How the Rock ’n Play became a cult baby product — and why Fisher-Price is recalling it

The Fisher-Price Play ‘n Rock has been one of the most popular baby products on the market since it came out in 2009. It has developed a cult following among sleep-deprived parents, with thousands of glowing reviews, due to its music, vibration, rocking, and reclining features.

Recently, there has been increased scrutiny regarding the safety issues surrounding the product, as it has been linked to at least 32 infant fatalities. On April 12, Fisher-Price’s parent company, Mattel, made an announcement stating that they would be recalling all of their Rock ‘n Plays. The company strongly advises consumers to cease using the product without delay.

Infant fatalities have occurred in Fisher-Price’s Rock ‘n Play Sleepers due to circumstances such as infants rolling from their back to their side or stomach while being unrestrained, prompting the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue a warning.

Fisher-Price has recalled 4.7 million Rock ’n Play products.

The group of parents is being shaken by the announcement, during a period when the infant industry is thriving, about 4.7 million items are currently being withdrawn.

How the Rock ’n Play became so popular — and so controversial

When a decade ago, Dr. Harvey Karp, an expert in baby sleep and pediatrics, introduced Play ‘n Rock, it provided a solution for infants to fall asleep without needing to be held in the womb, as it mimics the movement and sound that comfort newborns.

Lately, Alexis Dubief, an expert on infant sleep, informed NPR that newborns struggle to sleep and have an inadequately regulated system. They require significant assistance to both initiate and maintain sleep, and infants generally sleep quite well in Rock ‘n Plays. Numerous parents recognize that sleeping in a crib is considered the safest option. They are well aware of this fact. These parents are not uninformed. However, they also experience extreme sleep deprivation. The truth is that people endure severe consequences due to lack of sleep.

Priced between $50 and $90, the Rock ‘n Play was relatively inexpensive — unlike expensive vibrating bassinets such as Karp’s Snoo, which comes with a hefty $1,300 price tag. Despite the potential risks associated with co-sleeping, some parents still choose to use the Rock ‘n Play during nighttime hours because it provides a convenient way to have their baby close by for rocking, comforting, and feeding purposes. Co-sleeping has been associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related hazards like suffocation, where parents sleep with their infants in their own beds. As Dubief pointed out, the Rock ‘n Play offered a welcomed alternative to co-sleeping.

In a product review, a baby gear blogger wrote, “the incorporated music and soothing movement will rapidly calm even the most irritable infant,” referring to it as a ‘lifesaver’: certain.

On Target’s website, a different owner of the Rock ‘n Play expressed in a review, “It embraces them as though someone is still embracing them.” I am confident that this is the reason why she began sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old and continues to sleep in it every night. My daughter is currently 3 months old.

According to the Bargains Baby blog, Fisher-Price released as many as 36 different versions of the Play ‘n Rock Baby Rocker, which includes several speeds and a smartphone-enabled edition.

The Fisher-Price website states that the Baby Per Rock ‘n Play is a product designed to provide a comfortable sleep for babies throughout the night, with an inclined seat that promotes longer sleep durations.

Since the American Academy of Pediatrics issued these guidelines in 1992, the number of SIDS-related deaths has significantly decreased. These guidelines aim to curb SIDS by limiting factors such as suffocation, as there is no exact known cause. Therefore, babies are supposed to sleep on flat, firm surfaces without any blankets or pillows. However, there are claims against these prevention guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Some models of Play ‘n Rock come with toys and pillow headrests that could further increase the risk of asphyxia. The reclining position of Rock the Play ‘n can put babies at risk of limited breathing and compromised airways. However, some models of Play ‘n Rock also come with toys and pillow headrests that could further increase the risk of suffocation.

Health experts have been cautioning for years that the Rock ‘n Play is not secure.

In 2015, Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician, wrote a letter to the company expressing her belief that it is irresponsible to promote the Play ‘n Rock Sleeper as a safe option for overnight sleeping for infants, as it puts babies at risk. She also asked the company to consider re-marketing the Sleeper as a comfortable and portable infant seat, intended for temporary rest and play observation.

In 2013, Professor Roy Benaroch, a pediatrician at Emory University, wrote a detailed blog post about the hazards of using the Play ‘n Rock for infants. Although some parents believed that these devices would help their babies sleep better, medical professionals have largely debunked this theory. However, parents of infants experiencing acid reflux, especially those caring for them during prolonged sleep periods, have continued to use the Play ‘n Rock.

“According to one commenter, a lifesaver is something that parents of babies with reflux cannot go without, as their babies could not sleep on their bellies or backs for 8 months.”

The deaths linked to the Rock ’n Play

A detailed report released on April 8, 2018, by Consumer Reports found that at least 32 infant deaths between 2011 and 2018 have been linked to asphyxia caused by the Play ‘n Rock.

The Wall Street Journal reported that inclined baby sleepers, which have caused over 700 injuries since 2005, were brought to the attention of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

After being confronted by Consumer Reports and the Fisher-Price-CPSC about infant deaths, a warning was issued to parents that babies who can start rolling over and are older than 3 months should stop using the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play. (Last year, a 6-month-old baby died in a Rock ‘n Play.)

On April 9th, the Price-Fisher incident took place. The American Academy of Pediatrics highlighted the lack of a sufficient warning for a potentially fatal product, which led to a reversal of the previous warning. The original instructions for the Play ‘n Rock product stated that it should only be used for babies weighing at least 25 pounds.

According to a statement from Dr. Rachel Moon, a member of the AAP, the Rock ‘n Play inclined sleeper must be promptly taken off the market. It fails to meet the AAP’s guidelines for creating a secure sleep setting for infants. “It is imperative that we do not jeopardize the well-being of any more children by continuing to sell these hazardous items.”

Buy Buy Baby has removed all of their Rock ‘n Play merchandise, just like Amazon and other websites. Mattel is providing refunds to customers who have bought the item within the last half-year, and the recall advisory advises parents to cease using the Rock ‘n Play without delay. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released their statement three days after Fisher-Price and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) initiated the recall.

The crib wasn’t secure, as product evaluations were filled with grievances when they resorted to the internet. They were attracted to the Rock ‘n Play partly because it was manufactured by such a reputable company as Fisher-Price, mentioned some parents who conversed with Consumer Reports.

In 2015, a reviewer expressed, “Needless to mention I promptly returned it.” “I purchased this item because I believed an incline would assist my baby in sleeping more comfortably while dealing with reflux symptoms, yet it turned out to be too steep for her, resulting in an uncomfortable position for her neck while resting in it.”

The Rock ‘n Play Sleeper is being recalled voluntarily because there have been incidents reported where the product was used in a way that goes against the safety warnings and instructions. Chuck Scothon, the vice president of Fisher-Price, stated in an email to Vox that they believe their products are safe. On the contrary, Mattel is not acknowledging any flaws in their product.

The company strongly recommends parents to follow those instructions in order to ensure a safe sleep environment for babies and to read the instructions prior to using their Rock ‘n Play sleeper. The Journal reached out to Mattel last year when a complaint was filed against them regarding the death of a 6-month-old related to the use of the sleeper.

The product, known as DockATot, claims to offer a better way to co-sleep by elevating the baby’s position and providing soft walls to prevent easy obstruction of airway. However, doctors have stated that despite the claims made by the product, it can still pose a risk to the baby as it is meant to be placed in the parents’ bed, serving as an alternative to co-sleeping. In fact, last year Canada issued a warning against such popular co-sleeping alternatives, including the DockATot, due to incidents of babies falling out of sleepers and even linked to five infant deaths. This is not the first time a baby sleeper has faced criticism, as a product called Nanny Nap was recalled in 2013 after being linked to 92 incidents of babies falling out and causing harm.

There were no incidents resulting from the design or malfunction of the product. In four cases, there were no extenuating circumstances relating to the failure to follow instructions or the product’s sleep. Reports from Consumer And have already linked at least four infant deaths to a similar product, the Ingenuity Moonlight Rocking Sleeper made by Kids II. Celebrities like Lauren Conrad and Kourtney Kardashian openly endorse the DockATot, a sleeping product that is also a best-seller on Amazon. However, the US Food and Drug Administration has advised parents against using baby sleep products that claim to be “anti-rollers” or “nests” due to the increased risk of suffocation.

All of these hazardous items have been taken out, and it may take some time before it happens. However, there are still numerous similar ones available for purchase. Kids II, the manufacturer that Consumer Reports associated with infant fatalities, had several versions of baby sleepers. The CPSC recalled nearly 700,000 of these sleepers on Friday, April 26.