January 4, 2010

All Amby Baby Hammocks Recalled After Two Suffocation Deaths

amby_cpsc.jpg

As a designer/owner/parent of an atypical crib, I have always wondered what safety tests standards or tests are used for baby hammocks. They all seem so squishy soft and slingy, not qualities I'd associate with lowered suffocation or SIDS risk.

And whaddya know, last month, the CPSC announced a recall of all Amby Baby Hammocks--around 24,000 have been sold in the US since 2003--after receiving reports of at least two infant deaths.

The CPSC warns that, "The side-to-side shifting or tilting of the hammock can cause the infant to roll and become entrapped or wedged against the hammock's fabric and/or mattress pad, resulting in a suffocation hazard."

So it's not just a mattress, but the fabric sides that pose a hazard? And don't all hammocks have fabric sides? Or does the Amby Baby have some particularly wide range of "side-to-side shifting or tilting"? Amby's offering a "free repair kit," but what could it solve that taking out the mattress doesn't? Health Canada apparently doesn't see any hope for safely repairing the hammocks; they're calling on consumers to dispose of Ambys to prevent their ever being used again.

hushamokanoe.jpg

I look at something like the Hushamok [l] or the Kanoe [r], and I can see how they might have less side-to-side shifting, but it's not immediately obvious that there's none, or that the Amby has so much more.

If only there were a Juvenile Hammocks Manufacturers Association, their spokeswoman might "reach out to me" and explain how infinitely and obviously safe these are, and why any deaths are due to incorrect use?

Infant Suffocation Deaths Prompt Recall of Amby Baby Motion Beds/Hammocks [cpsc.gov]
Oregon Man Files Lawsuit Over Defective Baby Hammock [insurancejournal.com via dt reader dt]

18 Comments

I can see how this happened. When a newborn moves and shifts, the hammock tilts and becomes weirdly lopsided, and the newbie is not strong enough yet to pull himself over.

I had an Amby and cranked up the fabric in back so that the hammock was always up and not flat. My son was also a large baby, so I never had a flop problem.

The problem with the Amby is that it hangs from one midpoint. Put a melon in it, and you'll see how the hammock sags one way.

You can always do what we do - use a Mayan hammock - it's all cotton netting, with no fabric to get wedged against.

We have a Hushamok. I went and swung it side to side, and the bottom of the hammock doesn't tilt to the side when the hammock swings like that. Also, because the bottom is only stiffened, not stiff, when a baby is in the hammock they weigh it down slightly so that they are sleeping in a very shallow trough. Not deep enough that they have the mattress in front of their faces if they turn their head to the side, but enough to discourage rolling.

I am no safety expert, but it's tough for me to see how this could happen in the Hushamok.

Both my kids used an Amby. We placed our infants between a positioner (it came with the hammock) to essentially immobilize the baby. When the positioner was outgrown, our kids fit snugly on their backs.

We discontinued use when our kids began attempting to roll over -- it was obvious because they would fight and fight to turn over, but were unable to, causing quite a verbal fuss over their imprisonment.

Anyhow, I'm interested to see what changes are made to the hammock. I'd like to read news reports surrounding the deaths to learn more about how they happened.

I spoke to Amby UK rep here and she said that sadly the parents had assembled the hammock cot incorrectly for both accidents.

How exactly was it incorrectly assembled? We keep on hearing that there was a fault, but it is unclear what that fault was. I would like to know so that we can stop other parents from commiting the same error.

My sisters baby has an amby baby bed and loves it! never has any problems with it!! your newborn should has a head stablizer anyway to prevent the baby from rolling over! i am hoping to get it when i have my baby and have no fear of putting my newborn in it!

I got my Amby in 2006 for my first born never look back, she was a colic baby
And amby was the best thing , I'm using in at the monent with my second and I
Still think is the safest place for my baby to sleep

I'm a little surprised at the recent, sudden comments in support of Amby, which is a recalled product that has directly caused the deaths of at least two kids.

If you were to write that your kid slept in an Amby and wow, we consider ourselves really lucky, but she didn't die, so lucky that we're going to try it again, that, I could understand. I'd think you're completely nuts and irresponsible, but I'd understand.

There is a risk with any product that is used incorrectly. From what I remember, the incident rate with the Amby is much lower than with most other cribs. Off course in the US people are quick to recall everything. The Amby recall incident happened just before my baby was born, but I felt comfortable using it as the company was super helpful in instructing me on how to ensure it was set up correctly. We were very pleased with it and I intend to use it again with my baby on the way.

Thanks, Lauren, I guess you're the Hammock Industry Spokesperson I was joking about? Because your lovely story is based on several erroneous assumptions.

Until very recently the US has been anything BUT quick to recall anything, but especially cribs. Manufacturers spent most of the last decade blaming problems, accidents, and deaths on users' inattention or incorrect use. Product quality, manufacturing, or inherent product design was almost NEVER to blame, even during a rare recall.

Then it would become clear that companies had been tallying incidents for years, only gradually tweaking products to see if the rate of injury or failure dropped, and only issuing a recall in extraordinary cases. [One example: the ongoing failure of infant seat handles, which break and dump kids out onto their heads. Millions of car seats have been recalled for the same problem over a decade, which never seems to get fixed.]

Lots of hammocks remain in use, probably in the US and certainly in other countries. But the Amby was singled out for having design flaws that led to kids' deaths. You were right to take pro-active steps to lessen the risk, but you also played the odds.

And yes, those odds are small. But Amby is NOT relatively safer, just the opposite. Amby only needed to sell 24,000 hammocks to get two suffocation deaths, a risk level that took Simplicity, one of the most dangerous, cheap-ass, design-ignorant manufacturers in the US, 900,000 bassinets to achieve. Simplicity is, rightly, bankrupt and out of business.

We used one of these for my daughter from three weeks old until she was about seven months and started trying to roll over. We never had a problem with it. I checked very carefully with the makers regarding the deaths in the USA. Apparently, one of the babies died because the parents bought the cot on Ebay, never had any instructions and put it together incorrectly. The second case was worse - the parents were hanging the cot from a clothes horse and it consequently tilted, tragically suffocating their child. Where I do have an issue with the company, however, is that they have promised to make an anti-tilting device to eliminate the possibility of sideways suffocation and a year later, they still have not provided this - least ways, not in the UK

2 deaths out of 24,000 sold in the United States. This is 0.0083333 percent. And given that both of these cases are reported to be a result of incorrect assembly, the chance of the product being to blame is fast approaching zero. I fail to see anything to justify a recall. A letter stressing the importance of correct assembly should suffice.

It is always tragic when a child dies, for any reason. But people are far too quick to look for a scapegoat.

I used one for both my kiddos and never had any problems. Both deaths referenced above were due to people not putting it together properly. My kids both slept like a dream in it and were very happy content babies - my son used it for a full year and my daughter 6 months. Ironically - the minute i moved her to the safer (lol) crib (which - btw - has been recalled due to being a drop side) she immediately started sleeping terribly and developed repeat ear infections. I only moved her out because she began rolling over and that is obviously not safe in a hammock type bed - but it makes me so sad to see these recalled. i truly loved mine and so did my kdis

We used an Amby Baby with our child in 2006-2007. He simply would not sleep anywhere else until 6 months old.

At the time, many reputable doctors endorsed this product, including the revered Dr. William Sears.

2 deaths out of 24,000 (with likely many more sold) is statistically insignificant. It is impossible to tell if a product is unsafe from such a small sample. People unilaterally declaring such a product unsafe, does not make it so. As far as I know, no governments did any testing. They simply reacted to public pressure.

I would use the Amby Baby again without hesitation.

The extent of your willful misunderstanding of the situation is clear from your comment. The endorsements you mention are irrelevant, because they do not pertain to safety. Dr. Sears doesn't safety test the products he mentions. I don't safety test the products I write about on this site. Because we all assume that there is a credible safety standards and testing system in place, and that companies follow it, and that the CPSC [in the US] enforces it.

In the last three years, the CPSC has recalled over ten million cribs, and has banned one of the most common type of crib, the drop-side, because the design was found to be directly related to the deaths of children. The handful of kids killed from drop-side cribs is even more "statistically insignificant" than the two who suffocated in their Amby Baby hammocks. If cribs were killing at the rate Amby Babys were, there'd be close to 1,000 babies killed by their cribs. Would you trot out your statistical insignificance argument then?

And as for government testing and public pressure, you are just incorrect on the facts. There were two reported deaths, which were investigated without publicity by the CPSC, which determined that the Amby Baby design was implicated in the suffocations. That all happened after the fact, and the recall was only announced after the investigation and the decision had been made. There was no such thing as "public pressure." As for the government testing products before they are sold, that is obviously not how the US system operates. There are safety standards which companies must meet before they sell a baby product. If Amby Baby did not comply with those laws, or determined that a hammock was not subject to crib standards, and used some other baby seat standard, then they are directly responsible for selling an untested, or inadequately tested product. I don't know what they did, but in any case, I'm glad that their inherently unsafe product is off the market.

That is an outrageous lie. The amby bed was recalled because it was found to be unsafe because infants can and did suffocate in them even when used properly. The bed is extremely unsafe and should not be used by anyone.

I would agree that it is possible to assemble the hammock incorrectly. I have lived with my children in other countries which have baby hammocks for sale all over. We borrowed one we used from a relative, and considered buying one to bring to the states. The hammock mattress of the Amby makes it flat. If your baby is not more than 10 pounds, the center does not dip enough into an arch. We used a hammock cloth we brought to the states for the first few months of each of our babies, then switched to Amby's. The shape and mattress was different than what I have seen. But then what all I have seen in other countries is less expensive products. I think Amby tried to make a comfortable roomy luxurious hammock... which worked great for all three of our children... just like the hammocks widely used in dozens of countries. However I do think it is too roomy for a newborn. I really wish we could buy this in the USA still. It is really wonderful if used correctly. Hammocks are used around the world. I have seen that in the USA we pay a lot of money to insure us against the 1 percent of the time we have an honest accident. And we force it on everyone to cover against the 1 percent of people who don't make mistakes on accident. It's too much. And only serves to make lawyers and insurance-crooks rich.

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