When looking for an affordable sleeping option for newborns, many first time parents hear that the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play (RNP) is great for use as a bassinet. But is it? In recent years, there have been quite a few recalls on the RNP, but this fact has left die-hard RNP fans undeterred. I’ve encountered parents who swear by the RNP and witnessed firsthand their cult-like obsession with pushing the product on new moms and dads.
The huge problem with the RNP cult following is that they’re uninformed (or willfully ignorant) about the dangers of the RNP as an overnight sleeping device. Leaving newborns and infants to sleep on an incline, unless specifically advised to do so by your pediatrician, is very risky. Although RNP fans insist that the incline is a benign design, research has shown that newborns and infants should be lying flat on their backs, with no incline, to reduce the risk of SIDS. The only time an incline is advised is in severe cases where a newborn or infant has digestive issues that warrant the need to be inclined, thus reducing their own personal risk of choking on vomit or decreasing reflux symptoms. There have been many pediatricians who have advised against using anything other than a bassinet or crib with a firm, flat surface for sleeping.
Natasha Burgert, MD wrote a fantastic article in 2012 on why Fisher Price needed to stop marketing the RNP as a great option for overnight sleep. Burgert is a pediatrician who cites the guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics in her article. Burgert also explains how the RNP can cause physical deformities such as a flat head.
Although all the research from AAP, pediatricians speaking out against the RNP, the recalls imposed by the US federal government, and the fact that Canada has banned sales of the RNP has no effect on diehard RNP fanatics.
Above is a collection of comments from a couple BabyCenter Community discussions about the RNP. Those who are fans of the RNP seem to be anti-information and stubbornly against AAP guidelines and actual research. Despite the AAPs guidelines for infant sleep being easy to find, these parents insist they know better than the experts (board certified pediatricians) when it comes to where their babies should sleep. Suggesting a specific model of the RNP with more padding and a softer surface, in fact, makes the RNP even more dangerous than just the incline alone. It seems that some of the RNP fans have read the warnings and disregard current research. It’s scary and sad that these parents and parents-to-be would knowingly put their child at risk just to get some more sleep. Fact: most infants/newborns do not sleep through the night. Fact: most infants/newborns wake up several times throughout the night. Fact: most infants/newborns wake when they’re hungry and need to be fed. Fact: SIDS is real and increasing your baby’s risk for SIDS is a serious issue.
I firmly believe the RNP should be taken off the market because it has been proven to cause deformities and its very design increases the risk of SIDS. Fisher Price will continue marketing and selling the RNP as long as consumers will buy it, but with the RNP being such a dangerous device (and parents clearly ignoring all the research) I believe the US should follow Canada’s lead and take the RNP off the shelves. Bottom line: don’t buy a RNP because the potential reward (an infant sleeping through the night) is not worth the risk.
1. “Fisher Price Recalls to Inspect Rock ‘n Play Infant Sleepers Due to Risk of Exposure to Mold.” United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. <http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/2013/Fisher-Price-Recalls-to-Inspect-Rock-N-Play-Infant-Sleepers-Due-to-Risk-of-Exposure-to-Mold/>
2. “Dear Fisher Price.” KC Kids Doc; Doctor Natasha. <http://kckidsdoc.com/dear-fisher-price.html>
3. “Reduce the Risk of SIDS.” healthychildren.org <http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/Preventing-SIDS.aspx>
4. “Sudden Infant Deaths in Sitting Devices.” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=.%20Côté%20A%2C%20Bairam%20A%2C%20Deschenes%20M%2C%20Hatzakis%20G.%20Sudden%20infant%20deaths%20in%20sitting%20devices.%20Arch%20Dis%20Child.%202008%3B93(5)%3A384%20–389>
5. “AAP Expands Guidelines for Infant Sleep Safety and SIDS Risk Reduction.” American Academy of Pediatrics. <http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Expands-Guidelines-for-Infant-Sleep-Safety-and-SIDS-Risk-Reduction.aspx>
What kinds of deformities have been reported? We used this product for our son and he truly loved it. However he did have some skull flattening but it was likely due to a retained hematoma from birthing plus he hated tummy time.
Mrs. Bottlesoup says
Erica, this article includes a lot of information on the deformities, including brachycephaly/plagiocephaly and torticollis, but here’s an excerpt:
“When an infant is placed in a sleep environment as suggested by the AAP, infants are allowed natural body movements during sleep. They are able to freely move their head from side to side, and move their arms and legs to achieve different comfort positions throughout the night.
The Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper does not allow body movement to occur during sleep. The soft-bottomed “sleeper” cradles the infant during sleep and secures this position with an included restrictive safety harness. These design elements confine an infant in only one position for the entire duration of sleep (up to 16 hours a day).
As a consequence to babies being restricted to one sleep position for multiple hours per day, infants using the Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper are developing plagiocephaly/brachycephaly (“flat head”) and torticollis. These are significant diagnoses potentially requiring expensive head-molding helmets and physical therapy.
My observational experience is not unique. There are currently numerous complaints online that should not be ignored. For example, one mother writes:
We were finally referred to a specialist because we kept voicing our concerns with our pediatrician and it turns out our son was diagnosed with severe brachycephaly and moderate plagiocephaly. We are now getting him fitted for a $3,800 helmet that he’ll have to wear 23 hrs each day. He also has torticollis, which is the tightening of the neck muscles, caused by the way he favored one side in the sleeper. He has to do daily stretches which he hates, but hopefully he won’t need physical therapy. I truly believe that this sleeper caused these problems and I would NOT recommend this product to anyone…it’s just not worth the risk.
-From Product Review on Amazon.com
Frequent tummy time during waking hours, and holding babies in upright positions during play time, are not enough to counter the negative effects in head and body positioning that 16 hours a day in this product will produce.
Lying on a flat, firm surface is a better option for healthy development of our infants; and should be preferred to the physically restrictive, overnight sleep in the Rock n’ Play™ Sleeper.”
Misty Chapman says
Thank you for attempting to bring attention to this issue! My son suffered from torticullis and plagiocephaly because of the RNP sleeper. Luckily we caught it early because his head shape returned to normal after a few months without having to wear a helmet. But he did have to have physical therapy for over a year. I was one of those parents who loved the RNP, especially because my some suffered from reflux. But luckily we figured out that it caused this condition and stopped using it. Parents who have one are very resistant to believe that it caused this condition. But I am confident that it did. I urged fisher price to take it off the market, but of course I had no luck. They did refund my money after I shipped it back to them. But it makes me sick that they have had so many complaints and still claim that is is safe for overnight sleeping.
Mrs. Bottlesoup says
Thank you for sharing your story, Misty. I share your astonishment that this product is still on the market. With other countries banning it, I hope the US follows suit soon.
Every baby is different. Some babies just will not sleep on their backs. I have had one that would wake between 5 minutes and 1 hour when put on her back swaddled. So sometimes you have to evaluate choices that are not ideal (tummy sleep? sleep on you? rock n play? cry it out so she stays on back?).
Mrs. Bottlesoup says
If your pediatrician recommends it for your unique situation, then by all means follow your doctor’s advice. However, if it’s just for conveinence, that’s a dangerous chance to take, no?
There is quite a bit of research out there to show that allowing your baby to sleep at an incline is actually good for them. We got the RNP for my newborn because of reflux and it was amazing. Then she had surgery and had to be on an incline again to reduce swelling. In both situations sleeping on a flat hard surface was NOT advised. It sounds like you’re writing an opinion piece and not one based on scientific fact.
Mrs. Bottlesoup says
Your experience is anecdotal. There are many doctors that advise against the RNP, because it’s not safe. In Canada, the RNP is banned. These are not opinions; these are facts. Always consult with your doctor who knows your child best and is trained to give you medical advice. However, the RNP should not be used for sleeping. That is an honest fact, and I cited my sources within the article.
FYI I found out about the rock and play from my peditrician who said to purchase it for sleeping
For the infants with acid reflux and digestive issues who need it wouldn’t it be a great disservice to take it off of the market…better have a baby choke on their own vomit to appease an author who seems hell bent on believing what American Academy of Pediatrics say…FYI I was placed on my stomach as per the AAP as where many and that wasn’t so long ago….maybe you shouldn’t lump everything into one basket and look outside the box much like fisher price did when making a safe product for infants with reflux or even a cold! When a pediatrician says to put baby with a cold on an incline which they do I suppose you would think it better to leave them in a car seat as products like rock and play would no longer be available! From a tummy sleeper who survived and a mother of 2 who have survived the rock and play get a grip!