The US agency that oversees consumer products decided Wednesday to advance the first federal regulations on the safety of infant swings, linked to the deaths of nearly a dozen babies.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously to move forward with the proposal developed by its staff, which was unveiled last month. The recommendations come after the agency documented 11 deaths associated with reclined seats between 2011 and 2022, most of which occurred after infants fell asleep in them.
CPSC staff found that popular products were also associated with 88 injuries during this 12-year period. In many cases, infants have suffered head injuries after the seesaws tipped over.
The newly proposed rules aim to reduce the risk of choking, strangulation and tip-over flip-flops. They would require rockers to be firmer and flatter to prevent infants from choking and to pass stability and other safety tests. Rockers would also need clearly visible warning labels urging caregivers not to allow babies to sleep on them and not to put soft bedding around babies in the products.
“I believe this rule can have a real impact on the safety of these products,” CPSC Chairman Alex Hoehn-Saric said during Wednesday morning’s vote.
Regulations must be subject to public comment and review before being finalized.
Rocking chair makers Fisher-Price, Kids2 and Béaba did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In a letter last year to Congress and obtained by NBC News, Fisher-Price defended its rockers, saying they were safe when parents supervised their babies and restrained them properly.
4moms, another manufacturer, said in a statement that it supports the creation of a federal safety standard and “looks forward to reviewing and providing feedback on the proposed rule.” The company makes a rocking chair that was recalled last year due to a potential strangulation hazard, but says no incidents have been linked to the product.
Rockers are designed to calm babies by rocking them back and forth, manually or automatically. Some vibrate or have other calming functions.
Before the vote, CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. proposed amending the plan to restrict the use of rockers by infants younger than 6 months and ban “the inclusion of calming features such as vibrations or soothing sounds” that might encourage babies to fall asleep.
Although the proposal “attempts to make loungers safer for sleeping babies, it takes no action to deter sleeping in loungers,” he said.
Trumka’s amendment was rejected by the three other commissioners, who said the process of formally changing the proposal would delay the safety rules. Instead, the CPSC voted to ask the public for comment on the safety concerns Trumka reported.
Cathy Greninger, whose 4-month-old granddaughter, Savannah Savage, died in a Fisher-Price infant and toddler rocking chair in 2019, said after the CPSC meeting that she was happy to see the The agency finally acts.
“It will take a long time to get these safety standards in place,” she said. “I think this should have been done years and years ago.”
Savannah died at her home in Amarillo, Texas, after sleeping in the rocking chair overnight, which the family did not know was against the manufacturer’s instructions, Greninger said. A 2017 version of the Fisher-Price instruction manual stated that the rocking chair was “not intended for prolonged or unsupervised periods of sleep.”
According to a local justice of the peace, a medical examiner ruled that Savannah died of probable positional asphyxia, which can occur when babies are slumped forward or arched back, cutting off their airflow.
Although Greninger hoped the proposed rules would save babies, she said she was disappointed that commissioners voted against banning vibrating features.
“They need to be banned from carrying pacifiers so babies don’t fall asleep in them as easily,” she said. “Because, you know, that’s what they do. They fall asleep.
Fisher-Price did not respond to requests for comment on Savannah’s death.
The CPSC and Fisher-Price issued a joint warning in June 2022, stating that 13 babies had died in the company’s Infant-to-Toddler and Newborn-to-Toddler rockers between 2009 and 2021. The CPSC also issued a warning the same month with another manufacturer, Kids2, claiming that a baby had died in that company’s Bright Starts rocking chair. Both statements warn against using rockers, swings and other inclined seats for sleeping.
In its letter to Congress last year, Fisher-Price said that in at least 11 of 13 incidents, infants were left unattended and that in at least six cases, babies were not properly restrained in the rockers .
Rockers are distinguished from inclined sleepers like the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play, which was recalled in 2019 and reportedly linked to about 100 deaths.
But both products place babies on an inclined surface, which research suggests could put them at a higher risk of choking, Trumka said at Wednesday’s meeting. The public will be asked whether the seesaws should be flatter, to make them safer if babies fall asleep, or more vertical to help babies stay awake.