Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crib Dangers

An article in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Pediatrics examines new data on crib safety in effort to combat manufacturers who are pushing to relax recent bans on drop-side cribs..  For the shocking numbers included in the study, it's receiving very little press coverage.  Remember the chaos that ensued after Infantino recalled their bag slings due to 3 infant deaths?  According to data from the past 19 years, cribs cause an average of 112 deaths per year.  If today is average, 26 American children will be rushed to the Emergency Room for injuries sustained from a crib-related incident.

We fell into co-sleeping- it happened more naturally than by conscious decision.  Statistics like these are terrifying to me, even though we don't use a crib (Tye's bed is a crib mattress on the floor, or else she's in bed with us).  I'm the type of person who believes that parents should use common sense, be aware, and be responsible for the safety of their child.  However, these numbers make me think that something else is going on with crib safety.  How could 9,560 families each year be purely negligent?  Is it because families have left their children alone in their bedrooms to cry it out, and are therefore unaware of the dangers situations that arise?  I wonder if parents who leave their children unattended in their bedrooms (as most do for naps and the night) realize the risk posed by the crib in the room.   In a nation that blames manufacturers for any incident involving their products, how have crib manufacturers not been held more accountable for this number of injuries, or at least for being associated with them? 

Critics of co-sleeping are quick to cite dangers of smothering when bedsharing, but completely omit the dangers of putting a child in a crib.  Unfortunately, neither option is without risk- but I know that in our home, we can practice safe co-sleeping and eliminate risks for smothering and, by safely sharing our bed, be constantly aware of our child's safety.  According to research presented in the September/October issue of Mothering, children who sleep in a separate room from their parents are twice as likely to die a sleep-related death than those who co-sleep, but bedsharing, especially, has to be done safely.  (Dr. Sears has a truly exceptional article on how to co-sleeping and safety here.)  

While it's easy to turn this into a crib-versus-co-sleeping issue, I hope that all parents can rally together to demand stricter safety standards for crib manufacturers.  Not all families can safely bedshare, whether the issue is a medicated or obese parent, formula feeding, or other concerns.  For these families, the safest place for a baby is still within the same room as a parent/parents.  Those families need a safe place to lay their children to rest, a bed that won't result a trip to the ER.  Perhaps the scariest aspect of this new data on crib injuries is that parents don't know how frequently children are hurt when using cribs.  Hopefully with the release of new information, more parents will become aware of the risks associated with crib use and think twice before leaving a child in a crib unattended.

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