Safe Sleep for Baby after the CPSC Ban on Inclined Sleepers: Consumer Reports Answers Parents' Questions :

By Let Mommy Sleep. January 23, 2020

This week's #BabyTipoftheDay series was all about safe sleep:

Tip #1. Incline sleepers like the RocknPlay are banned.  

Tip #2. How to get more sleep without these devices and

Tip #3  Why it's okay for baby to fall asleep in a car seat (not for the night) but not a sleeper.

To learn how these products came to market and stayed there for 10 years, see the continuing must-read Consumer Reports research, as well as the final updated story. We are also priviledged to have Rachel Rabkin Peachman, Deputy of Special Projects at Consumer Reports and investigative journalist who has been working on this information for over a year, answer your questions:

1.) Why are sleepers being banned now, specifically? Some people think the ban is a result of parents that didn’t comply with the directions. 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has warned against using infant inclined sleepers, and the agency has voted in favor of banning the entire category because the products increase the risk of infant suffocation and death- -NOT because the sleepers were misused by caregivers. Infant inclined sleepers have been linked to deaths even when the products were used according to the company's instructions—and even in cases where the baby was buckled into the restraint system and did not roll over.

Inclined sleepers are inherently unsafe for infants due to their design.

There are several risks:

First, the products go against the safe sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which state that babies should be put to bed alone, unrestrained, on their backs, on a firm flat surface that is free of soft padding. Inclined sleepers like the Rock 'n Play Sleeper are not flat, they have restraints, and they have padded sidewalls.

Second, babies heads are heavy in proportion to their body size and neck strength, and the product's incline enables their heads to slump forward—often chin to chest or chin to shoulder—which compresses the trachea and blocks airflow. The lack of oxygen can lead to suffocation.

Third, the shape of many inclined sleepers enables babies to roll over earlier than they would typically on a flat surface (see below). And once they roll over in an inclined sleeper, they typically end up with their faces pressed against the soft sidewalls of the sleeper or pressed against the padded headrest of the sleeper, both of which can block airflow to the nose and mouth. Infants don't have the strength or coordination to turn themselves around and move into a safe position that allows them to breathe.

And recent study commissioned by the CPSC outlines all of these risks. Here is an excerpt from the article from December 30th:

The agency announced the findings of a new study it had commissioned, led by Erin Mannen, Ph.D., an expert in biomechanics and a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, on how babies moved and breathed while at an angle between 10 and 30 degrees. Her conclusion: “None of the inclined sleep products that were tested and evaluated as part of this study are safe for infant sleep.”

Among her findings: Placing babies in inclined sleepers makes it easier for babies to roll over because it puts them into a scrunched up position—similar to a fetal tuck—that allows them to roll over earlier than they would be able to manage on a flat surface. That explains, she says, why many parents said their babies had never previously rolled over yet were found dead, in some cases while restrained, face down on their stomach in the sleeper.

2.) Is it okay to have baby in a car seat in the car where they’ll inevitably fall asleep, but not a rock and play?

To answer that question in detail, please see this article, "Is it Okay for Babies to Sleep in Car Seats?" You may also want to watch the video at the bottom of the article. Or here's a news article  on our (Consumer Reports) coverage comparing car seats to inclined sleepers: 

A quick quote from the article: "The answer is, yes, you can let your baby sleep for short stretches in a car seat, as long it's used properly, says Emily A. Thomas, Ph.D., an automotive safety engineer at CR’s Auto Test Center who is also a specialist in pediatric injury biomechanics and a certified child passenger safety technician.  

3.) Does the ban include the swings too that are somewhat upright?

The AAP does not recommend swings (or bouncy seats) for extended sleep. Swings pose some of the same risks that inclined sleepers pose. (Swings have not been safety tested the way car seats have; swings typically don't have a five-point harness to prevent slumping; and swings are not necessary for car travel.)  If your baby does fall asleep in a swing, the safest thing to do is to move him or her to a firm, flat crib or bassinet. 

As a mom of two children, I know it's hard to move a sleeping baby. And I know that many parents feel their babies sleep well in inclined products. But that doesn't mean the products are safe. The products put babies at risk for death, and it's just not worth the risk.

For more and continuing coverage on infant safety, please follow Rachel Rabkin Peachman on Twitter, @RachelPeachman. And for our suggestion on how to help baby sleep, please view the video below: