After 94 babies’ deaths, infant inclined sleepers to face new federal safety standards

Sleep products for babies up to 5 months old will be regulated just as cribs are starting next year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has decided.

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A recalled Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play infant inclined sleeper.

A recalled Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play infant inclined sleeper.

Consumer Product Safety Commission

The Consumer Product Safety Commission for the first time is setting a mandatory federal safety standard for infant inclined sleepers, which have been implicated in the deaths of 94 babies nationwide.

The 3-1 vote Wednesday covers sleep products designed for infants up to 5 months old. It takes effect in mid-2022 and was spurred by deaths linked to the popular Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper and similar products.

“The new mandatory standard will effectively eliminate potentially hazardous sleep products in the marketplace that do not currently meet a CPSC mandatory standard for infant sleep, such as inclined sleepers, travel and compact bassinets and in-bed sleepers, which have been linked to dozens of infant deaths,” according to the federal safety agency.

It estimates that one in three American families owns a sleep item that would have been covered by the new rule.

The move drew praise from organizations including the Itasca-based American Academy of Pediatrics and Kids In Danger, a Chicago nonprofit.

“Pediatricians have counseled far too many grieving families whose young infants died using unsafe sleep products,” said Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the pediatricians’ organization. “This final rule will help give parents assurance that the products they buy for their babies are safe.”

Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids In Danger, says establishing a safety standard for infant sleep products is something her group has been pushing for since its founding after the 1998 death of a Chicago toddler who was killed in an unsafe portable crib.

“This means that when parents buy or use infant sleep products in the future, they can be sure they meet a strong safety standard,” Cowles said.

In recent years, the wildly popular inclined sleepers were easily available online even after they were linked to babies’ deaths and were recalled, a Chicago Sun-Times survey found in 2019.

On Monday, executives from Fisher-Price and Mattel are scheduled to testify before a congressional committee investigating how the Rock ‘n Play sleeper was allowed to stay on the market for so long despite the risks it poses for infants. The panel is examining what it describes as “grave flaws in the U.S. consumer product safety system.”

Infant sleepers with an incline of 10 to 30 degrees were introduced in the United States in 2009 and became popular with parents hoping to calm babies’ reflux.

But it turned out that, at such a sharp angle, a sleeping baby’s head can roll too far forward or to the side, blocking the airway and causing asphyxiation.

In 2015, the industry, after years of pressure, approved voluntary standards. By then, safety advocates were arguing that no inclined sleepers were safe.


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