As yet another report from the US warns us about the growing numbers of infants whose deaths have been attributed to inclined sleepers and similar products, these unsafe nursery items remain on sale in Australia, either in store or online.
Sadly, since 32 deaths were linked to the Fisher-Price Rock’n’Play infant inclined sleeper or this type of product and its voluntary recall in April 2019, this number has risen to 73 known deaths according to the authorities in the USA. At this stage, it is unknown whether any infant deaths associated with infant inclined sleepers have occurred in Australia; however, the danger to infants here is equally as high.
In Australia, bouncinettes are not generally marketed in Australia as a sleeping device; however, we know that if a baby falls asleep in one, there is a temptation to leave them sleeping in it.
Bouncinettes are inclined products for infants and should carry safety warnings in alignment with either European EN or US ASTM standards. This WARNING includes:
1. Never leave the child unattended.
2. Do not use the reclined cradle once your child can sit unaided.
3. This reclined cradle is not intended for prolonged periods of sleeping.
4. It is dangerous to use this reclined cradle on an elevated surface, e.g. a table.
However, Soteria and other product safety advocates believe we need to take a stronger stance in Australia, similar to New Zealand’s, and upgrade the warning to state that these products should not be used an infant sleeping device.
Infants should not be placed in a tilted position or on an incline to sleep, nor should they be propped up with a bottle to settle. With the head elevated, an infant is in a position that could lead to positional asphyxia. In addition, in an unsupervised environment, products that can rock an infant to sleep or require restraints to be used can lead to potential and lethal entrapment or suffocation hazards.
With the holy grail of getting baby to sleep dangled as a core selling point, infant inclined sleepers and items like them have become especially popular with parents. Although the manufacturers’ promises of benefits, even with no proven evidence of these, are numerous, little, if any, safety assessments were made before being rushed to market. (In the Fisher-Price court case in 2018, a deposition from the designer of the Rock’n’Play infant sleeper stated that she could not recall researching the issue … she never talked to local doctors or the American Academy of Pediatrics.) Endorsements by celebrities on social media or reality TV only confuse parents further.
Child safety bodies in Australia regularly advocate for unsafe baby products to be removed from the market and are working on guidelines for manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers so parents can have confidence the products they use for their infants pass the high standards of safety expected for our most vulnerable little ones. To date, this category of infant inclined sleepers has not been banned in Australia but one of the largest online stores, eBay, banned their sale on their website in December 2019.
Here is more information from the website Consumers Report that provides a list of this group of infant inclined sleeper products recalled so far in the USA.
Choice recently called on authorities to take action against selling inclined sleepers. Choice also emphasised that there are many other infant sleeping products being sold in Australia that continue to have no regulatory standards and their testing has identified a significant range of products that failed to meet safety criteria. This highlights there is still much to be done in this area of child safety.
Until these guidelines are developed and accepted by the nursery product industry, it is important that parents are given accurate information to allow them to assess whether any of these products are suitable and, more importantly, safe for their child.
To help parents make an informed decision if they are considering an inclined sleeper or similar product for their child, Soteria Safe Sleeping has looked at the benefits claimed by manufacturers, what the scientifically based evidence states, the gaps between each and any potential and lethal hazards these products present – it makes interesting reading.
It’s really difficult to know what to believe when there are so many conflicting claims for so many different infant products out there so click here to learn more about the difference between manufacturers' claims and what the scientific evidence shows!