Putting baby to sleep safely

Probably one of the only times parents leave babies and toddlers unattended is when they put their child in the crib. But with more than 5 million cribs, bassinets and play yards recalled in the past two years, parents can’t just assume their child’s sleep environment is safe.

What’s even scarier than the high number of recalls is that many parents are unaware their child’s crib may have been recalled, says Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, a Chicago nonprofit organization dedicated to improving children’s product safety.

One of the biggest reasons for crib recalls tends to be hardware failure, especially for drop-side cribs, Cowles says. ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials), an organization that sets voluntary standards for children’s products, is considering a ban on drop-side cribs.

Legislation passed this year in Illinois will help. It requires that children’s products be tested for safety before being sold, although it may take several years for all the testing to be completed on cribs, Cowles says.

In the meantime, parents need to be vigilant. If you already own a crib, continually check that the hardware is attached securely—one missing screw can be all it takes to create an entrapment hazard. Also, check that the crib hasn’t been recalled. If you have a recalled crib, stop using it immediately and contact both the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the manufacturer.

If you’re buying a crib, Cowles recommends steering clear of a drop-side crib because there have been so many problems with them. She also suggests checking on recalls before buying cribs, bassinets and play yards and visiting the store to test their sturdiness. Make sure bassinets don’t have any holes or gaps.

Cowles recommends against buying secondhand cribs, but for parents whose finances don’t allow for a new crib, she recommends checking hardware, making sure there are instructions (most manufacturers post them online) and testing the item for sturdiness.

For more information, the CPSC has created a crib information center at www.cpsc.gov/cribs.html. Or visit Kids in Danger at www.kidsindanger.org. Visitors to both Web sites can sign up to receive recall notification.

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