As a Family Support Worker, I have found that, aside from feeding, parents have more questions around sleep than any other subject. There are many sleep furniture products on the market it can be difficult for parents to decide what is best for their baby.
Lately there have been many questions about the inclined Rock ‘n Play sleepers. Here are the most popular questions about Rock n’ Play seats.
How Long Can Baby Sleep in a Rock ‘n Play? These sleepers are designed for infants under the age of 3 months, prior to their ability to roll over. However, online you can find multiple stories of parents using this product even after 6 months of age.
Rock ‘n Play seats have a soft sleeping surface and keep baby’s head inclined. They can come with auto-vibration or rocking features. They are touted by manufacturers as the latest in infant sleep technology.
Fisher-Price gives these guidelines for their Rock ‘n Play:
- “The inclined seat helps baby sleep all night long.
- Weight limit: 25 lb (11,3 kg).”
What are Rock ‘n Plays Used For?
Online forums have pages of parents shouting the benefits of the Rock ‘n Play. These are the top reasons parents have identified.
- Inclined sleeping surface aids in their infant’s reflux issues.
- Assists baby’s transition between sleeping in utero to sleeping in a crib.
- The bouncing and vibration features can rock baby to sleep.
- It is a safe place for baby when your hands are busy.
- Can move the unit easily around the home to different rooms.
Is the Rock ‘n Play safe?
According to a November 2018 article in the Wall Street Journal, inclined sleepers like the Rock ‘N Play have been implicated in 30 deaths and 700 injuries since 2005.
When I read these statistics, I wonder how a product connected to the death of so many infants could still be on the market. What is Fisher-Price’s response to these deaths?
“[We] previously warned consumers to stop using the product when infants can roll over and possibly fall.
Fisher-Price blames parents for these deaths. Despite the serious repercussions of using this product, this is only warning I found on the online advertising for one of their Rock ‘n Play units:
Though Fisher-Price has received most of the negative press, they are not the only manufacturer of these seats.
In the USA, manufacturers can still advertise these seats as safe sleeping units, but in other countries, such as Canada, manufacturers are required to market the Rock ‘n Play seats as “soothing seats” rather than sleepers because of the safety issues.
Pediatrician Natasha Burgert, in an open letter to Fisher-Price, requested the company, “…consider re-marketing the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper as a comfortable, portable infant seat; to be used for observed play, and as a temporary place for brief rest.”.
Why is it Not Safe to Sleep in a Rock ‘n Play?
SIDS is every parent’s nightmare. It is important for parents to be aware of how to reduce the risk of SIDS and other related causes of death for their infants.
The design of the Rock ‘n Play is in direct contrast to the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics for safe sleep for infants.
Soft Bedding – The soft headrests and side padding are in direct contrast with the recommendation that baby sleeps on a firm, solid surface As adults, we want a soft place to land at the end of the day, but this is not safe for babies. There should be no bedding, blankets, sheets or pillows around their head or face during sleep.
Inclined Sleep – Babies should sleep on a flat surface. Even if you have a baby with reflux who spits up, he is still safer sleeping flat. When babies are inclined at the 30-degree angle of most Rock ‘n Play seats, they have poor breathing posture.
Their head can tilt forward or to the side and their abdomens curl inward. This position can create a blocked airway with baby not strong enough to right himself.
Too Hot –Most parents innocently put the baby in the rocker and then add a blanket. They are worried their baby will be cold, but the greater risk is if they get too hot. The combination of a blanket, clothing, and the fabric from the Rock ‘n Play surrounding the baby can raise their temperature too high.
The rule of thumb is to dress baby no more than one layer above what an adult is comfortable in. If you are comfortable in a shirt and shorts than a light sleeper with feet is enough for your baby. Extra blankets also have a greater risk of suffocation.
Safety Straps – The manufacturers claim their product is safe if only used until baby can roll over and if safety straps are in place. The problem is that you will not know your baby can roll over until after they do.
The straps may not prevent rolling over. The infants who died in these seats started to roll over and got stuck and could not roll back due to the lower center of gravity caused by the soft bedding.
Flathead – Although not a risk factor for SIDS, flat head is a condition that parents need to be concerned about. In the first year of life, your baby’s skull bones float without attachments between them.
If your baby sleeps in the exact same position for sleep, there is a risk that these plates will move and result in the flattening of the back of the baby’s skull.
Do Other Sleep Products Have the Same Safety Issues? Yes, other than a crib or bassinet, car seats, swings, and playpens have similar safety concerns.
Is it Safe for Baby to Sleep in a Car Seat?
Car seats are a very important part of keeping your baby safe if used properly.
- Ensure car seats are installed correctly.
- Ensure baby is strapped into the seat with all safety straps during the entire time your baby is in the seat.
- Avoid adding any blankets or pillows that may become a suffocation concern if the baby turns her head.
- Do not use the car seat as sleep furniture. Though it is tempting to leave a sleeping baby where they lie, it is dangerous for the baby to sleep for long periods of time in that curled forward position. When you reach your destination move baby to a flat sleeping position.
- If you need to keep baby in the seat after your trip, ensure baby stays strapped in and is supervised.
Is it Safe for Baby to Sleep in a Pack ‘n Play or Playpen?
A Pack ‘n Play is a portable unit that provides a place for baby to sleep or play. To ensure safe use:
- Always put the baby to sleep on her back.
- Always be in close proximity to the playpen.
- Only use the recommended sleeping mats. There still exists a risk that baby might get stuck between the mattress and sides of the pen, but the risk is significantly higher if you are not using the recommended mattress.
- Ensure mattress is firm and has no rips.
- Do not line playpen with blankets or pillows which will cause a suffocation risk.
- Only use newer Pack ‘n Plays with the latest in safety features such as mesh sides.
- Only use the Pack ‘n Play until baby can crawl as he will learn very quickly how to climb after that. Most Pack ‘n Play injuries are caused by baby falling out of the playpen.
- Ensure Pack ‘n Play is moved away from other safety issues such as electrical outlets, blind cords, oven, heaters, or stacked items.
Is it Safe for a Baby to Sleep in a Swing?
Swings can be a very important tool for parents who have fussy babies. After holding and rocking your baby for hours it can be helpful to have a tool that will do that rocking for you. When used properly, a swing can be a great asset.
- Ensure baby is always strapped in with any safety straps available in the swing.
- Avoid overheating and suffocation by not using blankets or pillows in the swing.
- Short naps are safe in a swing but should not be the place your baby sleeps for long periods.
- If your baby is under 3 months and is strapped in safely, they can be safe in the swing if you need to shower or make supper, but the crib is still the safest place.
- Babies can become over accustomed to being rocked to sleep and then it can make moving baby crib sleeping more challenging.
What if Baby Won’t Sleep in a Crib?
Good sleep habits are vital as your child grows. The goal should be to have your baby to sleeping in a crib as soon as possible. Babies can begin to develop preferences and habits for sleeping as early as 4 months.
If your baby is under 4 months, you have time to gradually move baby from the swing, car seat, or Rock ‘n Play, to a crib to sleep with only a small disruption.
If your baby is 4 months or older, it might take longer to develop good sleep habits. Here are some tips:
- Soothers – Once baby is established in breastfeeding it is safe to add a soother. Soothers can be a great tool for baby to learn how to soothe himself to sleep. If the soother is only used until the age of 6 months there is little risk for dental issues and is a much easier habit to break.
- Skin to skin – Baby in a diaper and you shirtless, is one of the most effective ways to calm your infant. Your body temperature and the sound of your heart soothe your baby.
- Sleep Routine – You can begin healthy sleep routines right away. During the day have blinds up, noise in the house, and have baby sleep in proximity to you. Baby will get accustomed to the daily noise of your home and find it comforting. After supper, lower the lights, close the blinds, give baby a bath and massage, and speak softly. During the night, do not turn on lights, and speak to baby only in whispers or lullabies.
- Rocking – It is perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged, for you to rock your baby to sleep in the first 3 months. After 3 months start to put baby to bed, just before they fall asleep. Stay with baby until he falls asleep but get him used to fall asleep on a firm mattress.
- Sleep Training – Sleep training can begin at 6 months. At this age, you can begin to put baby down while still awake and gradually remove supports.
- You are the parent – Remember that you can adjust any habits you have created today by just being persistent and confident that you are the parent and know what is best.
How Can I Safely Use my Rock ‘n Play?
Parents often wonder if their Rock ‘n Play can be used safely. Here are some safe ways to use your Rock ‘n Play.
- Supervision – Your baby should always be supervised during their time in the Rock ‘n Play.
- Safety straps – Safety straps need to be used at all times your child is in the Rock ‘n Play.
- Not for Sleep – Use the Rock ‘n Play as a seat for when the baby is awake, playing, and watching the rest of the family.
- No Extra Bedding – Do not have blankets or pillows in the Rock ‘n Play.
- Naps – Short, supervised naps are acceptable.
- Soothing – If the Rock ‘n Play’s vibration or rocking helps baby to fall asleep, you can use those features. Once baby is asleep move baby to crib. Gradually remove this support over time.
You will be able to find volumes of parents who swear their child had no issues with the Rock ‘n Play. But it takes only a few seconds for this piece of furniture to change your life forever. Once you know the risks, you can make wise decisions about the use of your baby furniture.