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4 Safe Rock ‘n Play Infant Sleeper Alternatives

Does the Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play recall have you scrambling for alternatives? Here's what to know about what makes a sleeper safe — and four models that meet the criteria.

For some sleep-deprived parents of young infants, the news of the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play recall has, well, rocked their worlds in a fairly dramatic way. Search Google, click past all the recent recall news, and you’ll find overwhelmingly positive reviews of the sleeper, praising it as a  “miracle soother,” “lifesaver” and “literally the only place my baby would sleep.”

The problem is, of course, that although the Rock ‘n Play was marketed as a bassinet, babies aren’t meant to sleep in such plush, propped-up environments, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) was extremely clear in its statement urging a recall.  Before the recall happened, Fisher-Price initially blamed the parents for using the Rock ‘n Play incorrectly. 

Despite its legions of fans, the Rock ‘n Play raised eyebrows and many questioned its safety, Some, including pediatricians, occupational therapists, Consumer Reports and the authors of the popular Baby Bargains gear guide, even went as far to suggest recall even before this year. The AAP alerted parents that even before the recall, the Rock ‘n Play should not be used for routine sleep: “If you use the Rock ’n Play for soothing,” they warned. “always strap the baby in and never leave the baby unattended.” Letting babies sleep with their head elevated, the AAP noted, can lead to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed.

In fact, experts say, parents should never use a car seat, stroller, swing, sling, wedge, or any other similar product for unsupervised sleep. But the difference, say doctors, is that when your baby snoozes in the car, you’re present in the driver’s, or passenger, seat. But at home, it’s all too easy to leave your child sleeping in a swing without supervision.

“Infant sleep is super-hard. Anyone who’s had a kid knows that. But the fact is, we can sleep. We slept for millions of years before we had Rock ’n Plays,”says Dr. Ben Hoffman, a pediatrician and the chair of the AAP’s Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, who urged the CSPC and Fisher-Price to recall the sleeper.  “Sleep will always be a challenge. But we need to shift how people see and act around sleep. There’s a huge problem in the perception of risk. Adults don’t perceive sleep as risky. But ten babies die a day in their sleep in the United States. There is a risk and you need to know how do you minimize risk,” 

Hoffman’s guidelines are simple: “Products that have a reclined position are not a safe position for sleep. Babies need to sleep on flat surfaces, with nothing other then them inside the sleep space.”

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Pediatrician Phil Boucher, who is based in Lincoln, Nebraska and created the Mighty Sleepers program, expanded on the AAP’s statement: “There are always new devices coming out and someone selling something that guarantees to solve all their problems, but babies should sleep flat on their back in a sleeping surface that is boring,” he says. “By that I mean no pillows, blankets, bumpers, wedges, or anything else. Just super plain and simple — you don’t need to spend a fortune either.”

Now, if parents do want to use a swing, baby seat, or bouncer so you can, you know, poop in peace or empty the dishwasher, the rule is simple: don’t leave your child unattended. “As parents, you should not be napping yourself or going to bed if your baby is unattended in any sleeping device,” Boucher says.

What about all the parents who claim the Rock ‘n Play helped their child who had reflux or a cold? Boucher is skeptical. “There’s no research that elevation helps with reflux, but measures like dietary changes, thickening feeds, or sometimes giving acid suppressing medicines may help, and for coughs and runny noses, most critical is just getting the nose cleaned out with nasal saline and suctioning,” he says.

In fact, says Hoffman, “sleeping at an angle does not help reflux at all and can make it worse. The bottom line is, don’t sleep at an angle.”

With that in mind, here are four doctor-vetted sleep  that’s safe for sleeping. Always remember that the days are long but the years are short and soon enough you’ll have a new problem: Dragging your snoozy tween out of bed to catch the morning school bus.

If you were using the Rock 'n Play bedside, here's an easy-to-find, safe replacement that works for both sleeping and hanging out.

Pros: At $20, it’s serious bang for your baby-sleeping buck. And, as there’s a period in your life when it makes sense to have an extra resting spot for visiting little ones, this does the job well since you can easily stash it in a closet. It also has a mobile, and a one-hand locking mechanism. 

Cons: The pattern isn’t our favorite and although it does fold up easily, it’s not especially sleek or lightweight.

This stable bassinet is designed to be used bedside, and comes with extras like storage pockets, a nightlight, soothing sounds, and a vibration feature.

Pros: See the HALO’s glorious walls of white mesh? That enables breathability, which is important for babies when they’re sleeping, as experts say overheating may put little ones at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It’s also impressively adjustable, so you can make the height level with your bed. It’s also able to be tilted towards you when it’s time to remove baby for a feed.

Cons: These curvy lines and tricked-out electronics don’t come cheap. In fact, the HALO costs almost as much as a regular crib.

There's a comfortable padded floor mat for sleeping, and playing. And plenty of breathability.

Pros: It’s handy, it’s flat, and it’s portable, folding up and going into the matching carry bag.

Cons: Again, not the cutest of items, but safety first, folks.

This portable travel crib is light, has breathable mesh sides and a soft, comfy mattress for your baby.

Pros: The surface is flat, which is a must, and the mesh side panels provide optimal ventilation and visibility. It’s easy to set up and take apart. And it’s from a very trusted baby brand. 

Cons: It’s not cheap, but the quality is worth it.

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