Halo Sleep Sack zipper rips out baby's tooth

September 23, 2011 1:26:52 AM PDT
The terrified scream of a 10-month-old baby in San Francisco startled his parents out of a deep sleep and sent them into a panic. What we've found out since is leading to at least one consumer advocate to call for a recall of a popular baby sleep sack. 7 On Your Side looks into this case.

The way the parents describe it, what they heard that night from their child was not your normal scream. And what happened wasn't normal as well.

Lucinda Alden usually wakes up her son Julian from a nap. These peaceful circumstances were quite different from that frightful night back in October last year when her husband, Alan Alden, ran to Julian's room to see what was wrong.

"As a parent you're used to a typical crying and moaning, this was an absolute panicked scream," said Alan.

That night Julian was wearing a sleep sack from Halo. The wearable blanket can be zipped up for added comfort and protection. In fact, Halo promotes its product as the "safer way to sleep." Julian's parents say then 10-month-old Julian had curled himself into the fetal position while sleeping. The eyelid from the zipper pull somehow hooked onto his tooth

"His tooth was stuck on the zipper," said Lucinda. "It was literally stuck on his tooth. His feet were up here [by his mouth] and he was panicked trying to get it loose."

Julian kicked so hard he yanked his own tooth out. His mother says blood was everywhere. Halo declined an on camera interview, but a spokesman wrote in an email, "The probability of this type of incident occurring was extremely remote, less than one in a million."

Still, it's redesigned the zipper pull to eliminate the eyelid. But it also continues to sell the sleep sack with the old zipper as well. Jon Fox of CALPIRG says he doesn't see the logic in that.

"Clearly if there was a risk enough for them to redesign the product, then they should have removed the previous product from the shelves to prevent any risk for future kids using older versions of that product," said Fox.

We wanted to know if this type of incident had ever happened before. We filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and we learned the exact same thing had happened to Taylor Stern from Charlotte, North Carolina, eight months earlier. Like Julian, then 15-month-old Taylor was wearing a Halo Sleep Sack and the zipper hooked onto to her tooth. Taylor who is now almost three describes what happened next.

"I then I kicked up and then I had blood by myself," said Taylor.

"And what happened to your tooth?" asked Taylor's mother, Lora Stern.

"It kicked, kicked, kicked out," said Taylor.

Federal regulators investigated the incident involving Taylor and concluded there was no product defect. 7 On Your Side has also learned there have been six other zipper-related complaints to regulators involving Halo Sleep Sacks. Five involved the zipper either crumbling into pieces or being bit off by a child.

"Obviously that's a very dangerous and faulty product that should be taken off the shelves. The fact that they come off is one problem, but the fact that they disintegrate is even worse," said Fox.

In 2005, Lands' End and Old Navy voluntarily recalled children's outerwear products following complaints that the zipper pull would break or come loose. But Halo told us its products exceed all federal safety standards and said it analyzed each zipper complaint and could find "no pattern of defect."

Twenty months after a zipper hooked Taylor's tooth, we were able to purchase a Halo Sleep Sack swaddle that had the old zipper with an eyelid. The Consumer Product Safety Commission would not reveal what if any conversations it had with Halo, but says that faulty cribs and other products already linked to death are a higher priority.


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