New infant crib safety standards go into effect today

Dominika Osmolska Psy.D.'s picture
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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued new, more stringent safety standards for cribs. They address the major design flaws that have killed or injured so many infants in recent years, including the so-called "drop-side” crib, in which one side panel drops down for easier access of the parent to the baby. While the design allowed the side of the crib to be raised or lowered for convenient reach, the hinges on the movable sides too often broke, creating dangerous gaps in which babies could become stuck or strangled.

Such cribs will no longer be allowed to be sold – not in stores, not on craigslist, not on eBay, not even at garage sales. Other crib models are being put through stringent safety tests as well, and are designed to simulate real-world wear and tear more accurately. The CPSC has also improved at-home assembly instructions to ensure that parents build cribs correctly. Unsound assembly was a contributor to the deaths of many babies, the CPSC found.

Shockingly, most cribs currently in use do not meet the new safety standards, and the CPSC urges parents who can afford it to buy one which does. It might be difficult for parents to determine which cribs meet the new safety bar, as the standards are new, and retailers are not required to display safety certification for their products. Undoubtedly some retail outlets will be stuck with older merchandise which they might be eager to sell, counting on parents’ propensity to choose a baby crib for its aesthetic appeal. However, parents are within their rights to request to see the safety certificates.

Parents and consumer advocacy groups are applauding the new safety standards. Crib injuries are surprisingly high: each day 26 babies are harmed in cribs, playpens and bassinets.

The CPSC voted this month to give short-term crib rental companies until Dec. 28, 2012, to comply with the new mandatory standards for baby cribs. The extension will give such companies time to update their inventories with cribs that are in compliance with the new federal rules.

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The CPSC says safety standards for cribs had not been previously updated in almost 30 years and that the new rules will mark the beginning of safer cribs for infants.

Parents can also enhance the safety of their babies’ sleep by following these guidelines, recommended by the National Institute of Health:

• Always place an infant on his or her back to sleep -- for naps and at night. Infants who sleep on their backs have a lower risk of SIDS compared to infants placed on their stomachs or sides. Infants who usually sleep on their backs face an even greater risk of SIDS if placed on their stomachs.

• Place infants on a firm sleep surface for sleep. An example would be a crib mattress with a fitted sheet. Infants should never be placed on a soft surface, such as a pillow, quilt, or sheepskin.

• Pillows, cushioned crib bumpers, toys, loose bedding, and other soft objects should be kept out of an infant's sleeping area. And all items should be kept away from an infant's face.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that infant cribs or bassinets be placed in parents' bedrooms, and that the baby not share its crib with other children.

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