For parents, especially first-time moms and dads, learning the do’s and don’ts of raising a child is like drinking from a firehose.
But parents aren’t the only ones facing information overload when it comes to all the products on the market and the growing body of research related to infant and child safety. Regulators feel it too.
There’s such a demand for innovative or “improved” products to make life with a baby easier and safer that too often medical research isn’t always there to back up the product’s design. And in all honesty, it’s impossible for a lean agency like the CPSC to have enough knowledge of every single product on market to develop specific safety guidance to protect consumers.
Take in-bed sleepers for example – a new type of infant sleep aid and the latest product category to be the focus of a Consumer Reports safety campaign.
From an outsider’s perspective, in-bed sleepers may just be a textbook example of how product development and product safety aren’t always as fully aligned as we would hope. Products like the DockATot and Snuggle Nest appeal to parents who are inclined to co-sleep, or simply want their baby close at night. But when you take that emotion away and look at the product from a strictly safety perspective, you can probably see where there is concern. Built with soft cushioned sides and designed to be used in your bed, they go against the AAP’s safe-sleep guidelines.
So, are recalls coming? Our educated guess is “Yes.” Here’s what companies should be prepared for:
- Continued pressure from consumer advocates. The Consumer Reports investigation will gain steam, especially if a parent of a victim decides to speak out (as often happens in these cases). That will up the ante.
- Regulatory scrutiny and safety guidelines. The CPSC has been on the hot seat, feeling pressure from consumers, advocacy organizations, and Congress to do more to protect consumers. Expect them to act quickly – launching investigations or pushing for recalls –even if only to save face given their recent safety record for inclined sleepers and strollers.
- Publicly taking action that demonstrates your commitment to safety. Whether consumers believe it or not, we know that the vast majority of companies are committed to safety. But it’s what you do when you learn about injuries or deaths allegedly connected to your product that will cement consumer opinion in your brand. When you learn about safety concerns, act immediately. Consumers will thank you for doing the right thing.
In many cases, but especially when it comes to children’s and infant products, change is going to require consumer education as much as corporate and regulatory action. That’s where consumer advocacy organizations come in.
Whether companies like it or not, organizations like Kids in Danger and Consumer Reports strive to create awareness of safety issues to inform consumers and drive safety actions. Companies that make products targeted by advocacy organizations must be ready to act on the first alarms raised by one of these groups, regardless of the CPSC’s position on the issue.