Updated: Apr 26, 2019
You don't need it anyway. You can ditch the Rock 'n Play quickly and easily, and your baby's future sleep will be much better as a result.
Some perspective on the Rock ‘n Play “Recall” – From a Sleep Consultant
**THE CPSC HAS NOW OFFICIALLY RECALLED ALL MODELS OF FISHER-PRICE ROCK 'N PLAYS. If you have one, stop using it immediately. Do not sell or donate it. Contact Fisher-Price for a refund or voucher, and dispose of the product. Visit www.service.mattel.com or call 866-812-6518.
First, it’s now technically a recall. Here are the facts:
On April 5th, Fisher-Price issued a joint alert with the Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC) recommending parents stop using the Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper as soon as a baby starts to roll over, or at three months, whichever comes first (1).
On April 9th, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) called for Fisher-Price to issue a total recall of the product after 32 infant deaths were linked to the Rock 'n Play since 2009 (2).
The Rock ‘n Play has now been tied to 32 infant deaths, including some infants whose parents used the product properly. Some of the infants died of positional asphyxiation (suffocation) caused by the incline position of the baby in the product (1). Basically, when laying on the non-flat surface of the Rock ‘n Play, they baby’s head can tilt forward chin to chest and obstruct the airway, causing suffocation.
The AAP states that, “infants should always sleep alone, on their backs, on a flat and firm surface without any bumpers, loose blankets or other bedding. 3” The Rock ‘n Play violates several of these guidelines, as it positions babies on an incline (not flat), has pillow-like padding, and has a sling-style seat that is not firm. These three things are known to cause increased risk of suffocation and SIDS (4).
This is not, however, new information. The AAP has had “Back to Sleep” safety guidelines out in various forms since 1992, and has re-confirmed the research supporting the urgency of their sleep guidelines in 2005, 2011, and 2016 (4). The Rock ‘n Play has been on the market in many different models since 2009, and has had these design issues since its original model launch. It is not currently (and has never been) approved for sleep by the AAP (2).
In fact, none of the motion-based baby positioners on the market are safe for unsupervised sleep for one or more of these same reasons. This includes all types of baby swings, strollers, car seats, bouncers, and virtually any other baby-holding device that includes a harness/safety belt. A simple rule is that if a device requires a safety belt, it’s not a safe place for unsupervised sleep. Babies should be moved from these devices as soon as possible if they fall asleep, and should never be intentionally put to sleep in one of these devices to reduce the risk of suffocation.
The truth of the matter is that a crib or bassinet is the safest place for baby to sleep, and every effort should be made to have sleep occur in one. Yes, people have lives and need to transport their children in cars, strollers, etc., but when you have the opportunity, put your baby to sleep in the crib. As soon as you can, transfer a sleeping baby out of an item with a safety belt. This is the take home message from the Rock ‘n Play “recall” (it’s not technically a recall yet.)
I want you to know that the Rock ‘n Play is unsafe for sleep, but it’s also unnecessary. You don’t need it. Your baby will sleep best in a crib now and in the future, I promise. Sleep positioners (like the Rock ‘n Play, Dock-A-Tot, Baby Merlin Magic Sleep Suit, or swing) suppress natural body movements that are required for the development of independent sleep. All of these products carry a risk of suffocation, and could potentially set your child up for future sleep issues such as a lack of self-soothing skills, dependency on positioning or movement of the product, or torticollis and plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) from restricting movement during sleep. In effect, they are sleep props that the babies cannot control or provide for themselves, and they will eventually prevent your child from being able to sleep independently.
Rock ‘n Play lovers, I hear you. I know that the exhaustion and isolation sets in during the black hours of the night, and you just want what’s best for your child – which is sleep. Sleep deprivation is also strongly linked to postpartum depression (6). This sleep consultant knows that if the baby doesn't sleep, nobody sleeps. I know you used the Rock ‘n Play just like millions of other parents who highly recommended it. Many a family has called me when their child is dependent on a sleep positioner that requires a safety belt, and now they can’t use a swaddle at the same time or their child learns to roll and they know it’s too dangerous to continue using the product. I am happy to help them and any other struggling parent. This article is not about shame, judgement, or guilt. We all make judgement calls as parents. This article is an offer of ideas and support. If you want to quit the Rock ‘n Play, here is how to do it.
The very reason the Rock ‘n Play appears to work as a miracle sleeper is the reason it is dangerous.
Sleeping in the Rock ‘n Play on an incline and with wraparound padded sides suppresses babies’ involuntary movements, leading to increased ability to self-soothe and longer periods of unbroken sleep compared to an infant sleeping unswaddled on a flat surface. You can achieve that same movement suppression and unbroken sleep in a much safer way with a simple swaddle in a crib. Add in loud white noise, a pacifier, and some independent sleep skills and you’ll have a predictable, all-night sleeper in no time.
When babies reach 8-12 weeks of age, they need to begin sleeping unswaddled to learn how to position their bodies for comfortable sleep, self-soothe, and overcome their startle reflex. The transition out of the swaddle is one that sometimes sends parents back to sleep positioners like the Rock ‘n Play. I encourage you to steer into the skid here. Practice rolling with your child, do lots of tummy time and out-of-arms playtime on the floor to encourage muscle development that allows baby to find and hold comfortable sleep positions with an unobstructed airway. Get baby out of supportive containers that maintain body position (swing, bouncer, bumbo, sit-me-ups, jumpers, etc.) and onto the floor. Babywear as much as possible to develop core/trunk strength and head control in your baby. Your baby’s nervous system has further developed and she is ready to move her body! It’s a fantastic milestone, and we need to encourage it rather than discourage it with sleep positioners and other supportive containers in order to develop independent sleep skills.
At last, the easiest way to transition to a crib is to simply put baby down in the crib drowsy but awake. Avoid nursing and rocking to sleep before transitioning to the crib. Ensure your child is full, dry, at a comfortable temperature, and has a developmentally appropriate sleep environment (swaddle <12 weeks, pacifier, white noise, very dark room). Feed your baby on a close interval during the day (every 2 hours, not 3-4!) to provide enough calories for sustained overnight sleep.
Follow these guidelines, and you won’t find yourself in need of a Rock ‘n Play. If you are struggling to get your child to sleep in a crib independently, please reach out for help. Sleep deprivation (yours or baby’s!) is always an emergency. Sleepy Apple is happy to help you gently transition to safe, age-appropriate crib sleep.
I now have an eBook available for pre-order on Amazon! I am so excited to share this with parents who are unsure about how to put their children to sleep safely. You don't have to sacrifice all-night sleep to have safe sleep. You can have it all! Visit the link below to pre-order Safe Baby Sleep for $10. The eBook will be delivered automatically on April 26th!
To determine if your child is getting enough sleep, enter your email below to receive the Sleep Guidelines for Children.
For more on sleep products to avoid, see 6 "Must Have" Baby items to totally skip.
If you are struggling with the pacifier, see the Binkie Boundaries blog post.
Amanda Webb is a former Teacher, Newborn Care Specialist and Daycare Provider turned Mom and Pediatric Sleep Consultant. She provides on-demand sleep help for families over the phone, video chat, and email through her consulting company, Sleepy Apple.
1. CPSC ALERT: 05 April 2019. CPSC and Fisher-Price Warn Consumers About Fisher-Price Rock ‘N Play Due to Reports of Death When Infants Roll Over in the Product. https://www.cpsc.gov/Newsroom/News-Releases/2019/CPSC-ALERT-CPSC-and-Fisher-Price-Warn-Consumers-About-Fisher-Price-Rock-N-Play-Due-to-Reports-of-Death-When-Infants-Roll-Over-in-the-Product.
2. AAP Urges U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to Recall Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper. 9 April 2019. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Urges-U-S-Consumer-Product-Safety-Commission-to-Recall-Fisher-Price-Rock-n-Play-Sleeper.aspx
3. Rachel Y. Moon, MD, FAAP. 9 April 2019. How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/A-Parents-Guide-to-Safe-Sleep.aspx
4. Rachel Y. Moon, MD, FAAP. 2016. The AAP Policy Statement "SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment ," and Technical Report, draws on new research and serves as the first update to Academy policy since 2011. SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment. Pediatrics. November 2016, Vol 138 / Issue 5. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e20162938.
5. Federico de Luca and Andrew Hinde. 2016. Effectiveness of the ‘Back-to-Sleep’ campaigns among healthcare professionals in the past 20 years: a systematic review. BMJ Open. 2016; 6(9): e011435. Published online 2016 Sep 30. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011435.
6. Iranpour, S. et. Al. 2016. Association between sleep quality and postpartum depression. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. 21:110. Published online Nov 7 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5322694/