spend at least as much on marketing its recalls and taking other steps that can help protect families from these dangerous products.” 

More Infant Deaths Emerge

As the recall’s progress slowed and millions of products remained at large, reports of additional infant deaths linked to the Rock ’n Play continued to rise. 

Concerns about the safety of the Rock ’n Play emerged in early April 2019, when CR first reported that almost three dozen infants had died while in the sleeper. Fisher-Price recalled the product less than a week later. 

Parents around the U.S., stricken with grief over the loss of a newborn, heard about the risks of the Rock ’n Play’s design and how it played a role in numerous infant deaths. As Fisher-Price learned of more incidents tied to the sleeper, it was required to notify the CPSC in the monthly recall reports—broken down by deaths that occurred prior to and after the recall. 

By the time Fisher-Price was called to testify before Congress in the summer of 2021, the number of infant deaths linked to the Rock ’n Play had ballooned to 97, with the most recent report on the CPSC’s SaferProducts.gov website made public in April of 2021. 

“Infant died after rolling over in a rock n play device while sleeping,” the report says. 

What Can Be Done

Though the CPSC requires companies with recalls to produce monthly progress reports to the agency, those documents are rarely made public and only sometimes made available through a Freedom of Information Act request. 

Evidence of the recall rate and the reports only emerged as part of the ongoing multistate civil suit brought against Fisher-Price and Mattel over the Rock ’n Play. The case is pending.

Part of the Rock ’n Play story revolves around the CPSC’s lack of authority to swiftly take action when safety concerns about products emerge. A congressional report in 2021 concluded that “the CPSC lacks the necessary authority to protect infants from potentially deadly products,” partly because of laws unique to the agency that hinder it from disclosing company and product information to the public before seeking permission from manufacturers.

No recalled product should be available either at brick-and-mortar retail stores or in online marketplaces.

Jason Levine

Spokesperson, Consumer Product Safety Commission

The revelations of the Fisher-Price low recall rate illustrate why Congress should amend the law, Shin says, to promote transparency and ensure that companies can be held more accountable for their recalls in real time. Legislation to accomplish these goals, known as the Sunshine in Product Safety Act, is pending in the Senate and House of Representatives. 

In the meantime, while Rock ’n Plays are no longer sold in stores, some might still be available on the secondary market. Consumer advocates and the CPSC urge people who still have the Rock ’n Play in their home to stop using it immediately. 

Levine, the CPSC spokesperson, says it is illegal to sell or resell recalled products. “No recalled product should be available either at brick-and-mortar retail stores or in online marketplaces,” he says. The CPSC regularly monitors the market for recalled items, “with a particular emphasis on inclined sleep products,” he says. And when they’re discovered, “we work to remove them from commerce no matter where it has been found.” 

If a customer sees a recalled item for sale, Levine recommends reporting it to the agency at SaferProducts.gov.


Head shot of Ryan Felton, a CR author of investigative reports and special projects

Ryan Felton

I'm an investigative journalist with an appetite to cover anything and everything. My job and goal is to dig into complicated issues that affect people's health, safety, and bottom line. I've covered everything from dangerous tires to subprime lending to corporate malfeasance. Got a tip? Drop me an email (ryan.felton@consumer.org), or follow me on Twitter (@ryanfelton) for my contact info on Signal.