Deaths of 13 babies in Fisher-Price rockers prompt a consumer alert that was delayed by a Congressional gag order
The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission and Fisher-Price say the infants died between 2009 and 2021 in Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rockers and Fisher-Price Newborn-to-Toddler Rockers.
Fisher-Price and the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission are warning parents not to let their infants fall asleep in Fisher-Price infant rockers after 13 babies died in the devices between 2009 and 2021.
The deaths happened after the babies fell asleep in the Fisher Price Infant-to-Toddler and the Fisher-Price Newborn-to-Toddler rockers.
Fisher-Price, a division of Mattel Inc., recalled a similar product last year after four infants died after being placed, unrestrained, on their backs in the Fisher-Price 4-in-1 Rock ’n Glide Soother. Those fatalities, all involving babies under 4 months old, happened between April 2019 and February 2020.
In 2019, the federal consumer safety agency recalled a similar Fisher-Price product, the Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper, after 30 infant fatalities were reported. Doctors, parents and consumer advocates had warned the company for years that the product was unsafe and should be recalled.
Richard Trumka Jr., who heads the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said a gag order implemented by Congress in 1981 barred the agency from issuing an immediate warning to consumers without first seeking permission from the manufacturer.
In the most recent case, Trumka said the gag order delayed the warning by two months.
“The gag rule led to needless delay,” Trumka said. “When CPSC needs to warn the public about a pattern of death and injury tied to a product, it should be able to quickly issue that warning to prevent further loss of life.
“Instead, a gag rule blocks us from doing so without first seeking permission from the product’s maker,” he said. “Here, the gag rule delayed our message to the public by two months. Even with cooperation from Fisher-Price, we fought an uphill battle to release this information to warn parents and caregivers. Sharing vital safety information should not be this hard.
“Congress must immediately repeal the gag rule,” Trumka said. “If CPSC cannot issue timely warnings, dangers will remain hidden in people’s homes.”
The agency and child-safety advocates have warned for years that such inclined infant sleepers or rockers are dangerous. They never should be used for sleep, and infants should never be left unsupervised or unrestrained in them, Fisher-Price and Trumka’s office said.
A new rule finalized by the agency will require that infant sleep products have a sleep surface angle of 10 degrees or less. But that rule won’t go into effect until Thursday.
“Thankfully, in the case of inclined infant sleepers, Congress has acted,” Trumka said. “Last month, Congress passes the Safe Sleep for Babies Act, which bans inclined rockers, bouncers and other soothing infant seats regardless of whether they are intended and marketed for sleep. In the coming months, CPSC will take on the question of whether products like the Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker fall under that ban.”
The warning said, as experts have advised, that the best place for infants to sleep is on their backs on a firm, flat surface without any blankets or other objects near them.
“No inclined product, made by Fisher-Price or any other company, is safe for infant sleep,” Trumka said. “Only a flat, firm surface is safe.”
Since the 1990s, Fisher-Price has sold more than 17 million infant rockers worldwide.
Trumka urged consumers to report any incidents involving the infant rockers or other infant products to his agency by going online to saferproducts.gov.