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Arkansas doctors warning against inclined sleepers

A Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play (Photo: KATV){ }
A Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play (Photo: KATV)
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On Friday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is expected to vote on new regulations for inclined infant sleepers. Stringent new requirements which would essentially end the manufacture and sale of those products. The potential change is all thanks to the groundbreaking research conducted in Little Rock.

Since April, there have been multiple recalls on inclined sleepers; the most notable being 4.7 million of Fisher-Price's Rock 'N Play.

The death toll is now up to 59 infants, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

When Fisher-Price issued its April recall of the Rock ‘N Play Infant Sleeper, some of the 4.7 million parents who have sworn by the product were surprised and even defensive on social media. Dr. Whit Hall at UAMS says he’s frustrated by parents defending the product, even saying they’ll still use it.

"There will be some babies that will die this year in Arkansas because they're placed in this product or something like it,” Dr. Hall said.

In a statement, Fisher-Price said "the product was used contrary to safety warnings and instructions."

But Dr. Hall says it’s not a case of parental misuse.

“It doesn't make any difference whether you read the safety instructions or not. This position is just wrong,” he said.

Wrong, for two reasons says Arkansas Children's Sleep Specialist Lessa Payne.

"If it's at an incline like this, the baby's head is going to tilt forward and this can cut off the baby's air supply and it can easily suffocate,” Payne said.

In some cases, infants suffocated against the plush bedding or sides of the sleeper.

Fisher-Price's product was marketed for overnight sleep, so most parents would be sleeping while it's in use, but Dr. Hall says even with supervision, suffocation could happen in a matter of minutes.

"We only have about two to three minutes before a baby is either dead or permanently brain damaged. There's just not enough time after a baby goes to sleep to rescue a child,” Dr. Hall said.

The recall also states some infants were “unrestrained.” In the CPSC report, 11 were confirmed not wearing restraints. Dr. Hall says the danger of it has nothing to do with the seatbelt.

"Even if a baby is restrained, they can often times roll over on their tummy and they don't have any way to get out of this. That's why there's no safe way to put a baby to sleep in this,” Dr. Hall said.

New Jersey mom Keirsten Connolly says her six week old Jameson Connolly Hatch was wearing the restraints when he died in the rock n play in 2015.

Sitting down with Channel 7 News, she says he was not rolling yet. Also sleeping beside him another Rock ‘N Play was his twin sister Dorothy.

"There's so many things I don't even know that I lost because I don't know who he was gonna become, I don't know what he was meant to do, who he was meant to be,” Connolly said.

Connolly says had they known about pediatrician’s recommendations for safe sleep, they would have never bought the Rock ‘N Play.

"You know I've lived with that every day that we didn't know, because that information was out there and didn't have that information. But Fisher-Price did,” Connolly said.

Last week, groundbreaking research was released conducted in Little Rock at UAMS.

Dr. Erin Mannen lead the study. The results show inclined sleepers are causing infant's bodies to behave differently than when they're flat on a mattress.

"So our research team believes that evidence may suggest that it may be easier for babies to roll over in the inclined sleeper, compared to a flat crib mattress,” Dr. Mannen said.

Even more alarming, oxygen levels changed in the inclined sleepers.

"The babies in our study experienced low oxygen levels twice as often in inclined sleep products compared to crib mattresses,” Dr. Mannen said.

The research concluded it's the actual design of the sleeper that's causing roll over deaths. The CPSC is now voting on stringent new requirements, which would essentially end the production and sale of current inclined sleeper models.

“I'm really proud of the team,” Dr. Mannen said.

Research we have now, that was never done by manufacturers, according to a recent Washington Post investigation. The investigation found that Fisher-Price "rather than seeking the advice of pediatricians, consulted just a single doctor — a family physician...who would eventually lose his medical license."

And now...despite all of the evidence, Channel 7 News found multiple postings in Central Arkansas where parents are selling those products online. None of them listed as an inclined sleeper in the description.

Federal law prohibits the individual sale of recalled products. The seller can even be held criminally and civilly liable.

" We've had many babies placed in these and have done fine. And you and I can blindfold ourselves and run across the freeway at 2 o'clock in the morning and chances are we're not going to get killed. But we do it enough times, we will. Why take the chance on something like that with our own baby,” Dr. Hall said.

Connolly is suing Fisher-Price now along with five other families.

Fisher-Price says it has a long-standing policy of not commenting on legal matters.

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