When Fisher-Price recalled its highly popular Rock ‘N Play “sleeper” earlier this month, sleep-deprived parents everywhere let out a collective sigh of frustration. For some parents — especially those whose babies have reflux — the slight incline and cosy structure (not to mention its vibration feature) was a godsend during nap time and, yes, nighttime.
Unfortunately, the features that helped soothe babies to sleep are also the features that make it dangerous. Babies can roll, become trapped and suffocate and the incline can cause their airways to compress.
That’s why our best advice and the advice of basically every expert we have found is this: Stop using it right now.
The problem, though, as writer Patrick A. Coleman points out in Fatherly, is that many parents won’t stop using the Rock ‘N Play until they know what to do instead:
What the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) has done in the recall of the Rock ‘n Play is not terribly helpful to parents who feel they are losing an important tool in their arsenal. Kids will continue to be injured by dangerous products like these until parents are given not just a warning, but a better way.
It’s in that spirit that neonatal nurse and certified lactation consultant Jilly Blankenship created a plan to help parents wean their babies from the Rock ‘N Play and into a flat bassinet or crib, as the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends.
“I think the safest advice is to go cold turkey,” Blankenship says. But for parents of babies who are struggling to adapt, she came up with a plan to transition them “as soon as possible,” which she defines as 2 to 3 days, tops. The plan is only for babies who are not yet starting to roll and who are strapped in with the safety harness.
Parents need to wean their babies from the three features they like most about the Rock ‘N Play, Blankenship says: Vibration, containment and elevation.
Start by reducing the level of vibration you are using on the Rock ‘N Play (or any inclined, vibrating “sleeper” you use). If you’re currently at a level 3, go down to a 2 today and a 1 tomorrow. Once the baby has been asleep for 20 minutes, turn off the vibration, Blankenship says.
You want to get her used to sleeping in a motionless space. If baby wakes, use vibration to get her back to sleep. Switch it off again once she’s fallen asleep.
We’re doing it; it’s time to move the baby to a bassinet or crib with a flat mattress and a tightly fitted sheet. To help recreate that “containment” they felt when they were all snug in the Rock ‘N Play, first swaddle them either with a swaddle blanket or, for babies who are trying to roll, with a swaddle transition blanket. (Blankenship lists some of her favourites here.)
Blankenship also suggests putting the baby to sleep with their feet touching one end of the crib, rather than directly in the centre. This helps babies feel some “boundaries” around them, she says.
This is the biggie and, as Blankenship says on her website; “there’s no real way of doing this. But by the time you have weaned off the vibration and containment, you’ve done most of the hard work.”
They’ve got to go from elevated to flat, so they’ll probably be uncomfortable and will need a little (or a lot) of extra hands-on soothing in the form of rubbing, patting or singing, which you can reduce over time.
Don’t use a different inclined “sleeper”
An important takeaway from the Rock ‘N Play recall, Blankenship told me, is that all inclined sleep devices that are similar to the Rock ‘N Play have the same safety concerns.
“Don’t just substitute with another product that is an inclined sleep device,” she says. “The safest place is in a crib or bassinet on a flat mattress.”