A new report by federal regulators calls for consumers to stop using inclined infant sleepers, warning that the devices offer no sleep benefits and have been linked to dozens of infant deaths, resulting in the recall for millions of devices sold in recent years.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a new inclined sleeper warning on October 31, cautioning consumers to stop using baby beds with an incline higher than 10 degrees, due to the risk of suffocation and entrapment once an infant is able to roll over independently.
Amid rising concerns about problems with inclined infant sleepers, which have been linked to more than 70 fatalities, the CPSC conducted an independent study to determine whether inclined sleep products are safe for consumer use. The study was conducted by Erin Mannen, Ph.D., a mechanical engineer specializing in biomechanics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to analyze infants’ muscle movements and oxygen saturation while in various products and positions, such as a flat crib, an inclined crib, and several inclined sleep products.
Several inclined sleepers with varying degrees of incline were tested during the study. According to the findings, none of the inclined sleep products her team tested offered a safe sleep environment for infants. Devices with over a 10 degree angle in particular created increased sleep hazards.
The results of the study align with recent inclined sleeper warnings and recalls issued by the CPSC linked to incidents of entrapment, suffocation and airway blockage risks.
Inclining infant sleepers and bassinets are designed to elevate the baby’s head and torso. Past researcher indicated that by inclining an infant during sleep, it may help prevent acid-reflux and congestion. However, the design has proven to be potentially deadly after babies are old enough to rollover on their own, or if the incline of the bassinet forces the child’s chin down to his or her neck, creating an airway blockage.
To date, the CPSC has received 1,108 incidents, including 73 infant deaths related to infant inclined sleep products that occurred from January 2005 through June 2019.
One of the most recent study’s released last month by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences indicated infants are especially susceptible to suffocation hazards because the products incline makes it easier to roll into an unsafe facedown position.
The CPSC first warned the public of inclined infant sleeper safety concerns when it announced a Fisher-Price Rock’n Play recall in April, instructing consumers to stop placing their infants in the sleepers by three months old, or before they begin to show signs that they can roll over independently.
Since the warning was issued, several manufacturers issued recalls of inclined sleeper products in April including Fisher-Price’s recall of 4.7 million Rock’n Play Sleepers and a recall of 694,000 Kids II inclined rocking sleepers. Fischer-Price subsequently released an additional inclined sleeper recall in June, impacting 71,000 inclined sleeping accessories sold with their Ultra-Lite Day & Night Play Yards.
Despite the recalls, a number of sleepers remain on the market and many are in active use at childcare facilities.
Researchers from the non-profit organization, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) issued a daycare infant sleepers report in August 2019 finding one in 10 of the 376 facilities surveyed reported having one or more of the recalled infant beds in their possession, and were continuing to use the products on a daily basis. Even facilities in Wisconsin and Texas, which have bans in place preventing daycare facilities from used recalled products, continued to use the recalled inclined sleepers.
Fischer-Price now faces several inclined sleeper individual wrongful death lawsuits as well as a class action lawsuit alleging the manufacturer knew or should have known about the risk of problems, yet delayed announcing a recall or warning, and knowingly allowed parents to continue purchasing life threatening sleeper devices.