Breaking news: Orbit Baby brand to shutter.
Ergobaby, owner of Orbit, confirmed today that they are discontinuing all Orbit strollers and car seats!
The company still plans to honor all warranties and it’s still possible Orbit may be spun off or sold.
In a response posted to a visitor post on Facebook, Orbit Baby stated:
We recently sold much of the intellectual property and tooling assets of Orbit Baby to Safian Company, Ltd., our longtime South Korean distributor. Orbit Baby in the U.S. will continue to support current customers with a committed Customer Care team and by honoring the two year warranty customers received from purchasing Orbit Baby products. Thanks so much for your support.
Orbit was purchased by Ergo Baby, the carrier company, in 2011. Orbit Baby was launched in 2004 as a high-end baby travel system, combining an infant car seat and stroller.
An executive of Orbit Baby told Baby Bargains at a recent trade show that Ergo has a “global focus” and Orbit didn’t fit that model. Since car seat safety regulations vary by country, Ergo felt it couldn’t expand Orbit beyond the US market without significant investment.
Of course, Orbit’s financial losses probably didn’t help the matter. While Ergo is a privately owned and doesn’t report sales numbers, it was clear to us from the conversation that Orbit wasn’t pulling its weight financially. The market for upscale car seats and strollers has slowed considerably, thanks to a decline in the number of births and a lackluster economy.
Yes, there are plenty of car seat companies that compete globally—Dorel (Cosco, Safety 1st, Maxi Cosi) and Britax come to mind. But those companies have much larger economies of scale by selling car seats into various market price segments. Orbit was stuck in a high price niche that may probably held little appeal outside the U.S., especially in developing markets like China.
RIP Orbit Baby. We will still have your Office cameo to remember you by!
The Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper has been on a roll lately, appearing on TLC’s new reality show OutDaughtered. A recent episode featured their five baby girls sleeping in a row of—you guessed it—Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play sleepers:
As a result of this and other publicity, this Fisher Price sleeper is reaching cult status—women are whispering about it in the aisles of Babies R Us as a “miracle worker” that enables babies to sleep. And the Fisher Price Rock ‘N Play occupies FIVE slots of the top 10 best-sellers in Amazon’s “bouncer” category.
At the same time, several pediatricians have taken to blogs to denounce the bouncer, calling it dangerous, a possible risk for SIDS among other maladies.
So what exactly is the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper? And why is it controversial?
The Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper’s pitch:” great for overnight sleep”?
The Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper debuted in 2009 and is billed as an “inclined sleeper.” Baby is placed inside the sleeper, which has deep side walls to keep a baby snug. Fisher-Price touts the sleeper as “great for overnight sleep” (on its box) and “the inclined seat helps baby sleep all night long” (on FP’s web site).
The instructions for the Rock ‘n Play sleeper list a 25 lb. weight limit. The average (50% percentile) boy reaches 25 lbs. around 9 months of age. For girls, that same figure is 12 months.
The popularity of this product has lead Fisher-Price to release 36 different versions of the Rock ‘n Play. While the basic Rock ‘n Play has a soothing vibration feature, it must be manually rocked. Fisher-Price addressed that by adding a version called “Auto Rock ‘n Play“—an auto-rocking function with two speeds. There is also a “deluxe” version of this sleeper with plusher padding and an additional toy. Most of the other versions of the Rock N Play sleeper are variations in color and padding. The retail price for this product is between $50-$95.
There’s an even a version of the Rock ‘n Play that is smartphone-enabled (SmartConnect) for $75 at Babies R Us. You can remotely trigger the rocking, vibrations or other features via your smartphone.
Full disclosure: we did write about the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play in the latest version of our book, Baby Bargains. While we did not do a full review of the product, we did note our readers generally liked it.
So what’s all the fuss about? The Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play’s secret sauce is the cocooned sleep space. Babies (especially newborns) love it—and that’s where the controversy begins.
Controversy: Does the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play cause SIDS? Flat heads? Bad sleep habits?
Kansas City pediatrician Natasha Burgert wrote an excellent blog post on this subject, detailing the myriad of concerns about the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper. (We know Dr. Burgert through our co-author, Dr. Ari Brown of the Baby 411 series—Dr. Brown thinks highly of Dr. Burgert).
Dr. Burgert’s concerns can be summed up as three key points:
1. The Rock n’ Play Sleeper is not a safe place for overnight, unobserved infant sleep.
The problem: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a firm sleep surface with no soft padding or bedding items. This is to lower the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
On that score, the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play fails—it is not a flat surface (but a curved, sling seat). And Fisher Price touts the padding (infant head support, body padding) for this sleeper. The problem: padding can shift, causing the baby to get caught between the padding and the side of the sleeper. In fact, Fisher-Price even notes this risk for SIDS in their instructions:
Yet at the same time, Fisher-Price touts this sleeper for overnight sleep:
So you can see the obvious conflict: how can you use the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper for overnight sleep when you as a parent as supposed to watch for infants getting stuck between the pad and the side of the product? And isn’t a “plush body insert and head support” that comes with the deluxe version of this sleeper the definition of soft bedding?
Yes, Fisher Price notes that the Rock ‘n Play has “breathable mesh” sides—but the body support pillows and headrest either cover the sides or can easily shift.
2. Flat head syndrome and other deformities.
The Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play has been implicated in cases of flat head syndrome or plagiocephaly. Because folks use this product for months, babies sleep in the same position night after night. And because infants can’t freely move their heads or bodies around in this sleeper, two problems can result: flat head syndrome and torticollis, or a twisted neck.
These complaints have been seen both anecdotally in Amazon reviews and formally in complaints to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. Here is one from April 2016:
My son has been diagnosed with “Right Torticollis” and “Mild positional plagiocephaly.” He now has to have physical therapy to fix the tightening of his neck muscles on his right side. The physical therapist said that this is due to the way that gravity pulls the heavy infant head down while sleeping in the Fisher Price Rock & Play. He now favors turning his head to one side due to the tightening of the muscles and thus has developed a mild flat spot on the back-right side of his skull. My first son also used the Fisher Price Rock & Play sleeper and had SEVERE Brachycephaly; he had to have a helmet to correct the shape of his head from this. I had no idea at the time that the Rock & Play could cause Brachycephaly, plagiocephaly and torticollis or I would NEVER have used it for either son. We ended up paying $1,200 AFTER 80% insurance coverage of my first son’s helmet. FIsher Price should not market this Rock & Play as a safe infant sleeper due to the extensive medical issues that it can and does cause. I know that I am not alone in my frustration with this product-please see other reviews from Amazon and other verified retailers.
Fisher Price seems to recognize the problem by spending an entire page (page 6) of the instruction manual warning parents about this problem. One of their tips says:
Help your baby avoid resting his head
in the same position all the time by
frequently changing the direction he
lies in the crib.
That is true—but the opposite of what the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play does!
3. Bad sleep habits.
If you’ve read our Baby 411 book, you know that babies establish sleep patterns around four months of age—this includes the ability to self soothe and general sleep environment preferences.
And that’s the problem with the Fisher Price Rock n Play sleeper: because the company has a 25 lb. weight limit on it, parents use it for many weeks beyond that four month window.
“The problem is that parents don’t want to stop using it—it works, they sleep–why potentially ruin a good thing? Babies need room to spread out and move around as they get older—2 months and up,” says Dr. Ari Brown, co-author of Baby 411. Dr Brown recommends discontinuing use of products like the Rock ‘n Play sleeper around two months . . . but Fisher-Price encourages longer use with the 25 lb. weight limit.
And good luck trying to break the sleep habits of an older baby in a Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play—Dr. Burgert of Kansas City says moving an older baby out of the FP sleeper to a crib can be difficult: “Families are suffering from many sleepless nights while their older infant re-learns how to sleep, on their backs, in their long-term sleep environment.”
The Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper has a series mold problem, which prompted a recall of the 800,000 units back in 2013 after 600 reports from users. Yet complaints about this issue persist into 2016: see this report filed with the CPSC.
Why is this happening? Well, diapers leak. And that moisture gets trapped behind the pad and seat. Here’s what the result looks like:
This is obviously a serious health hazard. Yes, Fisher-Price includes detailed cleaning recommendations and instructions for this sleeper. But the persistent reports of mold indicate to us an inherent design defect, in our opinion.
Fisher-Price recommends washing this product EVERY time it gets soiled—but parents may miss a leaking diaper if the moisture gets trapped between the pad and seat liner (where the top padding is dry by morning).
Bottom line: we do NOT recommend the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper.
Given the possible health risks (some of which have been documented in numerous formal complaints filed with safety regulators), we can not recommend the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper. In general, we only recommend bouncers/swings for brief use for soothing, but not for overnight sleep. If you already have one of these sleepers, we strongly recommend discontinuing use after two months of age. And clean it frequently to make sure mold or mildew doesn’t show up.
Some good news today—we are dropping the pay wall on our web site, as of today! That means our detailed baby product reviews (in the Reviews tab) are now free for all to read.
We wanted to give you some background on this decision and how it will affect the site in the future. We launched the subscription side of our web site back in 2011, putting all the reviews from our book Baby Bargains online for subscribers. We also had web-only exclusive reviews that were also behind the pay wall.
This worked well for several years, but we increasingly heard from fans of our work that they wanted to have the web site be free. And we understand that. So we are switching business models—by dropping the pay wall, we will now rely on affiliate links to run the site and make a living.
When you read a product review on our site, there will be links to purchase it—most of these links are to Amazon, but occasionally we link to Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby, Target and Walmart, among others. (That’s because some retailers have exclusives for certain products). When you click on the link and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission. We believe this model is more viable today than it was back in 2011, thanks to the popularity of Amazon and online shopping in general.
FYI: These affiliate links do not change the price to you as a purchaser. You pay the same price whether you click through a link on our site or not. Also: it is the retailer (Amazon and others) that pay us a small commission, not the brands we review. We do not collect personal information from these links—while we know what product was purchased, we don’t see who purchased what.
Our reviews often take hours of research to write—testing the product, culling out parent feedback from our message boards/email and comparing the product to the competition. You support our work when you purchase a product through a link on our site—and we do appreciate your support!
To be clear, we do NOT take money or free samples from the brands we review. We purchase products at regular retail prices. When we visit a company or tour a factory, we pay our own travel expenses. We believe transparency is the best policy, so readers understand clearly how we make a living!
If you subscribed to our web site in the past four months, you will have already received an email about a refund of your unused subscription. If you subscribed before Jan 20, we will send you an email shortly about refund options (due to a technical limitation with our credit card processor, we can’t automatically refund transactions before that date). If you have any questions about your refund, please contact us.
We’d love your feedback on our site! Please email us with your thoughts.
A trending story about a toddler’s light-up shoe catching fire in Texas was covered in an unusual way by ABC’s Good Morning America today. When airing a story on the shoe that caught fire in a Texas family’s minivan, the ABC show intentionally blurred out a picture of the shoe:
Why? Because this is what the shoe actually looked like:
Yes, the flaming shoe in question had cartoon characters from the TV show Jake and The Never Land Pirates (also known as Captain Jake and the Never Land Pirates). That show is created by Disney . . . which just happens to own ABC, which airs Good Morning America.
Shame on Good Morning America for blurring out a picture of the shoe—it’s ironic that Good Morning America aired the report to warn parents about the possible fire risk from lithium ion batteries in the shoes. But then they blur out the shoe so parents can’t identify the shoes that Payless has pulled from their stores? Hello?
We’ve reached out to Good Morning America for comment on this story and will update this when we hear back. Update: ABC spokesperson Heather Riley contacted BabyBargains.com late this afternoon to say the blurring of the shoes was “a mistake.” ABC plans to correct the video online to show the shoes clearly.
Good Morning America used footage from a Houston TV station that covered the story a couple of days ago. But here is how the story looked when ABC ‘s Good Morning America aired it this morning:
Here is the original report from KHOU in Houston, TX (which is a CBS affiliate):
Oddly, a different report posted today from ABC News didn’t blur out the shoes:
Interestingly, a separate report that ABC posted online about the shoe fire didn’t blur out the shoes.
Please share this story with your friends in case they have these toddler shoes so they can return them to the store. The Consumer Product Safety Commission said they haven’t seen other reports on this hazard, but they are investigating.