Chances are if you’re an expecting mom, a new mom, a veteran mom, or not a mom at all and just have access to the internet, you’ve heard about the recent recall of the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper. This happened after reports of more than 30 infant deaths over the past 10 years came to light and, to be honest, I can’t believe it took them so long.
I get it. It’s so dang tempting for parents to fork over hundreds of dollars on apparatuses that promise to help your baby…well…sleep like one! Parents of babies with reflux or colic even claim things like Rock ‘n Plays were “lifesavers” in helping their babies sleep at all. But as is the case today and as was the case when the Rock ‘n Play was released in 2009, it is simply not safe for sleep.
As a parent, you’re going to worry. You’ll worry about concrete things like whether your baby has gotten enough to eat or if your toddler is warm enough without a jacket. You’ll worry about abstract things like if your child is happy or whether or not they’ll make good life choices. And you’re going to worry about sleep. Especially when they are a newborn, you’ll worry about sleep. I want to help you worry less about sleep by explaining some of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP’s) safe sleep guidelines and why they are so important.
Place your baby on their back to sleep
Ensure baby sleeps on a firm surface (i.e - a mattress in an approved crib, bassinet, or play yard) covered only by a tightly fitted sheet. (Please remember that adult beds, couches, or chairs are not designed with infant safety in mind.)
There should be no loose bedding, soft objects, toys, or bumpers in the crib.
Keep the nursery temperature between 68-72° Fahrenheit to allow for temperature regulation
Do not allow smoke around your baby. This is a major risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
As you can see, safe sleep guidelines do not include the use of Rock ‘n Plays or even things like swings, DockATots, or other apparatuses often seen on many a baby registry. But why? I’ve heard from so many parents who are totally confused over how their little ones slept for months in a Rock ‘n Play or DockATot and were completely fine, so I wanted to take some time to not just tell you what is recommended but why it’s important.
Why Safe Sleep Matters
A quick disclaimer: none of this is pleasant to talk about. It actually makes me sick to write, but it is so, so important to keep front of mind.
Putting babies to sleep on their tummies, with blankets surrounding them, or even snuggled in a “nest” like a DockATot or a Snuggle Me Lounger can put your newborn at risk for suffocation. Stuffed animals, bumpers, and soft blankets certainly do make a crib look warm and cozy. But, as boring as it sounds, a firm, flat mattress is the best and safest option for your little one. Infants can get tangled up in blankets and loose bedding and can have their airways blocked. When they are not strong enough to free themselves on their own, anything extra in the crib poses a suffocation risk.
Suffocation risk was one of the initial catalysts for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to warn parents about using the Rock n’ Play with children over 3 months of age. In the 10 original cases reported, babies over 3 months of age were rolling in the Rock n’ Play, getting stuck, and becoming unable to breathe. Of course, we know now that there were more issues associated with the Rock n’ Play because it is not (and has never been) safe for sleep.
Putting babies at an incline (i.e. anything that’s NOT a flat surface) can put them at risk for something called positional asphyxiation. Because babies’ heads are so large and heavy, they are more likely to flop forward during sleep. Babies’ tracheas are also very small and this along with their lack of muscle strength and inability to control their head and neck can cause their airways to be blocked very easily. This can happen quickly – I’m talking like 60 seconds. While babies’ heads frequently fall into this position while their bodies are relaxed during sleep, it is not impossible for positional asphyxiation to happen while a baby is awake. This is why it is so important to both properly restrain your baby using the appropriate safety straps and to also closely supervise them if you are using any type of inclined seat during awake times. If you are looking for an alternative place to set your baby down while you use the bathroom or make dinner, I would recommend a portable bassinet or a play yard, both of which are safe and approved for sleep.
Carbon Dioxide Rebreathing
There is a concept known as “carbon-dioxide rebreathing” which is one of the reasons why even things like DockATots that are marketed as “breathable” are still not safe to use in your baby’s crib, in your bed, or for any sleep situation. What most parents (and even medical professionals) don’t realize is that carbon dioxide rebreathing is something researchers believe contributes heavily to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. As your baby breaths in oxygen, they breathe out carbon dioxide. If their face is too close to fabric (like the side of a DockATot or a bumper in a crib), that little space begins to fill with carbon dioxide and they will begin to inhale more of their previously exhaled carbon dioxide instead of oxygen. Surprisingly enough to many parents, DockATots are not meant for sleep situations and are only recommended for supervised lounging during awake periods. You can see why.
Sleep Through the Night SAFELY!
Safe sleep is non-negotiable in my book. I’m all for “you do you,” when it comes to whether you want to have a natural or medicated birth, breastfeed or bottle feed, work in or out of the home, or even how you choose to discipline. But when it comes to sleep, I’m putting my foot down. Please know, this does not come from a place of judgment or shame; it is my JOB to educate families on how to sleep safely because lives depend on it!
It is possible for your child to sleep through the night AND do it safely. There are many different sleep teaching techniques out there that can help you get rid of the external and unsafe props that you may be relying upon. But if you want a customized plan with expert guidance and support to finally ditch that Dock a Tot or say goodbye to your Rock ‘n Play, you know where to find me!