Home Baby brand Grieving mother Erika Richter speaks out after Congress passes ban on slant rails and crib bumpers

Grieving mother Erika Richter speaks out after Congress passes ban on slant rails and crib bumpers

Infant slant sleepers and crib bumper cushions will be prohibited from being sold under law passed Wednesday by Congress.

The bill, known as the Safe Sleep for Babies Act, will now go to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign.

Among advocates calling on Biden to quickly sign the legislation is Erika Richter, whose 2-week-old daughter, Emma, ​​died while using a Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper, a type of incline sleeper believed to be prohibited under the new legislation.

“To get this bill passed is a huge win, and the fact that it has bipartisan support only underscores that this change was long overdue and undeniably needed,” said Richter, of Portland, Oregon.hello america.” “There are 4.7 million of these products sold.”

Erika Richter, of Portland, Oregon, holds her newborn daughter Emma in 2018. (Erika Richter)

Richter has been a strong advocate for change since the death of Emma, ​​his only child, in August 2018.

In 2020, Richter filed a lawsuit against Fisher-Price for wrongful death and gross negligence. The case is pending in Los Angeles County Superior Court and Richter declined to provide details about the cause of her daughter’s death due to the litigation.

In its response to the lawsuit, Fisher-Price denied all allegations and specifically denied “that by reason of any act or omission on their part, their agents, or independent contractors, the plaintiffs were harmed or damaged in any way.”

WATCH: How the CPSC hopes to phase out dangerous baby sleep products

It wasn’t until after Emma’s death that Richter said he heard of other infant deaths associated with Rock ‘n Play sleepers, who were recalled in 2019 by the Consumer Product and Safety Commission (SCPC) after being linked to more than 30 deaths.

“I thought, ‘If I had known sooner,'” Richter said. had Emma.”

Erika Richter’s daughter Emma died in a Rock ‘n Play sleeper in August 2018. (Erika Richter)

Last June, Richter shared his story publicly for the first time at a congressional hearing who followed a report of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The report found that Fisher-Price had ignored repeated warnings that its Rock ‘n Play sleeper was dangerous before the the device has been recalled.

The report found that more than 50 infant deaths were related to the sleeper, which puts infants at a 30-degree recline.

The cause of death for some of the babies was asphyxia, or the inability to breathe, due to the child’s position, according to the report.

“We trusted a known brand, and we were wrong,” Richter said in her testimony, holding up baby clothes as a reminder of what she left behind to remember her daughter.

When Richter first shared his story publicly last June, a spokesperson for Mattel, the parent company of Fisher-Price, told ABC News in a statement that “there is nothing more important for the company that the safety of its products and that its “heart goes out to all the families who have suffered a loss.”

“The Rock ‘n Play Sleeper was designed and developed following extensive research, medical advice, safety analysis and over a year of testing and review,” a spokesperson said, adding that independent medical analysis and other experts have verified that the sleeper is safe when used in accordance with its instructions and warnings. “It met or exceeded all applicable regulatory standards. As recently as 2017, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) proposed adopting the voluntary ASTM standard for a 30-degree angled crosshead as a federal law.”

A Mattel spokesperson confirmed to ABC News on Thursday that the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper is no longer on the market, noting that it “was sold from its introduction in 2009 until its voluntary recall in April 2019.” .

CPSC Guidelines and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say caregivers should always place infants to sleep on their backs on a firm, level surface and should never add “blankets, pillows, padded bumpers or other items to the sleeping environment. infant sleep”.

Erika Richter’s daughter Emma was just 2 weeks old when she died in 2018. (Erika Richter)

Additionally, caregivers should not use infant sleep products with seat backs that are reclined more than 10 degrees, and should not use infant car seats, bouncers, and other products that are reclined for sleeping , in accordance with the guidelines.

About 3,400 babies in the United States die every year in their sleep, in sudden and unexpected deaths, according to the AAPwho released a statement on Wednesday applauding the passage of the Safe Sleep for Babies Act.

“The message from pediatricians has long been clear: the safest sleep environment for babies is a firm, flat, bare surface,” AAP President Dr. Moira Szilagyi said in a statement. “Despite what science shows, crib bumpers and slant rails have remained on the market and store shelves, misleading parents into thinking they are safe and resulting in dozens of deaths. preventable infants.”

Experts say that padded crib bumperswhich are also prohibited by the new legislation, pose a particular potential hazard as infants may turn their face into the bumper padding, increasing the risk of choking, may become trapped under or around the bumper, or may become entangled in bumper clips, increasing the risk of strangulation.

Erika Richter, of Portland, Oregon, became a consumer product safety advocate after the death of her baby daughter in 2018. (Erika Richter)

Even when federal crib standards changed in 2011, mandating a smaller distance between crib slats so babies don’t get their heads caught between them, crib bumpers child – which had presumably reduced this risk – became useless, but they remained on the market, despite the safety risk, according to Dr. Ben Hoffmanprofessor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University and chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention.

“There is an assumption that [products] are safe until proven to be unsafe, contrary to what I think the public believe is that if something is sold it is safe,” Hoffmann told ABC News last year.

Richter said she, too, has learned from her advocacy work since Emma’s death that parents need to be careful consumers when it comes to the products they use with their children.

“I learned that we have a long way to go when it comes to consumer protection and that traditional brands are not synonymous with trust,” she said. “People are dying because they assume that brands themselves do their due diligence, and you can’t put that kind of control in the hands of a profit maker or a profit owner.

Richter said she plans to continue pushing for more consumer controls, including calling on Congress to repeal a provision, 6B, of the Consumer Product Safety Act that she says allows companies to “self-regulate” in product safety.

Richter said she also plans to continue speaking out to raise awareness and ensure banned infant sleep products don’t end up in the hands of other mothers.

“I’m still a mom. I’m still Emma’s mom. I still have that responsibility, and I still think like a mom and I still want to protect other moms and other kids,” she said. . “It’s so important to me.”

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