Should You Get Rid of Your Baby Rocker?

Key Takeaways

  • Parents are being warned against using infant rockers for sleep after 14 babies died in them.
  • Babies should never fall asleep in a rocker, but it’s OK to set your baby down in one.
  • If you don’t think you can prevent your baby from falling asleep in a rocker, you should get rid of yours.

Getting your baby to sleep is not always easy for new parents. There are many tricks of the trade to get your little one snoozing, but it’s important never to use an inclined baby rocker for sleep. Last month, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued warnings about infant rockers after the deaths of 14 children were tied to their use.

Thirteen of these deaths were in Fisher-Price Rockers between 2009 and 2021, and one was in a Kids2 Rocker in 2019. The CPSC’s advice is in line with that of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which emphasizes these products are not for sleep. If your baby falls asleep in a rocker, you should move them to a safe sleep environment right away. Babies should only sleep on a firm flat surface such as a crib, bassinet, or play yard.

Should I Throw Out My Infant Rocker?

Rockers keep babies calm because they are so comfortable. Infants enjoy feeling snug and being in a slightly inclined position. But, rockers can be a little too comfortable. If they lull your little one to sleep, they aren’t safe. If a baby falls asleep at an incline, their head may lull forward, compressing the windpipe. Then, if the infant does not have the neck strength to reposition and they are unable to arouse themselves to call for help, it can lead to death by positional asphyxiation.

So the big questions are—should you even get a baby rocker? If you have one, do you need to get rid of it? Maybe, but not necessarily. “Rockers may be used to place the infant in during the day when awake and buckled appropriately,” says Nilong Vyas, MD, a pediatrician at Sleepless in NOLA and Medical Review Expert at Sleep Foundation. “However, if the parent will be tempted to use these devices overnight or during a nap if these devices are in the home, then it would be best to remove them.”

Nilong Vyas, MD

If the parent will be tempted to use [infant rockers] overnight or during a nap, then it would be best to remove them from the home.

— Nilong Vyas, MD

Are Rockers Safe for Newborns?

It’s probably not a good idea to put your newborn in a rocker unless it’s just for a moment. “The problem is that there is very little time that the newborn is awake, other than when they’re eating,” notes Heather Wallace, a certified pediatric sleep consultant, postpartum doula, and the owner of BraveHeart Sleep Training and Postpartum Doula Counseling. “So a few minutes after you set your newborn in the rocker he could very well drift off to sleep. When parents are exhausted and desperate they are more at risk for using an unsafe sleeping arrangement.”

As your baby gets older, they will begin to stay awake for longer periods. Their sleep patterns will also become more apparent. A 4-month-old who just woke from a nice, long morning nap and drank 4 ounces of milk will probably be up and alert for a good hour and a half. If you need to use the rocker to cook dinner or attend to another child, choose a time you’re pretty sure your baby won’t fall asleep. However, always supervise your baby in a rocker.

Heather Wallace, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Postpartum Doula

When parents are exhausted and desperate they are more at risk for using an unsafe sleeping arrangement.

— Heather Wallace, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Postpartum Doula

Although your baby can spend some awake time in a rocker, also be aware that babies should only spend a limited amount of time in containment devices. This includes rockers, bouncers, car seats, and high chairs. Too much time in containment devices can impede physical development, so they should only be used when needed.

Safe Sleep for Babies

The AAP advises parents to put their babies to sleep on their backs in a crib, bassinet, or play yard. The baby should be the only thing in the sleep space other than a pacifier. There should be no blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals. Babies should sleep in the same room, but never the same bed, as the parents.

In June, the AAP updated its guidelines for the first time since 2016. The update further emphasizes the dangers of any bed-sharing and putting your baby to sleep in any product that does not meet the CPSC standards for safe sleep, especially products that are not flat and firm. This includes inclined baby rockers.

The new guidelines also say weighted swaddles or anything weighted to help baby sleep should not be used. Parents may swaddle their baby in a standard receiving blanket from birth, but this practice should be discontinued as soon as the baby shows signs of rolling.

What This Means For You

Falling asleep in an inclined rocker is dangerous for babies. It can lead to death by positional asphyxiation. It’s OK to put your infant down in a rocker for short periods of time, but only if you supervise them and make sure that they do not fall asleep. If you don’t think your baby can stay awake in a rocker, you should not use it. Newborns sleep most of the time, so it’s best not to use rockers at this age unless it’s only for a minute or two.

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