#childsafety | Inclined sleepers: Experts warn against dangerous baby sleeping practice


“The public is being treated as a testing lab for dangerous products. Safety tests should be conducted in factories, not in people’s homes.”

Sara Thompson only left her three-month-old baby sleeping in his rocker for a few minutes, but when she came back into the room, his head was positioned at a strange angle and he was unresponsive.

“I yanked him out of the sleeper and tried to remember CPR,” she told American group, Consumer Reports. Neither Sara nor the paramedics could revive the infant. After less than 15 minutes lying in an inclined rocker, the baby was gone.

Eight years later, Fisher-Price issued a recall of inclined rockers after 73 infants died. Sara’s baby was among the victims.

Two inclined sleepers have been recalled in Australia and CHOICE experts are calling on the government to tighten product safety laws, saying that inclined sleepers are so dangerous for young babies, they should be completely avoided.

“The public is being treated as a testing lab for dangerous products,” product safety campaigner, Amy Pereira, told CHOICE. “Safety tests should be conducted in factories, not in people’s homes.”

The Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper was recalled in 2019 after 73 infants died. Photo: Mattel

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“Families should be able to assume products are safe”

“Inclined sleepers are particularly hazardous because of their soft, sloped surface,” she said. “This kind of surface may increase the risk of sudden and unexpected death, as babies can roll over or have their head fall forward… and suffocate.”

Pereira believes that the onus to check safety should be on the manufacturer, not the consumer.

“We’ve seen countless examples of unsafe products flooding our homes. It shouldn’t be up to the person buying the product to check whether it’s going to harm them or not.

“They should be able to assume it’s safe.”

Inclined sleepers make it easy for babies to suffocate. Illustration: Chris Philpot for Consumer Reports

Read about why the safe sleep guidelines aren’t realistic and the mum who sued Etsy after her baby was strangled by a teething necklace.

“There is no such thing as a safe inclined sleeper”

Last year Consumer Reports connected the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper with dozens of infant deaths. The company responded by recalling all 4.7 million sleepers.

Another independent study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in America monitored movements and oxygen levels of 10 infants, aged between two and six months old, while sleeping in inclined sleepers.

The researchers found that inclined sleepers allowed babies to move differently from when they slept on a firm, flat surface.

“Babies were able to roll over more easily from their backs to their tummies,” researchers said.

Rolling over caused babies to exert more energy, meaning they were exhausted when they rolled over, making it easier for the babies to suffocate.

The study concluded “none of the inclined sleep products that were tested and evaluated as part of this study are safe for infant sleep.”

Inclined sleepers allow babies to roll over and exhaust themselves from exertion. Photo: iStock

The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) confirmed this finding. “There is no such thing as a safe infant inclined sleeper,” the AAP said in a statement.

“[An infant sleeper is] a product that typically positions an infant at an incline of up to 30 degrees and usually has design elements such as a rounded sleep surface and plush side padding.

“The AAP recommends infants sleep on their backs, alone, unrestrained, on a firm, flat surface, free of padding, bumpers and other soft bedding.”

Based on the infant deaths and the American studies, CHOICE said in a statement, “inclined sleepers are a tragedy waiting to happen in our homes.”

The consumer group is calling for a change to the law where all products are subject to “basic and sensible safety checks before going on sale.”

in cot

Babies should sleep on their backs on a firm mattress with a tightly fitting sheet and no other bedding or toys around them. Photo: iStock

“I was searching for answers when there weren’t any”

At the time, doctors ruled Alex’s case “sudden unexplained infant death,” the heartbroken mum recalled.

She spent nearly a decade questioning her actions and wondering if she could have done something differently.

“What if I hadn’t set him down? What if I had taken him with me to play Mr Potato Head [with my older child]?

“I was searching for answers when there weren’t any.”

“If it weren’t for [the recall], I would still be questioning myself about what went wrong, why my baby died,” she said.


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