Recall

Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Recalls: Are These Baby Products Really Dangerous?

Updated on 12 minute read

Overview

The CPSC (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) has issued Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play recalls twice (in 2019 and 2013) due to reported infant fatalities linked to these baby products.

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Worse, the June 2021 congressional inquiry over infant deaths in inclined sleepers, led by Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, discovered that many of these potentially dangerous products (similar inclined sleepers) might still be on the market today. (1)

These infant sleep products remain a cause for concern to parents and caregivers due to SIDS risk (sudden infant death syndrome).

According to data released by the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), as high as 41% of sudden, unexpected infant deaths could be due to SIDS. (2)

The same report states that accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed can account for 27% of unexpected baby deaths, while the remaining 32% are due to unknown causes. (2)

At least 90 babies may have died in inclined sleepers since the release of the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play in 2009 and similar products in the following years. (3)

What’s alarming is that the popular Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleepers may have been involved in 50+ of these infant deaths. (1)

What makes Fisher-Price products possibly dangerous, and which ones have been recalled? What can you do if you have a recalled product, and are there safer alternatives to these baby sleepers?

Continue reading to find out.

 

Which Rock ‘n Plays Have Been Recalled?

  • Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleepers (2019) – due to infant deaths while using the product
  • Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ’n Play Sleepers (2013) – due to mold that can grow or accumulate between the washable fabric and the frame

 

Let’s discuss each Fisher-price recall below.

 

Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper Recall 2019

Why Was The Rock ‘n Play Recalled?

The Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper was recalled in the US and Canada in 2019 due to safety concerns after it was linked to at least 30 infant deaths. (4)

 

US Recall

  • Date of recall: April 12, 2019
  • Contact details (toll-free) for returns and refunds: 866-812-6518 from Monday through Friday, from 9 AM to 6 PM ET

 

Around 4.7 million of Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleepers were recalled in the US due to reported 30+ infant fatalities since the Rock ’n Play was introduced in 2009. (4)

These reports involved babies who may have rolled over while unrestrained or were in other dangerous circumstances. (4)

Consumers and caregivers were told to stop using this product immediately and contact the company for a refund.

 

Canada Recall

  • Date of recall: May 15, 2019
  • Dates sold: December 2009 and February 2011
  • Contact details (toll-free) for returns and refunds: 1-800-432-5437 from Monday through Friday, from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM ET

 

Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleepers, identified with model number “R6070,” were recalled in Canada along with four other versions of the product sold online via Amazon.ca: (5)

  • Fisher-Price Auto Rock ‘n Play Sleepers (model DMJ23)
  • Fisher-Price Deluxe Newborn Auto Rock ‘n Play Sleepers with SmartConnect, Isle Sone (model CMP94)
  • Fisher-Price Deluxe Auto Rock ‘n Play Sleepers with SmartConnect (model GGD42)
  • Fisher-Price Deluxe Auto Rock ‘n Play Sleepers [Amazon Exclusive] (model CMP94)

 

Health Canada advised parents to stop using any of these products for naptime and overnight sleeping. 

However, unlike the CPSC (their counterpart in the US), Health Canada declared that they weren’t aware of any danger that might be associated with this item as long as it was used for supervised playtime or soothing. (6)

The company hasn’t received reports of infant injuries or deaths related to its use in Canada, the recall advisory stated. (6)

These recalled sleepers were officially sold in Canada by Mattel Canada, Inc. and Amazon from December 2009 and February 2011. However, these may have also been sold via unauthorized third-party sellers or retailers after these dates. (6)

Health Canada reminds consumers that the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act prohibits any recalled products from being redistributed, resold, or even given away for free in Canada. These recalled products should be returned to the manufacturer or destroyed.

Compared to the 4.7 million units in the US, only around 2,000 units of Rock ’n Play Sleepers were recalled in Canada on May 15, 2019, following the US recall. (6)

That’s because the product hasn’t been sold in Canada since 2011.

Apparently, Health Canada (the national health agency) had blocked the Rock ’n Play Sleeper’s sale for not meeting Canada’s safety standards for cribs, cradles, and bassinets. (1)(6)

According to the congressional committee’s report, Health Canada immediately identified the safety risks of using Rock ’n Play as a sleeper.

At first, Fisher-Price revised the Canadian label to include the warnings:

  • This product is not intended to replace a crib or bassinet for prolonged periods of sleep.
  • NEVER leave child unattended.

 

However, when Health Canada pushed for the product to be marketed in Canada as a soother, not a sleeper, Fisher-Price reportedly didn’t welcome the reclassification and decided to simply stop selling the product in Canada. (1)

 

How Do I Return A Recalled Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play?

Customers who have the recalled Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleepers were instructed to call the following toll-free numbers for a refund (in cash or vouchers):

  • US: 866-812-6518
  • Canada: 1-800-432-5437

 

Both numbers can be reached from Monday through Friday, from 9 AM to 6 PM ET.

 

How The Rock ’n Play Sleeper Became Popular & Controversial

Phenomenal Success Of The First Inclined Sleeper 

Fisher-Price and its parent company, Mattel, launched the Rock ‘n Play in October 2009. It was cleverly marketed as a product that promoted better infant sleep and reduced reflux. (1)

During this period, some pediatricians believed that letting babies sleep on an incline could prevent acid reflux (this was later proven to be wrong). 

Fisher-Price industrial designer Linda Chapman pitched the Rock ’n Play Sleeper design based on her pediatrician’s advice and personal success with her baby. (1)

The product had a 30-degree angle and was designed for babies to sleep on their backs, with their feet on a downward slope.

According to the congressional committee, the product was a huge success and didn’t particularly alarm parents at the time because they were excited about a product that was marketed for overnight sleep.

Chapman’s baby became Fisher-Price’s poster child for marketing the sleeper as a “lifesaver” and an “innovative product.” (1)

At the time, there weren’t any recalls & safety alerts against inclined sleeping products because Rock ‘n Play was actually the first one ever released. (1)

Safety warnings at the time were only issued against sleeping in products with a steep incline (such as car seats), which can increase the risk of asphyxia (suffocation). (1)

However, the prevailing safe sleep guidelines by the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommend a firm, flat surface. (1)(7)

 

The Potential Dangers Of Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleepers

Due to the lack of a category for inclined sleep products at the time, the Rock ‘n Play fell under “bassinets and cradles.”

Although bassinets and cradles pass the AAP’s safe sleep guidelines, the Rock ‘n Play doesn’t because it doesn’t have a flat surface.

The congressional committee pointed out the possible safety concerns and lapses committed by Fisher-Price, based on their investigation: (1)

  • Disregarded existing guidelines and research about safety in baby sleep products
  • Failure to ensure that their product is safe before release
  • Ignored safety warnings that their inclined sleep product might be dangerous
  • Knowingly marketed this product for overnight use as a sleeper despite the risks

 

The committee also discovered that the company allegedly consulted just one doctor, who wasn’t even a pediatrician, regarding the safety of their new sleeper product.

In 2013, the company reportedly received a message from a board-certified pediatrician, Dr. Roy Benaroch, who expressed concern over the product’s possible dangers when used as a routine sleeping area for babies. He reminded the company that the design is against the AAP’s safe sleep guidelines. (1)

After consulting with their legal team, the company responded that their Rock ‘n Play Sleepers comply with all applicable standards. They added that consumers with concerns or questions about safe sleeping environments are encouraged to discuss these with their pediatricians. (1)

 

Controversy With Consumer Reports & CPSC’s Lack Of Power

In its comprehensive report, the congressional committee further revealed that Fisher-Price only recalled the potentially dangerous infant sleep products after Consumer Reports stepped into the picture. (1)

Apparently, the CPSC has a standing gag order under the law, which instructed them to redact the brand names involved in safety concerns or issues. 

Under Section 6(b) of the CPSA (Consumer Product Safety Act) passed in 1972, the CPSC isn’t allowed to disclose any information provided by a manufacturer unless the Commission has sued them or had their full permission for the disclosure. (1)

They aren’t allowed to reveal company or brand names unless these companies allow them to disclose the data or customer complaints fully.

Also, the manufacturer must first receive a copy of the information to be released by the CPSC. 

If the information is ultimately disclosed (with the company’s approval), the company is free to comment on this document – and the CPSC is required to publish the company’s comments along with their report or press release.

However, in early 2019, the CPSC inadvertently sent unredacted data about the infant deaths in the Fisher-Price products to Consumer Reports. (1)

According to the congressional committee inquiry, Consumer Reports was alarmed by the findings and told the company and the CPSC that it intended to publish the report. (1)

Taken aback, Fisher-Price scrambled to issue the recall within days after receiving Consumer Reports’ message, the committee added. (1)

Documents examined by the congressional committee reportedly indicated that neither the CPSC nor the Fisher-Price had plans to recall the potentially dangerous item. (1)

In their report, the committee recommends empowering the CPSC from its current limited power to take more decisive actions against brands or companies with possibly dangerous products. (1)

The report also pointed out that the companies shouldn’t be allowed to determine whether their products are safe or not because these are private entities that are driven by profit. They obviously have financial incentives to keep their products on the market, even with the possible safety concerns. 

 

Injury Reports & Deaths Linked To The Rock ’n Play

Based on consumer reports on injuries or deaths linked to the Rock ’n Play as of April 2019, most of these babies were over three months old and rolled over in the device while they were unrestrained. (4)

In response, Fisher-Price appeared to downplay these incidents, insisting that their products are safe. They asserted that their sleeper product even had a lower risk of fatality than cribs and bassinets. (1)

They also insisted that the reported fatalities associated with their product were associated with other known risk factors, including pre-existing medical conditions or using soft bedding.

Pediatricians and other health experts were alarmed by these reported infant deaths and Fisher-Price’s nonchalant response.

The chairperson of the AAP Task Force on SIDS, Dr. Rachel Moon, called for the immediate removal of Rock ‘n Play inclined sleepers from the market because they don’t meet the AAP’s safe sleep recommendations. (4)

She reminded parents to only let their baby sleep on a flat, firm, and separate surface that doesn’t have bedding or bumpers. 

Consumer Reports’ senior policy analyst William Wallace didn’t just focus on the Rock ’n Play. He implored the CPSC to investigate all inclined sleepers and get these possibly dangerous products pulled off the market immediately. (4)

Sadly, these products still remain on the market as of this publish date.

 

Early Warning Signs & Fisher-Price’s Power

In 2010, a year after Rock ‘n Play Sleepers were released, the CPSC recommended a standard limit of not more than 5 degrees incline for infant sleep products. (1)

Had that recommendation been implemented, the 90+ infant deaths from inclined sleepers might have been prevented in the coming years. 

However, Fisher-Price reportedly requested the CPSC to revise this new mandatory standard, knowing that the Rock ‘n Play wouldn’t meet it. (1)

The CPSC actually accepted Fisher-Price’s request. Instead of pushing through with the new guidelines, the CPSC excluded inclined sleepers from their new mandatory standard. (1)

The congressional committee discovered that Fisher-Price may have been heavily involved in creating these “weak” government standards for their own gain. 

Apparently, a Fisher-Price engineer, Mike Steinwachs, led the committee in charge of developing the new safety standards for inclined sleepers. (1)

 

Recall Efforts & Returns Quickly Dwindled

When the Rock ‘n Play recall was issued in April 2019, scores of worried parents immediately returned the products and processed their refund or voucher. However, many others remain unaware that this sleeper product was even recalled.

The CPSC did everything to post the product recall and safety alert on their official website, traditional media, and social media.

Yet a survey conducted by PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) in April 2020 showed that 10% or one in ten licensed childcare facilities might still be using these inclined sleepers while caring for babies younger than one year old. (1)

Asked why they were still using these products, the staff of these facilities admitted that they had no idea these had already been recalled the previous year.

Alarmed over the potential deaths or safety risks that could occur with the continued use of these products in these licensed childcare facilities, the congressional committee recommended that all these service providers must register with the CPSC. (1)

Registrations should include their contact numbers so they can be informed whenever there are any recalls, avoiding this from happening again.

 

More Reports Of Infant Deaths Emerge

The number of infant fatalities linked to the Rock ‘n Play was reported to be around 30+ in 2019. However, the number has since increased to 50+, according to the congressional report. (1)(4)

 

Are Rock ‘n Plays Still Recalled?

Yes. Although the brand no longer sells the product, any old stock or used item should never be sold, resold, or even given away for free.

 

Fisher-Price Disputes Committee Findings, Stands By Their Products’ Safety 

In response to the 2021 congressional committee report, Fisher-Price Senior Vice President and General Manager Mr. Chuck Scothon disputes the findings and stands by the safety of their company’s products. (8)

Scothon clarifies that Fisher-Price no longer sells the Rock ’n Play Sleeper or other products under the inclined sleeper category. 

He explained that they had also recalled both the Fisher-Price 4-in-1 Rock ’n Glide Soother and the Fisher-Price 2-in-1 Soothe ’n Play Glider after assessing the risks relating to the deaths or injuries linked to the Rock ’n Play Sleeper.

The general manager pointed out that the soother and glider weren’t marketed for sleeping. Still, due to the possibility of misuse and babies left unsupervised in these products, they decided to issue the recall. (8)

Like the inclined sleepers, the company no longer sells products in the glider category.

Still, Scothon insists on these products’ safety, explaining that these sleepers complied with the standards and tests set by the following: (8)

  • ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standard applicable to bassinets
  • JPMA (Juvenile Product Manufacturing Association) Certification program
  • CPSC

 

He also added that Fisher-Price and parent company Mattel exerted all efforts to inform consumers about the recall by: (8)

  • Posting recall information on their official websites and social media pages
  • Sending email notifications to registered Rock ’n Play Sleeper owners
  • Collaborating with retailers to provide in-store signages
  • Encouraging retailers to provide notice for their customers about the recall
  • Undertaking efforts to search and seek the removal of recalled products from second-hand or resale sites like eBay and Facebook Marketplace
  • Working with a third party to identify and inform daycare center operators about the recall

 

Despite Scothon’s assurance that they’re no longer selling products under the glider or inclined sleeper categories, potentially unsafe products like the Fisher-Price rockers are still on the market: (9)

  • Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rockers
  • Fisher-Price Newborn-to-Toddler Rockers

 

While these rockers aren’t marketed as sleepers, many parents mistakenly believe that they’re safe for sleeping.

 

Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ’n Play Sleeper Recall 2013

  • Date of recall: January 8, 2013
  • Contact details (toll-free) for returns and refunds: 1-800-432-5437 from Monday through Friday, from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM ET or service.mattel.com

 

In 2013, Fisher-Price voluntarily recalled these newborn sleepers due to reports of mold potentially developing between their metal or hard plastic frames and the removable, washable fabric covers. (10)

The CPSC instructed consumers to inspect their products for signs of mold indicated by dark brown, gray, or black spots under the removable seat cushion. (10)

If you find mold, the CPSC recommends that you immediately stop using the product with your baby. You can also contact Fisher-Price for further assistance or cleaning instructions.

Fisher-Price explained that this isn’t a manufacturing defect but could happen if the sleepers aren’t cleaned regularly or remain wet and moist with continued use. (10)

The recall didn’t include the sleepers in retail stores. (10)

 

FAQs

Is Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Safe?

Canada’s national health agency, Health Canada, declared in their recall alert that they weren’t aware of any danger that might be associated with this item when used for supervised playtime or soothing. (6)

However, the CPSC now classifies these products as dangerous. They have moved to get all inclined sleeper products off the market.

 

Can I Still Use The Rock ‘n Play?

Although many parents and daycare centers continued to use the sleeper because they were unaware of the recall and the product’s safety concerns, the CPSC and AAP advise against doing this.

Fisher-Price continues to remove all recalled Rock ‘n Play sleepers (and other recalled products) from the market, including second-hand online shops.

 

Why Are Inclined Sleepers Dangerous?

The deaths of at least 94 babies and injuries experienced by more than 1,100 are enough reasons to consider inclined sleepers dangerous. (1)(3)

Most of the babies who were found dead in these dangerous products were declared to have died from accidental asphyxiation (suffocation). (1)(3)

Many have rolled over but got stuck in the position wherein their noses and mouths were covered by the sleepers’ thick fabric and foam. (1)(3)

But even if your baby isn’t sleeping, these inclined products could still be dangerous to use. 

The product’s inclined angle and babies’ inability to control their necks can increase their risk of suffocation because their heads might move forward and bend at an angle that could obstruct their airways and restrict breathing.

 

What Needs To Be Done?

Fisher-Price has already recalled and no longer manufactures or sells Rock ‘n Play sleepers. 

However, many pediatricians, health experts, and the congressional committee want the removal of all inclined sleepers and similar products from the market, not just this Fisher-Price product.

They also want to have Section 6(b) of the CPSA repealed to: (1)

  • Give more power to the CPSC to expose companies’ unsafe products and issue safety recalls without their approval or prior consent
  • Stop companies from using their influence to keep their potentially unsafe products on the market

 

The congressional committee also recommends that manufacturers should be required to submit a report to the CPSC demonstrating the safety of any product that falls outside the mandatory safety standards. (1)

This report should establish the product’s safety through research or consultation with relevant experts. 

Based on these proposed guidelines, new products shouldn’t be released until the CPSC concludes that they’re safe. (1)

 

Safety Tips

  • Never leave your baby unattended in an inclined sleeper or similar products.
  • Don’t let your baby sleep on inclined products. 
  • Instead, put them to sleep on a firm, flat surface.
  • Avoid putting blankets, crib bumpers, soft toys, and other objects in your baby’s sleeping area.
  • A pacifier might help reduce SIDS risks.
  • Search for product recalls & safety alerts or customers’ safety concerns and reports on saferproducts.gov and similar government and federal websites.

 

Rock ‘n Play Alternatives

 

 

 

References

(1) https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/Inclined%20Sleeper%20Report.pdf

(2) https://www.cdc.gov/sids/data.htm

(3) https://chicago.suntimes.com/2021/6/4/22519496/infant-inclined-sleeper-consumer-product-safety-commission-fisher-price-rock-n-play-bassinet

(4) https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fisher-price-rock-n-play-sleeper-recall-urged-immediately-by-american-academy-of-pediatrics-this-product-is-deadly/

(5) https://globalnews.ca/news/5280564/fisher-price-newborn-rock-n-play-sleeper-recalled-canada/

(6) https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/infant-sleeping-chairs-linked-to-32-deaths-in-u-s-recalled-in-canada-1.4423832?cache=yes

(7) https://safetosleep.nichd.nih.gov/research/science/other

(8) https://www.congress.gov/117/meeting/house/112721/witnesses/HHRG-117-GO00-Wstate-ScothonC-20210607.pdf

(9) https://www.cbsnews.com/news/infant-sleepers-rockers-babies-deaths-fisher-price-kids2/

(10) https://detroit.cbslocal.com/2013/01/08/consumers-warned-to-check-fisher-price-infant-sleepers-after-reports-of-mold/

 

 

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