Parents And Caregivers Continue To Use Recalled Baby Products Associated With SIDS

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 
Leah Kelley/pexels

Trigger warning: SIDS, child loss

When it comes to SIDS, it seems there are many gray-areas of uncertainty on the topic from parents. Part of the population believes SIDS deaths are attributed only to some form of accidental-suffocation while an infant is asleep. Whereas other folks believe this cause of death is truly unavoidable and completely misunderstood. Really, it can be both and depends on the situation.

In a SIDS case where unsafe sleep does not come into play and accidental-suffocation is not a factor, horrifically enough, these infant deaths cannot be prevented. Researchers still do not know what causes them. In fact, it could be many unknown underlying issues preceding these deaths, not just a single one.

After thorough assessment, including questioning the caregivers and conducting an autopsy of the infant, a cause of death is formed. If there are no findings of accidental suffocation or other causes of death from the autopsy, the death may be determined “unknown” and thrown into the broader SIDS/SUIDS category.

But some medical professionals estimate that up to 30% of SIDS/SUIDS deaths could be attributed to accidental suffocation, most often while an infant is sleeping unsafely. And as horrifying as it is to see this statistic for what it is, it is not nearly as horrifying as ignoring the evidence and becoming a parent to a child in this statistic.

Australian mother Alexandra Hamilton, co-founder of River’s Gift and safe-sleep advocate, lost her son River when he was four months old and in a safe sleeping environment. “River was on his back, in his cot, without any blankets. He was as safe as he could possibly be,” Hamilton tells Scary Mommy.

Since Hamilton’s son’s death, River’s Gift has generated over $1.4 million toward SIDS research, awareness, and education. She says that for years we have been focusing on “how” SIDS deaths can happen, feeding into the disproven belief that all SIDS deaths are preventable, but it’s time we start to globally discuss “why” some SIDS deaths can happen. Then parents might be able to “understand SIDS does not discriminate,” she says.

Since the “Safe Is Best” initiative was launched, formerly known as “Back Is Best,” in 1994, we have witnessed a whopping 60% decrease in the overall number of SIDS deaths. And still, parents are ignoring safe sleep practices and well-known SIDS risk-factors because they have older children, or friends with older children, who didn’t follow these warnings and their babies “turned out just fine.”

But therein lies the problem, doesn’t it?

We’ve forgotten that one infant death is too many. And unless a SIDS-death affects us or someone we know personally, it seems there’s little regard for SIDS risk-factors and parents stressing the importance of safe sleeping environments. But if we were to do everything for our infants in the same way they’d been done for years before, we would have far more infant deaths than what we already see today.

In April 2019, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled all Fisher-price and Kids II infant sleepers due to over 30 infant deaths. And yet, a recent study with the U.S. PIRG and Kids In Danger discovered 1 in 10 daycare providers still continue to use them despite the recall.

California mother Julie Storm* lost her child, 12-week-old baby girl L.M., when she was found face-down and unresponsive in her Rock n’ Play in September 2018 at their previous home in Delaware.

“I placed her in [the Rock n’ Play] while I went to get my son’s shower ready. I came back to check on her a few minutes later and found that she had rolled all the way over onto her face,” Julie Storm tells Scary Mommy. “I immediately picked her up and discovered she was not breathing.”

Since then, Storm and her family have been living what she calls “a nightmare” and struggling with heavy “guilt for not knowing it was unsafe” and putting their baby into a “death trap.”

Her message for others is that using a recalled baby product such as, but not limited to, the Rock n’ Play is not worth it.

“Yes, many babies sleep better in the [Rock n’ Play] but I’d rather never sleep again staying up with her and have my baby girl back. It can happen to anyone. Seven minutes is all it took to change our lives forever and rob us of what should’ve been a long, beautiful life. Seven minutes,” Storm says.

Continuing to use a recalled baby product, much like the Rock n’ Play, is not worth the risk. Not to mention, each and every single time it is done, a child is actively being put at a greater risk for a SIDS/SUIDS-related death. And when one is being sold or given away to another caregiver by resale shops, at garage sales, or in consignment shops, according to the CPSC, it is actually illegal and can be reported.

But it’s not just parents continuing to use the Rock n’ Play after its recall that’s leaving infants at a greater risk for SIDS/SUIDs. It’s everything the CDC and the Academy of American Pediatrics has warned against for many years that many parents are choosing to ignore. It’s unsafe sleeping practices, exposure to cigarette smoke, and fallacies from parents about “doing things the way they’ve always been done” that are literally killing our kids.

“When an infant’s head is completely covered, or when it is lying face down into its bedding, exhaled air can be trapped to a varying extent. The child re-breathes the exhaled air, which, over time, leads to high levels of carbon dioxide and increasingly low levels of oxygen in the air pocket formed between the infant’s head and the bedding,” Bradley Tharch, Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis, MO states in a medical publication.

This process is otherwise known as carbon dioxide re-breathing, and it can happen even if an infant’s nose and mouth aren’t fully covered. And it, along with positional asphyxia, when an infant’s head is in a position compromising proper oxygen flow of the airway, are one of the many risk-factors associated with unsafe sleeping and using recalled baby sleep-products much like the Rock n’ Play.

SIDS is horrifying, and it leaves parents, caregivers and families left to sift through years of trauma from its aftermath. And although there is still little-known on this cause of death or the moments leading up to it, there are steps we can take to prevent becoming one of these parents, caregivers or families.

We know better, it’s time we do better.

*names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals

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