Transitioning Out of the Rock ‘n Play

This week a lot of parents were struck with the news of multiple deaths in infants who were sleeping in a Rock ‘n Play. This is a scary news story to hear when perhaps your little one is sound asleep in one right now! Truth be told, the Rock ‘n Play has never been an approved sleep space and the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) has always recommended placing your baby on a FLAT, firm surface on their backs for all sleep. The AAP is now recommending that the product be recalled and is urging all parents to discontinue use right away. Easier said than done, right?

Let’s start with WHY babies sleep so much better in the Rock ‘n Play. It’s more comfortable plain and simple. They feel cuddled, snug, and warm which are the feelings we’re all striving for when falling asleep. For reflux babies it keeps their bodies at an elevated angle, helping to keep milk down and avoiding excess spit up. This can be a lifesaver for so many moms, but the risk simply doesn’t outweigh the benefit. Babies who sleep flat on their back in the crib/bassinet may wake up more frequently throughout the night, but keep in mind that they are waking for good reason. It is a natural defense mechanism to ensure that their bodies are continuing to work. When a baby wakes frequently throughout the night, they are filling their tummies more often allowing them to grow. They are in a lighter stage of sleep, but that lighter stage of sleep is actually keeping them safe.

The problem comes with baby not being flat on their back. It means that their chins are at an increased risk of dropping straight down to their chest, restricting their airway. A newborn baby has not developed neck strength and may not be able to lift their head to open the airway. Babies older than 3 months can potentially roll over while in the Rock N Play, putting their bodies in a dangerous position for suffocation even while strapped in. If they’re not strapped in it can be even more dangerous.

So how can we help our babies transition out of the Rock ‘n Play and into a safe space? There are some options, but keep in mind that babies will protest ANY change so you can expect 2-3 nights of worse sleep when you make the transition.

Cold Turkey. Jump into the transition and ditch the Rock ‘n Play right away. Continue with your usual bedtime routine, but this time place baby in the crib instead. If you’re baby is normally asleep when you place them down, do that. If they’re normally awake, do that.

Sometimes a transition swaddle can help, such as the Magic Merlin Sleep Suit or the Zipadeezip as it will add some of that resistance and push back that your baby is used to. The Merlin Suit will be time limited because there will come a time when baby develops enough core strength to roll over in it, at which point they need to transition out. The Zipadeezip can be used indefinitely as baby can safely crawl, roll, and walk in it.

Again, expect a few nights of extra protesting and resistance when you first make the transition.

Gradual. Always start at bedtime. This is when the sleep drive is at its highest and your little one will have the easiest time falling asleep. Starting with naps is not recommended as they don’t have as much sleep pressure built up and have more difficulty falling asleep.

When you finish your bedtime routine and are putting baby down in the crib, keep them swaddled if they’re not rolling, and remain next to them, hovering over them as you place them down. So keep your arms around them, pat their chest, pet their hair, whatever is going to be soothing to your little one as they fall asleep. Each night you can let up on that assistance but your baby will be falling asleep flat on their back.

DON’Ts. When making the transition we tend to want to recreate the same logistics of the Rock ‘n Play but in their crib. I’ve seen some crazy crib setups but doing these things will be making the sleep space unsafe, which is what you’re try to get away from in the first place. Please avoid the following:

• Using a crib wedge (unless prescribed by your doctor)

• Placing a rolled up towel under the sheet

• Raising one side of the crib for an incline

The crib should not be modified at all.

Need more help with the transition? Schedule a private phone consultation here.

Want more information on infant sleep safety standards? Check out the guidelines here.