Two company executives were sharply criticized by a House panel over Fisher-Price’s decision to keep its Rock ’n Play inclined sleeper on the market for a decade while waiting until 2019 to recall a product tied to dozens of infant deaths.
Members of the House Oversight Committee seemed to struggle to find new ways to describe their outrage and incredulity with the well-known maker of toys and baby products, with Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) saying Fisher-Price showed “a shocking lack of corporate integrity.”
The hearing was convened to discuss a new congressional report looking at the safety lapses that allowed Fisher-Price to sell the Rock ’n Play — the first product of its kind to allow babies to sleep at an incline. Parents loved it. Fisher-Price sold nearly 5 million of them.
But a 2019 Washington Post investigation found that Fisher-Price developed the Rock ’n Play based on faulty beliefs about infant sleep, with no clinical research into whether it was safe. Rather than seeking the advice of pediatricians, it consulted just a single family physician whose expertise had already been questioned by judges and who would later lose his medical license.
Fisher-Price took its hit product off the market in 2019 in a move coordinated with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. At the time, the deaths of more than 30 babies were associated with the inclined sleeper. That number would grow to more than 90. The fatalities appeared to be caused by accidental suffocation, sometimes occurring when babies rolled onto their stomachs in the device.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended for more than 15 years — before the Rock ’n Play was even sold — that babies sleep on their backs on hard, flat surfaces. The effort is part of a campaign to prevent sudden infant death syndrome, which experts still do not fully understand but believe can be reduced by cutting certain risk factors, such as unsafe sleep environments.