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People tend to assume that products that reach the market have already undergone rigorous safety testing, particularly items designed for infants and small children. Unfortunately, that is often far from the truth.

After its introduction in 2011, the Rock ‘n Play inclined sleeper by Fisher-Price became hugely popular with parents hoping for a product that would help their babies get a better night’s rest. Nearly a decade later, after dozens of infant deaths, the Consumer Product Safety Commission forced the company to recall the nearly 4.7 million units sold. According to a recent report by the Washington Post, Fisher-Price released its seemingly innovative sleeper without consulting pediatricians or performing clinical research.

Faulty design may have put infants at risk

The lack of medical evaluation is particularly glaring in this case, because babies are already at high risk for sleep-related deaths. According to the CDC, each year, about 3,500 U.S. infants die from SIDs, accidental suffocation or other causes during sleep. While the Rock ‘n Play sleeper’s unique angled design was meant to help prevent issues with coughing and acid reflux, putting babies to sleep at an incline directly contradicted contemporary medical guidelines.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has long recommended that infants should sleep on a firm, flat surface and that parents should avoid using wedges, pillows, car seats or other angled devices for routine sleep. Because babies have relatively large, heavy heads in proportion to their neck strength and body size, sleeping on an incline may result in the head bending downward, potentially blocking the trachea and causing asphyxiation.

According to the Washington Post report, Fisher-Price first consulted a pediatrician to review the sleeper’s design when faced with a product liability lawsuit. All too often, companies do not perform their due diligence in terms of consumer safety, leading to products that may be unsafe, even when used as directed. Those who have experienced injury or worse due to a faulty product should know that they may be able to receive both economic and non-economic compensation if a company’s negligence is the cause.