It is hard to imagine that one of the most important products in the home for babies can potentially be the most dangerous, but drop-side cribs have contributed to thousands of injuries and dozens of infant deaths in the United States over the past several years. Although drop-side cribs are designed to make it easier for parents to place infants in and out of the cribs, they instead pose a risk to the infants and toddlers who are placed inside.
As a result of these and other events, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a complete ban of these popular cribs as of June 2011.
Dangers of Drop-Side Cribs
The special drop-down design feature that allows one or both sides of the crib panel to slide up and down has hidden hazards that can cause strangulation or suffocation. The main dangers involve drop-side crib hardware that can slip or break, causing a gap to form between the crib mattress and the drop-side of the crib where an infant may become stuck or trapped. Similar problems can occur when crib pieces go missing or parents do not assemble the cribs properly despite warnings by the CPSC to parents not to use cribs with broken, lose or missing parts.
Also, drop-side cribs that are purchased at garage sales or through online classified ads, for instance, may be missing screws, bolts, and necessary safety instructions, which may also ultimately contribute to infant injuries.
Drop-Side Crib Recalls
According to the CPSC, more than 9 million drop-side cribs have been recalled since 2007, including popular brands by Pottery Barn, Stork Craft, Graco, Bassett Baby and many others. Defects in design account for the majority of the drop-side recalls. For more information on specific recalls, see the Consumer Products Safety Commission's Crib Information Center.
Under a products liability claim, a design defect occurs when the manufacturer of a product creates a faulty design that could have been reasonably avoided by using an alternative design. Other defects that may lead to crib recalls may include manufacturing defects (unintended defects that occur when a product departs from its intended design) and failure to warn (when a manufacturer fails to warn users of any known hidden dangers).
Drop-Side Crib Ban
In 2011, the CPSC voted unanimously to ban drop-side cribs based on the potential for serious injury and death to infants and toddlers. Under the new rules, federal regulators will:
- Stop the manufacture, sale and resale of dangerous, traditional drop-side cribs
- Make mattress supports stronger
- Make crib hardware more durable, and
- Make safety testing more rigorous
These rules apply to existing drop-side crib owners, manufacturers, retail establishments and providers of drop-side cribs including motels, hospitals, and daycare facilities. They also forbid the resale of used drop-side cribs.
Alternatives What Can Parents Do?
Although cribs with drop-side panels offer some measure of convenience to parents, there are other safe baby crib options to consider.
If you're interested in lessening the potential hazards of your drop-side crib, check the CPSC website (www.cpsc.gov) or the website of the crib's manufacturer for specific instructions on obtaining a free repair kit. All manufacturers involved in the drop-side crib ban are required to make free repair kits available to crib owners.
For parents interested in discontinuing the use of drop-side cribs altogether, here are some helpful alternatives:
- Crib with a Sliding Panel Some manufacturers, like Babee Tenda and Innovation Crib Designs, have designed cribs that feature a sliding side panel as a means to get infants in and out with ease.
- Fixed-Rail Crib These traditional cribs are made from a variety of manufacturers and range in features, functionality, and stability.
- Step Stool A sturdy wooden step stool placed in front of a crib can help parents comfortably reach their infant, especially parents who are shorter than the average height.
With these and other drop-side crib alternatives, be sure to check the manufacturer's warning instructions before using a crib for your child.