CPSC Warns Against Use of Podster Loungers Following Two Infant Deaths

Nearly 200,000 infant loungers recalled due to risk of suffocation from dangerous design

Podster infant sleepers have been linked to at least two deaths, leading federal safety officials to warn that dangerous design defects may pose a serious risk that babies will become entrapped and suffocate.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued an Podster infant lounger warning on January 20, instructing parents and guardians to immediately stop using the popular baby pillows due to the risk that infants may roll over unexpectedly and become trapped against the fabric, posing a suffocation risk.

Over the last several years, multiple baby pillow recalls and warnings have been issued by federal safety officials following reports of children rolling off of the pillows or on to their belly, leaving their face trapped against the fabric. The CPSC indicates infants who have not developed the neck or body strength to roll back over, or away from the pillow-like products, may become trapped and suffocate.

The CPSC warning indicates at least two infant sleeper suffocation fatalities have been reported in connection with Leachco Podster, Podster Plush, Bummzie and Podster Playtime loungers. The deaths involved a 17-day old who suffocated to death in a Lechco Inc. infant sleeper in January 2018 and a four-month old  who suffocated in December 2015.

Despite the two reported infant fatalities, the CPSC says Leachco Inc. has refused to initiate a voluntary recall. The company released a statement on their website the day after the CPSC warning, publicly claiming the CPSC is wrong and that the product packaging has clear warnings that it is not intended to be used as a sleep product or for unsupervised sleep of infants.

The Leachco loungers measure between 71 and 75 inches in circumference and have a padded insert and a removable cover. The products were sold by Leachco Inc. of Ada, Oklahoma in a variety of prints and are either 100% polyester or a cotton and polyester blend. Approximately 180,000 units were distributed for sale in the U.S. through various in-store and online retailers.

“Infant loungers like Podsters are not safe for sleep,” the CPSC warns. “Babies should always be placed to sleep on their back. Babies who fall asleep in an inclined or upright position should be moved to a safe sleep environment.”

The CPSC indicates that since the manufacturer has refused to issue a voluntary Podster recall, the agency will consider other actions which could include filing an administrative complaint to protect consumers.

Inclined Sleeper Risks

Similar to the infant lounger suffocation risks, concerns over inclined infant sleepers were first made public in April 2019, when the CPSC issued a Fisher-Price Rock’n Play warning, 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. The warning was issued after the CPSC publicly recognized at least 32 infant deaths related to the products.

Since the warning, 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. Fisher-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.

Fisher-Price has been riddled with a number of inclined sleeper wrongful death lawsuits and class action claims, 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.

Following the series of recalls, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) released a survey in August 2019, finding at least 10% of child daycare facilities nationwide currently had one or more of the recalled infant beds in their possession, and were continuing to use the products on a daily basis.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), about 4,000 infants annually die unexpectedly during sleep from accidental suffocation, sudden infant death syndrome, or unknown causes. Many of the reported fatalities are a result of suffocation from rolling on their sides or stomach.

To reduce suffocation and accidental deaths, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants sleep on their backs positioned on a firm, empty surface, not containing any soft objects toys, pillows or loose bedding. The recommendations call for new parents to always follow the ABCs of safe sleep: Alone on the Back in a bare Crib.

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