The War on Drop-Side Cribs

A parent’s worse nightmare might be putting the baby down for a nap, and returning to find him… dead. This happened to the parents of 6-month-old Bobby Cirigliano, in 2004. But we’re not talking about SIDS or crib death… The tragedy of this story involves the side rail on his drop-side crib, which slid off the tracks, trapped his head and neck between the mattress and the malfunctioning side rail, suffocating him.

Surprisingly, there have been at least 32 other infants and toddlers killed by their drop-side cribs since 2000.  These babies were suffocated or strangled in these cribs, which have a side that moves up and down, allowing parents to lift children from the cribs more easily. Drop-sides have been around for decades, but only now are people beginning to question their safety.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission  regulates crib safety, and its chairman, Inez Tenenbaum, has pledged to make fixed-side cribs mandatory. It could take many months before becoming effective.  Big retailers such as Babies R Us and Wal-Mart have removed drop-side cribs from their sale floors. And now Congress is getting involved.

“There’s a great urgency here. We have to make sure that no parent is unaware that drop-side cribs could kill their children,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in an Associated Press interview.  She wants to accelerate efforts for a ban, and plans to introduce legislation this week to outlaw the manufacture, sale and resale of all drop-side cribs. She also wants them banned from day-care centers and hotels, and she wants to educate parents who are using them.

“There still are thousands and thousands of children who are sleeping every night in drop-side cribs and we need to protect them,” said Gillibrand.

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, which represents over 90 percent of the crib industry, insists that drop-side cribs are safe w hen assembled and used properly.  But more than 7 million of these cribs have been recalled in the past five years, often because screws, safety pegs or plastic tracking for the rail can come loose or break. When the hardware malfunctions, the drop-side rail can detach partially from the crib, creating a space where a baby can get caught and suffocate or strangle.

Some people, such as Z Recommends, question the motives behind the banning of these cribs, saying there may be more to it than meets the eye. Why not issue mandated quality improvements on the design of drop-side cribs (for example: metal instead of plastic hardware, which tends to break), rather than an outright ban?  Fixed-sided cribs, even those with shorter legs (as some suggest would become the norm for cribs) will make it very difficult for tall parents, parents with bad backs, pregnant women, or older parents and caregivers to place their babies in the crib.

As one commenter puts it, “Can we put a man on the moon and not make a safe drop-side crib?”

If you are using a drop-side crib, be sure you have assembled it and are using it properly.  Check to make sure the model hasn’t been recalled. You may want to consider getting a new crib, or at least anchoring the movable side so there’s no danger of it malfunctioning.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

News source: Associated Press

Photo by valentinapowers, shared via Flickr.

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