Baby Bouncers – Help or Hazard?

By Jill Green, Soteria Safe Sleeping Advice

Bouncinettes have been part and parcel of baby’s nursery.

Tragically, thirty-two deaths have been attributed to baby bouncers/bouncinettes, similar portable, tilted, reclining or sitting type products. These are all dangerous when used unsupervised or as a place to sleep babies. It is not safe to leave a baby asleep propped up in any of these devices and improper use of bouncinettes, swings, bean bags and car seats can lead to fatal sleeping accidents.

In Australia, warnings about the potential risks these products pose have been issued in recent times.

Australian Recall June 2019
Following the recall of the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper in the US in April 2019, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has recalled Kids eleven – 11 – various Rocking Sleepers. It has stated that this “product is potentially dangerous when instructions and warnings are not followed. Infants may roll from their back to their stomach or side if unrestrained. Hazard: There is a risk of suffocation if the infant rolls from its back to stomach or side while unrestrained or if bedding or blankets are used with the product”.

Fisher Price and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) initially issued a joint alert warning in April 2019, (USA) to discontinue use of the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper.

Further investigations led to all models of the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper being recalled because at least 32 infant deaths were linked to this product.
This reclining baby sleeper that rocks, vibrates, and plays music was adopted enthusiastically by parents looking to get their baby to sleep.
Regrettably, parents have also been influenced by:
• ‘Sleep experts’ promoting this and similar products to assist sleep or relieve reflux
• Testimonials on social media with thousands glowing reviews or social media influencers promoting these products
• Worryingly, after the US recall some were still advocating this product, because the product ‘worked’ for their baby. (Quick point: because it ‘works’, does not make it safe!)
• Role modelling – the Rock ‘n Play starred on TLC’s new and popular reality show OutDaughtered which featured their five baby girls sleeping in a row of the recalled sleepers!
• Inaccurate marketing/advertising by manufacturers and retailers, e.g. the Rock ‘n Play was advertised as a place to sleep baby but no warnings of the risks with using this products.

Aren’t all nursery products for sale safe?
Most people assume all nursery products sold in Australian retail stores in must be safe. Seeing all these available products and hearing positive comments can influence and also confuse parents – what is safe and what is not – but no formal research has been done to show the efficacy or the safety of most of these products.

Parents and carers need to think:
1. Is the product I am using a safe product?
2. What are the potential benefits of using this product and what are the potential hazards? Weigh these up and then decide if you still want to use it
3. Am I using it in a safe way? Carefully read the how-to-use instructions
4. What is my baby/infant doing in this product? Does this create any potential hazards?

What are the potential hazards?

  • Unsupervised, baby can move and slip down into the straps and become trapped, increasing the risk strangulation.
  • Unsupervised, baby could roll over become entrapped and suffocate.
  • Unsupervised, an entrapment, fall or suffocation accident could occur if a pet or another child climbs onto the product/baby or overturns the product.
  • A young baby has low neck strength. When awake, they may be able to hold their head up for a short time but when a baby falls asleep in a propped up device, the head can fall (flop) forwards, pushing the chin down towards the chest. This can lead to the airway becoming blocked and reducing airflow which may cause young babies to experience respiratory (breathing) problems. The tilted position of the Rock n’ Play and other bouncinette type products can increase baby’s risk of positional asphyxiation.

What if my baby has reflux?
Babies breathe better when they are lying on their back on a firm, well fitting, flat (not tilted or elevated) mattress. The safest position for a baby with reflux is on their back on a firm, flat surface (not elevated or tilted). *Always seek medical advice if you believe your baby has reflux.

Bouncers/bouncinettes, swings, car capsules, seats and bean bags are dangerous when used as a place to sleep babies. If baby falls asleep whilst tilted in these type of products, they should be removed immediately and placed to sleep on their back on a firm, well fitting, clean and flat surface, which is not elevated or tilted.

Placing babies with reflux in these devices is not recommended. They should be placed to sleep on their back on a firm, flat mattress that is not elevated or tilted. Elevating or tilting the cot or mattress or propping baby up on a pillow does not reduce reflux. Car seats and capsules have been designed as restraints to keep baby safe whilst travelling in a car – they should not be used as a sleeping environment in the home or in a childcare setting.

A 2015 Journal of Paediatrics study reviewed 47 child deaths (under two years old) reported to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission between 2004 and 2008 which occurred in these devices. It noted all but one of the cases was attributed to asphyxia (positional or strangulation). Two thirds of cases involved car seats and the remainder occurred in bouncers, slings, swings and strollers.

Alarmingly, the elapsed time – from when the infants were seen alive to when they were discovered in a compromised situation – ranged from as little as four minutes to up to eleven hours.

Never let your baby fall asleep in a bouncinette. It is not a safe sleeping environment for your baby!

Visit Soteria Safe Sleeping Advice for this and more information about safely sleeping your baby.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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