Health & Medicine

Report ties 50 infant deaths to inclined sleepers, but U.S. watchdog has not issued recall

Keyshla Rivera smiles at her newborn son Jesus as registered nurse Christine Weick demonstrates a baby box before her discharge from Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia on May 6. In an effort to reduce infant mortality, the boxes, which are functioning bassinets complete with a sheet and mattress as well as essential baby supplies. will be given free-of-charge to all mothers who deliver at the hospital.
Keyshla Rivera smiles at her newborn son Jesus as registered nurse Christine Weick demonstrates a baby box before her discharge from Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia on May 6. In an effort to reduce infant mortality, the boxes, which are functioning bassinets complete with a sheet and mattress as well as essential baby supplies. will be given free-of-charge to all mothers who deliver at the hospital. Associated Press

The deaths of at least 50 infants have been linked to those comfy-looking inclined sleepers that have been marketed as great for babies’ naptime and nighttime, according to Consumer Reports magazine.

Parents whose infants have died have taken to the internet to share how their losses occurred in an effort to keep it from happening again. One couple, Evan and Keenan Overton, said they found their son, 5-month-old Ezra, on his stomach and unresponsive days before Christmas in 2018. They had gotten the Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper as hand-me-down from neighbors who had described it as a “lifesaver.”

Other parents found their infants had died with their heads tilted in positions that compressed their airways, leading to asphyxiation, the magazine stated.

Since the article appeared in Consumer Reports, two manufacturers of inclined sleepers have recalled their products in the United States. Fisher-Price recalled 4.7 million Rock ’n Play Sleeper and a manufacturer called Kids II has recalled 694,000 of its Rocking Sleepers.

The magazine said that other manufacturers such as Baby Delight, Evenflo and Hiccapop continue to sell similar products, and although the Consumer Product Safety Commission released an update on related fatalities last week, it hasn’t taken any action against such products.

The safety commission has deferred to a standard-setting organization known as ASTM International, which has manufacturers, government officials, medical experts, consumers and others in its membership. They set voluntary industry standards for thousands of products and processes, and over the objections of Consumer Reports and other members, an ASTM subcommittee chose to study the issue more and reconvene in October 2019 for further discussion.

Don Huber, director of product safety at Consumer Reports, who sits on more than a dozen ASTM panels, said in a news release: “It was unbelievable to be in that meeting and hear that the industry needs more data to eliminate the category.”

When Fisher-Price and others introduced inclined sleepers a decade ago, he noted, they had to provide no evidence that the products were safe for sleep.

“Why is there a greater burden to provide data to remove a hazard than to introduce one?” Huber asked.

Pediatricians and other health experts say parents should adhere to the ABC’s of sleeping for their children under age 1. That means the baby should sleep alone, on its back, in a crib, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The infant’s crib can be placed in a caregiver’s room, pediatricians say, but the child shouldn’t sleep in the caregiver’s bed because that increases the risk of asphyxiation. They also say it’s good to change the direction in which the baby lies in the crib, putting the child in one direction on odd days and the other direction on even days.

Keep the crib free of bumpers, blankets and toys that can smother the infant, and make sure the mattress is firm enough to prevent the child’s face from sinking down into the surface.

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