Mom Speaks Out After Her Baby Dies While Using Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper

Erika Richter is one of many parents who lost an infant after using the Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper. She's now using her voice for change.

An image of Rock n Play Sleepers.
Photo: Getty Images.

Erika Richter lost her daughter Emma several years ago when she was 2 weeks old—the infant was one of dozens who died while in the Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper. The product was recalled in 2019 after a decade on the market—and issues with it continue.

Safety Officials Continue to Warn Against Rock 'n Play Use

Since the initial recall, nearly 70 more deaths have been reported; this brings the number of infant fatalities due to the incline sleeper to approximately 100, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported on Monday, January 9, 2023.

Federal safety officials are once again warning people to stop using the Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper.

"I think about her all the time. I think about what life would be like with her still around," Richter told Good Morning America in 2021. "She would be 3 years old."

Richter began using her voice to raise awareness and prevent another parent from going through the same thing she did. She took part in a congressional hearing in June 2021 following a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which states Fisher-Price did not consult with any pediatricians to ensure that Rock 'n Play was safe. Also, even though international regulators, pediatricians, and customers warned Fisher-Price that it was dangerous for infants, the company still marketed it as an overnight sleeper.

"Due to weak federal oversight," the report, which is based on a 20-month investigation, adds, "Fisher-Price was able to keep this dangerous product on the market for a decade, during which time more than 50 infants died using the product, while the company took in at least $200 million in revenue." In many cases, these babies suffocated after rolling from their backs to their stomachs.

Federal safety officials are once again warning people to stop using the Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended since 1992 that babies sleep on their backs in a crib without any bedding as the best way to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In inclined sleepers, like the 30-degree angled Rock 'n Play Sleeper, a baby's airway can be obstructed by their heavy heads falling forward into a chin-to-chest position or by rolling over. Babies are unable to move to a safer position since they can't lift their own heads.

Since the product recall, only about 8 percent of the sleepers (395,239 out of 4.84 million units) had been accounted for by the end of 2020, according to Consumer Reports. Fisher-Price had notified the customers by mail and email, but product safety advocates say the company must do more to ensure all these products are returned.

Laws To Keep Consumers and Babies Safe

Richter held back tears as she told GMA she wonders how different life would have been if she had known. "When I got the Fisher-Price Rock n' Play Sleeper, I didn't think anything of it other than it was a Fisher-Price product, so it must be safe, and if so many parents are using it and raving about it, that certainly adequate testing was done and it was safe to use," she said. "It didn't cross my mind that this product that was called the Fisher-Price Rock n' Play Sleeper would be unsafe in any way."

She also wants Congress to repeal the 6B provision in the Consumer Product Safety Act which allows companies to self-regulate product safety, according to GMA.

In May 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Safe Sleep for Babies Act, a law that bans the manufacture or sale of padded crib bumper pads and inclined sleep products which are connected to hundreds of deaths. 

As for Fisher-Price, the company had said, "The Rock 'n Play Sleeper was designed and developed following extensive research, medical advice, safety analysis and more than a year of testing and review." The company added, "As recently as 2017, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) proposed to adopt the ASTM voluntary standard for a 30-degree angled inclined sleeper as federal law."

But in June 2021, the CPSC approved a new federal rule that will go into effect on June 23, 2022 stating infant sleep products "must be tested to confirm that the angle of the sleep surface is 10 degrees or lower." Any angle above that is too steep for infants.

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