Are Cribs a Safe Place for Babies?

baby crib co-sleeping dangerousDuring our discussion on the safety of co-sleeping, I pointed out that cribs carry risks as well. They are constantly being recalled.

I’m not saying that putting a baby to sleep in a crib is riskier than co-sleeping. So much depends on the situation. Also, it’s hard to gather accurate statistics, because we don’t know what percentage of children co-sleep, mainly because parents who do it are afraid to admit it. And children often alternate between cribs and their parents’ beds.

So here is the latest baby furniture news:  Cribs with drop-down sides may be outlawed by Congress.

Bobby was one of at least 32 infants and toddlers since 2000 who suffocated or were strangled in a drop-side crib, which has a side that moves up and down to allow parents to lift children from the cribs more easily than cribs with fixed sides. Drop-sides, around for decades and probably slept in by many of today’s parents, are suspected in an additional 14 infant fatalities during that time.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates cribs, has warned about the problem. Its chairman, Inez Tenenbaum, has pledged to ban the manufacture and sale of cribs by the end of the year with a new performance standard that would make fixed-side cribs mandatory. It could be several months into 2011 before becoming effective.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is preparing a law to ban the manufacture and use of drop-side cribs.

I predict that changing crib designs will lead to fewer babies sleeping in them. It’s not easy to lift a heavy infant in and out of a crib with a high railing, especially in the middle of the night. Babies will be more likely to fall, too. Parents will be forced to buy the newest crib models, whether or not they can afford them.

I guess the next step is a law prohibiting parents from putting babies to sleep in a crib with drop-down sides, and prosecuting parents for doing so.

But who knew, all those years, that we risked our kids’ lives by having them sleep in cribs.

Photo credit: Afroswede

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  1. my kids both have cribs with fixed sides. It’s not such a problem. They usually have two heights. You leave them in the higher height (lower than bassinet sides, but not so bad to reach in to get the kids) until they are close to crawling. There are about 2 months between then and the time that they start standing and you no longer have to bend down to lift them up.

    I bought my daughter’s crib second hand and had never seen one without a drop-down side, so it was surprising and I worried that it would be a big pain, but actually, it’s fine.

  2. It makes sense that drop sides are dangerous. I even heard of an accident in which the child was not hurt, b”h. But I didn’t really think of the danger when my kids were young. The crib seemed like the safest place to keep them safe from marauding slightly older siblings, for example.

    More people are more worried about a toddler climbing over the rails and falling and getting hurt. However, I’ve heard of plenty of kids who climbed out, and never heard of a kid being seriously hurt by the fall. Most people get nervous when their kid can climb out and rush to put the kid in a bed at that point. (I think a lot people like the idea of their kid growing up quickly and are happy to see the kid graduate to a bed. I personally don’t agree with this approach.)

    Finally, once my kids could stand, I really never dropped the dropside down. I think I could have managed with a fixed side crib if that was all that was available.

    • Tesyaa, my mother followed Dr. Spock and kept us in cribs until we were 5. But she never used a playpen and cribs were only for sleeping. I remember falling out of bed the first time I slept in one.

  3. I’ve had a dropdown side crib for 7 years and I don’t think I’ve ever dropped the side down to take out my child. Ever.

  4. for a crawling child, there is no question that when a parent is not available to supervise, the safest place for them is a crib or playpen – they can’t fall off, climb off, get into other things, get into trouble, etc.

    For a newborn, if there are no older siblings, a blanket on the floor is fine.

    Tesyaa – my kids don’t climb out of their cribs at this point. If they did it more than once, however, I would move them to a bed, because the point of a crib is to keep them inside. If it’s no longer doing that, then why give them a longer drop to the floor?

  5. To clarify – by “not available to supervise,” I mean using the bathroom or letting your child sleep when you have other things that you want/need to do. I don’t mean going to the movies. 🙂

  6. We had drop-side cribs for my kids. For 2 of them , I never put the side down. My youngest learned at a pretty young age to climb out, at which point I never put the side up. It stopped her rolling out the bed, but gave her a shorter hop to the floor when she climbed out. She never hurt herself.

    • Ruth, I agree that it’s reasonable to allow a certain amount of risk so that kids can learn to do things by themselves. How much is always the question.

  7. rachel q says

    I find this whole thing ridiculous. What’s the end going to be? No cribs allowed? Only metal cribs that are made of one piece? Life has risks and we simply can’t go around trying to remove every single one of them no matter how small it is. The risk of a crib, properly assembled is tiny, let’s worry about real things.

  8. One of the many reasons why we gave up on having my daughter sleep in a crib was the issue of the sides–I found it impossible to hold her while sleeping and drop the side. So I essentially wound up dropping her from a height of a couple of inches (and, hey, she didn’t sleep through it, usually).

    Either would have had to figure out a) another way to get her to fall asleep (which I suppose was possible, but nursing was so easy) or b) grow a few inches…which wasn’t going to happen at age 29.

  9. Kate, the other option is to remember to keep the side down when she is getting ready for bed. Of course, none of this will be an issue any longer.

  10. rachel q says

    Kate, most cribs have to option to raise or lower the mattress. We are just lazy so we kept our at the lowest from the time we started using the crib. I also keep the dropside sown all time time until the baby learns to stand up while holding to the side. Makes putting them down much easier.
    Once they are old enough to stand I raise the drop and basically stop using it. By them the baby usually goes to bed awake so dropping them it’s not an issue

  11. I have to say that it seems like this is more of a problem with rare flukes/misuse rather than an overall problem with this type of crib.

    If that’s the case, then banning something because some people misused or there are some rare flukes is like banning peanuts or bees from the world because some people are allergic or banning cars because some people have accidents.

  12. Ms. Krieger says

    I agree with LeahGG and Rachel Q…sometimes terrible events happen, through negligence or awful luck. You cannot legislate against luck. Of course, some products are truly dangerous/unsafe, or there are obviously better ways of doing things (carseats that easily latch into a safe, snug position instead of forcing a parent to mess around with seatbelts etc., for example) but this over-legislation against bad luck is silly and pointless.

    Americans have become terribly risk-averse and seek to legislate against anything remotely chancy. It is the same mind-set that prevents parents from allowing their children to roam around the neighborhood to play for fear that they will encounter a pedophile.

  13. I have had the same crib for 15 years, a beautiful solid wood one I bought at Shilav (Israeli baby store). It’s held up through all my kids and I have it packed away for – hopefully – another decade when – hopefully – grandbabies will use it. The side does drop down, but truthfully I never used it – I just kept it low when baby was little and put it up as they grew.
    Wow, I hope this doesn’t mean I should be getting rid of it….

  14. Regular Anonymous says

    You just can’t win.

  15. These stories always annoy me. Not that any life isn’t absolutely precious, but the number of children killed in car accidents every year because they aren’t in a car seat or are in one that is improperly installed drastically outweighs the number of other accidental deaths. Imagine if we instead focused our resources on teaching parents how to safely restrain a child in a vehicle.
    That said, I’m all for banning peanuts and bees worldwide. It would save on the cost of EpiPens in our house. 🙂