On May 16, President Biden signed the Safe Sleep for Babies Act into law, less than two weeks after being passed by Congress.  The Act addresses the controversy around inclined sleepers and crib bumpers for infants by banning both as hazardous products under the Consumer Product Safety Act.  The law is set to go into effect no later than 180 days after its enactment.

This legislation follows numerous reports over the past few years of infant deaths and related product recalls, including, most notably, Fisher-Price’s Rock ‘n Play sleeper.

The Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with oversight of the consumer products market and tasked with, among other things, protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer product.  As part of its duties, the CPSC lists recalls of products on its website so consumers are aware of any hazards associated with a product they own. 

Prior to this legislation, the CPSC had posted numerous recalls for different inclined products due to the alleged increase risk of suffocation during infant sleep; historically, impacted products included gliders, soothers and rockers.  In addition, CPSC previously passed a final rule for infant sleep products on June 2, 2021 incorporating the most recent voluntary standard developed by ASTM, but also including certain more stringent components. The new standard requires that infant sleep products that do not already meet the requirements of an existing CPSC sleep standard must be tested to confirm that the angle of the sleep surface is 10 degrees or lower and that they comply with the agency’s safety standard for bassinets and cradles.

The new law is more broadly applicable and explicitly bans inclined infant sleepers and crib bumpers. The legislation makes it unlawful to manufacture, sell or distribute inclined sleepers for infants. Inclined sleepers are defined as products with an inclined sleep surface greater than ten degrees that are intended, marketed or designed to provide sleeping accommodations for an infant up to 1 year old. 

The law also makes it unlawful to manufacture, sell or distribute crib bumpers, defined as padded materials inserted around the inside of a crib and intended to prevent the crib occupant from becoming trapped in any part of the crib’s openings.  Experts on pediatrics have opined that padded crib bumpers pose a potential danger because, among other things, babies can turn their faces into the bumper’s padding, raising the risk of suffocation. 

This new law highlights the importance of keeping abreast of industry developments: while these products met regulatory standards while on the market, allegations of infant death, industry and expert perspective, and public opinion have materially changed the landscape for these now-banned products. 

This alert is not a substitute for advice of counsel on specific legal issues.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York state, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse, Uniondale and White Plains, as well as Washington D.C., New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.