Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What’s the Deal with Drop-side Cribs?

What is a drop-side crib?

A drop-side crib is a crib in which the side rail moves up and down on tracks to allow easier access to the child. The tracks can be in the end posts or attached to the end post with plastic or metal hardware. A drop-gate crib, where the top several inches of the crib side fold out and down is not a drop-side and not subject to the same problems.

What are the problems?

Drop-side cribs have been involved in dozens of deaths over the past 15 years. Hardware breaks or becomes loose and a dangerous gap is created where babies can become entrapped and suffocate or strangle. Sometimes the breakage happens when poor instructions or design allow the side rail to be installed upside down or backwards. Other times, parts such as safety pegs, screws, or the plastic track become loose or fall out. Sometimes, when the crib breaks, parents attempt to fix it, which can be dangerous as well. This product failure is so deadly because cribs are the one product intended to be used with the child unattended. The breakage and entrapment can happen quickly, while parents are not in the room.

As a result, and as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) learns of the deaths, millions of drop-side cribs have been recalled. These include Storkcraft (also under the Fisher Price name), Delta, Simplicity (also under the Graco name), Lajobi (under the Bonavita or Babi Italia names), Generation 2, ChilDESIGNS, Dorel Asia and Caramia. But millions more drop-side cribs, some of which have had incidents, are still in the marketplace. Both recalled and non-recalled drop-side cribs are still in wide use in homes and child care facilities.

What is being done about this danger?

In part due to the frightening aspect of millions of unsafe cribs after the first of many Simplicity recalls in 2007, Congress enacted the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in 2008. This law, among many vital safety measures, requires that CPSC develop and implement a strong mandatory standard for cribs and other durable infant and toddler products and require third party testing to certify compliance to those standards. Already the voluntary ASTM standard has been changed to require the bottom part of all sides to be firmly fixed to the end posts – a design that disallows drop-sides -- and it is expected that the mandatory standard will also include that ban. Major retailers, including Babies”R”Us, have already stopped selling the design.

What should I do…

…If I’m about to buy a crib?

If you are getting ready to buy a crib, do not buy a drop-side crib. Cribs that are lower to the ground or have a drop-gate can help parents who feel it would be difficult to reach into a fixed side crib. When purchasing any crib, check that it meets the most current safety standards and feels sturdy in the store. Buy a mattress that fits snugly in the crib and tight fitting sheets. If considering a used or hand-me down crib, do not use a drop-side crib and only take a used crib when you know its history, have all the parts and instructions and know it can be assembled correctly. It is better, especially now when new standards are so much stronger than the standards of just a year or two ago, to buy a new crib.

…Already have a drop-side in use

First, check the list at CPSC.gov and make sure your crib hasn’t been recalled – millions have. Check the list carefully – many cribs might be known by a name other than their brand name, or made by one company and sold under another company’s name. If it doubt, get the model name and number and manufacturer name and call CPSC to confirm. If it has been recalled, follow the recall instructions to get a repair kit, replace the crib or receive a refund.

If your crib is not recalled, check all the hardware and plastic parts to make sure it is all tight and there are no broken, cracked or missing pieces. The crib should feel sturdy when you shake it and you should not be able to lower the drop-side by any means other than the manufacturer’s instructed method. If your crib shows any breakage or you can move the drop-side without following the correct method, STOP using the crib. Call the company to see if replacement parts are available and do not use the crib until new parts are correctly installed. If the crib doesn’t have replacement parts, stop using it and call both the company and CPSC to report the breakage. Never attempt to fix the crib yourself without the correct hardware and instructions from the manufacturer.

If your crib has no broken, cracked or missing parts and feels sturdy, continue to use it until the child can transition to a bed, but stop using the drop-side mechanism and check frequently – at least once a week -- for loose, broken, cracked or missing hardware or parts. However, do not use the crib for a subsequent child or hand it down since assembly and disassembly of a drop-side crib can increase the risk of failure. It may be worth the peace of mind to purchase a new crib.

My crib is recalled or unsafe – what do I do with my child?

This is the hardest thing about recalled or unsafe cribs. While with toys or other products we can recommend taking it away and waiting for the replacement; with cribs, you need a safe place for your baby to sleep – tonight! So, what are your options? First, if your baby is still young enough that he or she can’t roll over or push up on hands and knees, you can use a bassinet you might have been using earlier. Another option is a portable crib or play yard that you use while traveling – first making sure it hasn’t been recalled. Never put a baby to sleep on a couch, chair, adult bed or other surface that might be too soft or have cushions or other features that can smother or entrap a baby. If your baby is older, perhaps almost ready to transition to a youth bed or regular bed, you might try a mattress on the floor to avoid falls. The only option might be to purchase a new crib or portable crib. If a new safe crib is a financial hardship, consider contacting Keeping Babies Safe or First Candle to see if you qualify for their crib programs.

Learn more at www.KidsInDanger.org

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