CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Every year, in Cuyahoga County alone, an average of 20 babies die in unsafe sleep situations. Nationally, 3,500 kids fall victim to this each year.
In these kind of cases, the young victims are put in what parents think are comfortable places, like the Fisher Price Rock n Play, recently recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. All 4.7 million of those popular inclined sleepers were recalled, after they were linked to more than 30 infant deaths since 2009.
Upon hearing about this recall, Meagan Gries wanted to share her story.
On her first day back from maternity leave she got a call from her babysitter. Her 10-week-old daughter, Molly, wasn’t breathing.
She raced to her baby who’d been rushed to the hospital.
“The doctor walked in and started crying. She said Molly came in, no heartbeat, wasn’t breathing. They did everything they could but she was gone,” she said.
Initially they attributed Molly’s death to SIDS. But three months later, the coroner told her it was positional asphyxiation, because of blankets in the portable crib she was napping in.
“Unfortunately, Molly was propped on her side, rolled on to her belly and because of the blankets couldn’t breathe,” Meagan said.
With their grief still painfully fresh, she and her husband Jeff launched the Molly Ann Gries Foundation and took to hospitals and other outlets to spread the message about safe sleep.
“We can’t bring Molly back but we can tell what happened with Molly in hopes that someone else will go take that blanket out of the crib, move their baby from their belly to their back and their baby will wake up tomorrow,”she said.
The Gries’s weren’t surprised to hear about the recent recall of the Fisher Price Rock n Play, and the Kids II inclined sleepers. Together those products are responsible for at least 35 infant deaths, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“We don’t want want to have them propped up on their side like Molly was or in a Rock n Play. It cradles them like a hammock. That creates opportunities for the babies to end up face down, face sideways, turned around,” said Jeff Gries.
Lorrie Considine with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health says it’s angle of the incline, and the padding that make these sleepers so dangerous.
“What they found with many of these inclined sleepers is that the baby is not buckled and they put their face against the padding and that’s not safe,” said Considine.
She says the rollover risk, and suffocation risk is real. And even if you think you know how to responsibly use these sleepers, don’t.
“The CPSC was very emphatic. You might have had a good experience with it, but from all of the studies they’ve done, it’s not safe to use,” Considine said.
The CPSC, which has made this a top priority, is urging parents to stop using them immediately. They’re expanding their investigation into other inclined sleepers now, and encouraging parents to report problems with these units.
Through their foundation, the Molly Ann Gries Foundation, Meagan was contacted by another mother whose 8 week old died in a Rock n Play.
“She put him in it, stepped out of the room, came back and found him flipped on to his belly, legs hanging off the side,” Meagan recalls.
The Greis’s say they keep their message simple and promote what the American Academy of Pediatrics publishes.
Babies should sleep alone (no blankets, stuffed animals, pillows or bumpers) on their backs, and flat in a crib.
“A product like a Rock n Play or any number of sleep positioners that are out there are not made for routine unsupervised sleep,” said Jeff Gries.
Meagan says she’ll continue to drum up the courage to tell Molly’s story in awful detail in hopes of truly making an impact and changing parent and caregiver behavior.
“The research has been done. The data out there. The message has been written. We just need to tell it,” said Jeff.