What Parents Need to Know About the Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play and Safe Sleep
Infant inclined sleepers have been linked to dozens of fatalities. Here's what experts say parents can do to help babies sleep safely.
At least 36 infant deaths have been linked to infant inclined sleep products such as the Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper, the Kids II Ingenuity Moonlight Rocking Sleeper, and the Kids II Bright Starts Playtime to Bedtime Sleeper.
Consumer Reports and the American Academy of Pediatrics have urged the Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall the Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper and to investigate all other infant inclined sleep products. CR also thinks the Kids II products should be recalled.
In the meantime, exhausted parents—many of whom have relied on these kinds of inclined sleep products—are rethinking their sleep strategies.
Alternative Sleep Strategies
What else can parents do to help soothe their babies to sleep? “It’s important for all parents to know that babies, for their whole first year of life, don’t have a lot of consolidated sleep, and it’s just normal that babies wake up throughout the night,” Feldman-Winter says. “Knowing that and knowing that your baby is normal and not unhealthful in terms of the baby’s growth and development, I think is just reassuring.” Parents can also try these safe sleep tips:
- Room-share with your baby for the first 6 to 12 months, and put her in a freestanding bassinet or a sidecar bassinet next to your bed that allows you to touch and soothe her when needed. “Some babies just need to have that feeling that their loved one is nearby,” Feldman-Winter says. “We don't recommend any kind of an inclined bassinet or inclined sleeping device that rocks.”
- Have reasonable expectations. “Newborns are nearly always more wakeful at night, and it will take at least a few weeks to flip that initial day-night confusion,” says Roy Benaroch, M.D., an associate adjunct professor of pediatrics at Emory University in Atlanta. Even then, young babies will wake frequently to eat and they'll want to be held and cuddled. “Parents of newborns shouldn't expect a solid night's sleep,” he says.
- Consider wrapping your baby in a swaddle before placing him on his back on a firm, flat surface, suggests the AAP. This helps to replicate the soothing environment of the womb. “Swaddles seem to help many babies relax and sleep better,” Benaroch says. To swaddle safely: Leave the legs and hips loose so your baby can stretch and move. “Swaddling should typically stop around two months of age because as older babies start to wiggle and move, the swaddling can impede their development and possibly be a hazard if they get entangled in the swaddling blanket,” Benaroch says.
- Try a white noise machine, which is reminiscent of the comforting sounds babies hear in the womb. “White noise machines can be very helpful, but keep in mind that the noise shouldn’t be super-loud; you should be able to carry on a conversation easily over the noise,” Benaroch says. Also, make sure the cord is nowhere near the baby to avoid a strangulation hazard.
- Offer your baby a pacifier. Many babies have a strong sucking reflex and find sucking on a pacifier to be soothing. Research, in fact, shows that pacifiers are safe for infants and may reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Don’t attempt to force your baby into a sleep schedule too early. “When exactly to start sleep training is a personal decision,” Benaroch says. “As babies get older and gain weight, you may nudge them towards longer stretches of sleep by not jumping to respond to every noise and movement they make.” Also, you can start putting babies down to sleep while they're still awake, so they can learn to fall asleep without your help. “Babies who consistently fall asleep while being held or rocked will have a very hard time falling back asleep on their own when they stir, unless they're picked up and rocked again,” Benaroch says.
- Know that spitting up (aka reflux) is normal and not necessarily a medical problem. In fact, it’s often more of a laundry problem. “All babies reflux, they're supposed to reflux actually,” Feldman-Winter says. When babies breastfeed and spit up, they are actually coating their entire nasal and respiratory pathways with helpful antibodies that prevent against infection and diseases. “It’s really kind of nature’s way of protecting the baby. It’s not a condition that we're trying to eradicate.” If, however, you think your baby is having problems due to reflux (such as pain or poor weight gain), talk with your pediatrician.
- To ease nasal congestion, try a few drops of nasal saline to rinse out your baby’s nose, or use an aspirator to clear the mucus. “Nasal congestion is very common in babies. Their noses are small and young babies can't blow their nose or do a good sniff to clear out the mucus,” says Benaroch. Using the aspirator “might sound kind of icky, but devices like that work well and are safe.”