The Rock N Play Recall: An Interview With Pediatrician + AAP Spokesperson

The Fisher Price Rock N Play recall sent shock-waves throughout the Mom community last week. The day of the annocuement, Dr. Gayle Smith reached out to speak with me about any questions moms have, and share her knowledge as an APP Spokeswoman. You can listen to the conversation HERE, or read the transcript of our interview below!

I have on the phone with me, through the podcast, Dr. Gale Smith of Partners in Pediatrics, here in Richmond, Virginia. Not only is Dr. Smith an American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson, but she is also a pediatrician here in Richmond, (PARTNERS IN PEDIATRICS) and so many of my clients see her, love her, adore her, and I was thrilled when she happened to shoot me an email the day that the announcement came out, and said, “Hey Becca, I would love to talk with your audience about the recall.” Of course, I had to take her up on that, and we chatted on Monday, and we have this podcast out, because I firmly believe it is so important that you guys have answers and that you’re able to take action after hearing the news about the recall. So, thank you Dr. Smith for joining me on the podcast for this week. Enjoy this special edition podcast with Dr. Smith.

Becca: I’m really excited that you reached out, for one, because I started getting an influx of questions from moms and I always like to have the back up of, “Well, this is what they said.” I really appreciate some time to just walk through it. There are several big points that basically every mom is asking me right now, but I would love to hear from your side, why the recall happened, and what parents should be doing next, if they’ve had their baby in the Rock N Play.

Dr. Smith: So, the recall happened because as early as 2007 there were reported infant deaths for infants sleeping in these upright sleepers. The earliest death in the research was 2011, eight years ago. It’s been on the radar for Consumer Reports and the Consumer Product Safety Council for some time, and the recall occurred because enough babies died in these Rock N Play Sleepers, and parents were not aware of that. They are marketed to new parents, most of us, most of them, are terribly sleep deprived in those early months, and it seemed like it was a good solution. The American Academy of Pediatrics has gone on record and been absolutely firm about their guidelines for safe sleeping. Flat surfaces are part of what we recommend.

Becca: Absolutely agree. Wholeheartedly. So now, many parents are asking, “Well what should I use instead?” How would you reply to a mom who says that?

Dr. Smith: Well, believe it or not, the recommendation for what you should use instead are the same as they were before the Rock N Play recall. Babies should sleep flat on a firm surface. I know as a pediatrician, and I know as a mother of four, that it seems like that is potentially the worst position to help an infant get good rest, but in fact, with what we know, science wise, it is the safest sleep position.

Becca: Right, I absolutely agree, and so now, I’ve actually had a couple of parents say that their pediatrician had recommended the Rock N Play due to reflux. Typically, when a parent reaches out to me if a child has reflux or GERD, they’ve said, “Oh, my child has to be on an incline.” How would you respond to those parents?

Dr. Smith: Well, that’s what one of the tougher calls because the Rock N Play itself, while it’s on an incline, is not a firm, flat surface, so regardless of the recommendation for babies with reflux, the Rock N Play doesn’t qualify as a safe place for those babies to sleep, either. Unfortunately, reflux is a commonly tossed around word. So, when your baby is in the pediatric gastroenterologist’s office with his or her reflux, that’s one thing, when your mom group at the park is talking about our “refluxy” baby, that’s something altogether different.

Becca: Right, absolutely, I like that. How about using the Rock N Play as a place to keep baby when mom has something to do? Lots of parents are saying, “Well, can’t I still use it the ‘correct’ way? Having them strapped in while I go cook dinner?”

Dr. Smith: I, like every other mom, and every other pediatrician, wants a universe that’s black and white. I would start by saying to that mom, “Of course. You can use a Rock N Play with your infant in it, supervised in your kitchen, cooing and watching you slice tomatoes and chop potatoes and get dinner ready on the table.” I think that because we understand some of the risks of the device, they are being recalled, and if I were that mom, I’d send it back, and get my money back, and buy something else.

Becca: Exactly, so are you aware of any product that you would recommend as a replacement of the Rock N Play, specifically used as a positioner to keep baby seated while mom cooks? Are there any products you would recommend instead of the Rock N Play?

Dr. Smith: I have tried very hard as an AAP spokesperson not to be in the business of selling ads, so to speak, or recommending one product line over another. I think there are lots and lots of good products out there. I also remind moms to think back to 1920. Somebody else’s mom chopped potatoes and sliced tomatoes to get dinner on the table, and lots of the things we take for granted are gadgets having been invented since former times. So sometimes being a “less is more” mom, a “less is more” pediatrician has some advantages.

Becca: I love that! I frequently tell moms the best place for baby to be is on the floor with a blanket, if there’s a hard surface, while you’re watching them, but on the floor, on the carpet rolling around because they’re free and they’re not in a container device. And you’re saving money.

Dr. Smith: It is something we don’t necessarily think about until someone asks us to do it, creating safe play spaces for our children. I’m a big believer in the play pens and play yards because they create a safe encasement for your child and an infant laying flat on his or her back in a play pen is safe.

Becca: Yes. Absolutely. So, I’m getting questions about the babies that did die in the Rock N Play, about if they rolled, if they were the ones who rolled, but that’s not the only reason why this was recalled. It was actually because of other reasonings. So, the deaths that were linked to the Rock N Play, was it only because they were rolling, or was it because the parents were using it improperly?

Dr. Smith: As an AAP spokesperson, I don’t have any firsthand knowledge about each of those individual cases of infants who have died. There’s more than thirty of them, and I suspect each one had unique circumstances different from every other one. Thirty infant lives lost associated with a specific product, it is huge. The folks at Consumer Reports, they don’t work for anybody, but us as subscribers, for example. They’re interested in truly understanding if there’s a problem, and what is it, and informing the public. I trust their diligence in gathering information, synthesizing it all, and looking at a problem from many different aspects. They have been calling for a recall of the Rock N Play for some time. I think that’s an important point in the debate.

Becca: I think that covers all the questions I was looking for that parents have been asking me, and what I was curious about. Are there any other thoughts on the Rock N Play, or this discussion, that you’d like to add in?

Dr. Smith: I would really strongly encourage parents, go to the Consumer Reports website. They have an open access article that lists hard facts in their investigative work regarding the Rock N Play specifically, and inclined sleepers, in general. I think that looking for information helps parents make decisions for their own child. When you look at the device, it doesn’t look scary. It doesn’t look like something that would put an infant at risk. Reading how the infant deaths were investigated, and reading more of the factual information, I think will help parents have the courage to set it aside, or to use it when your infant is awake and you’re watching them, if that’s your choice and decision. In truth, they outgrow so many of the devices and gadgets we have for them fairly quickly, that if Fisher Price is offering to give you your money back, it might be wise to take them up on the offer, and maybe save for college with that rebate money.

Becca: I love that. Thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

Dr. Smith: Happy to share it.

Thank you, Dr. Smith, for joining me. This was such a great podcast to share with families who have so many questions. I shared on Instagram last week that many parents are placing guilt on themselves over using the Rock N Play. I want you, and I need you, to release that guilt, that’s the last thing you need to be dwelling on right now, and I want you to make change in a positive way. First of all, you can go to Fisher Price, and I’ve included the link in the show notes, to claim your recall. I put the link, so you can see that here. Dr. Smith has also included several links to find out more information about the recall and the AAP’s decision. If you are ready to make sleep change in your family and ditch the Rock N Play to make way for great, consistent sleep, then I want you to check out www.littlezsleep.com so we can look into your child’s sleep program. Thank you so much for joining me this week. Sweet dreams! See you next time!

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  • The AAP Policy statement on Safe Sleep from 2016 is available at HealthyChildren.org 

  • Fisher Price Site for your refund HERE

  • Consumer Report on recall HERE

Thank you, Dr. Gayle Smith of Partner in Pediatrics!
Richmond’s only concierge pediatrician.

You can contact Dr. Smith:

office@partnerspediatrics.com

SITE>> www.partnerspediatrics.com