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Despite being blamed in 50 babies’ deaths, inclined infant sleepers available online, Sun-Times finds

UPDATE: Facebook says it has removed the posts for the recalled items that the Sun-Times found and brought to the company’s attention.

A recalled infant sleeper is pictured in an ad on Facebook Marketplace. It is one of several found available for sale despite recalls.
A recalled infant sleeper is pictured in an ad on Facebook Marketplace. It is one of several found available for sale despite recalls.
Stephanie Zimmermann / Sun-Times

In April, following the deaths of dozens of babies in inclined sleepers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of 4.7 million Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleepers.

Two weeks later, the agency said another 694,000 Kids II Rocking Sleepers would be pulled from stores.

Last month, after the number of babies killed in inclined sleepers reached at least 50 nationwide, a recall of about 24,000 Dorel-brand sleepers was announced.

Yet recalled inclined sleepers remain available for purchase on online platforms, the Chicago Sun-Times found — including Facebook Marketplace and eBay, as well as in Craigslist garage-sale listings.

That’s despite it being illegal to resell products recalled for safety defects and the online platforms’ policies barring sales of recalled items.

A spokesman said eBay would remove a recalled Kids II sleeper found Friday by the Sun-Times and said the platform uses software filters and a reporting system to catch recalled items.

Facebook spokeswoman Devon Kearns said the company is investigating the posts the Sun-Times found. She said safety “is our foremost priority. We’ve removed similar products in the past few months, and the process is ongoing.”

Kearns said Facebook uses “a combination of technology, human review and community reporting” to catch prohibited items and encourages users to click on the “Report Item” option for any listing that looks suspicious.

UPDATE: Facebook says it has removed the posts the Sun-Times found and brought to the company’s attention.

Facebook Marketplace — which had eight recalled sleepers for sale for $10 to $54 in the Chicago area in recent days — tells sellers: “As a seller, it’s your responsibility to know whether the items you want to sell have been recalled for safety risk reasons.”

Craigslist did not respond to a request for comment.

The problem goes beyond what you can find online, according to a new survey by two advocacy groups, Chicago-based Kids in Danger and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. They surveyed child-care providers in Wisconsin, Texas and Pennsylvania and found one in 10 had at least one recalled infant sleeper.

Inclined sleepers — with an incline of 10 to 30 degrees — once were widely used by parents hoping to calm babies’ reflux and get them back to sleep but now are considered dangerous for sleep in all circumstances. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to get rid of any inclined sleeper, even models that haven’t been recalled.

“Just because it hasn’t been recalled doesn’t mean it’s any less unsafe,” says Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, spokesman for the Itasca-based academy.

Babies’ heads can roll forward or to the side in the sleepers, causing them to asphyxiate. And Hoffman says inclined sleepers might worsen reflux because the angle puts more pressure on a baby’s stomach. A better solution: Hold the baby upright in your arms for 15 to 30 minutes after feeding.

The pediatrics organization recommends that, for nighttime sleep and naps, babies should be placed on their backs on a flat, firm surface in a crib, bassinet or play yard with no restraints, soft bedding or crib bumpers.

Inclined sleepers arrived in the United States in 2009, with no federal standards or mandatory safety testing. In 2015, the industry created voluntary standards, over safety advocates’ objections that no inclined sleepers were safe.

A recalled Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play.
A recalled Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play.
Provided photo

Several lookalike products are similar to the recalled sleepers but haven’t been recalled despite complaints from safety groups. One — the Evenflo Pillo Napper — was recalled in Canada in June but not the United States. The Sun-Times found them for sale on Facebook and eBay.

Congress is considering outlawing the sale of all inclined sleepers.

Nancy Cowles, KID’s executive director, says Illinois law has banned recalled products in childcare settings since 1999 but enforcement is spotty. Providers are supposed to check for recalled products and sign an affidavit, and facilities are inspected by the state yearly.

The CPSC lists recalls online, as does KID.

“No one’s doing a very good job with these recalls,” says Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger. “It’s not enough to say, ‘We’re going to recall a product.’ More needs to be done.”
“No one’s doing a very good job with these recalls,” says Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger. “It’s not enough to say, ‘We’re going to recall a product.’ More needs to be done.”
Rich Hein / Sun-Times