Cribs, Playpens, Bassinets Associated with Infant Injury, Death

Since the baby almost always sleeps with us and usually naps on the big bed, I keep wondering if we should dismantle the crib in the corner of our room. Mostly it stands empty. Sometimes I pile it with clean laundry I haven’t had a chance to fold.

We bought the crib eleven years ago when Hesperus was just a few days old. Still sore from a difficult birth, I tottered into a baby superstore in Atlanta, Georgia, with my husband and best friend Sue flanking me. Sue carried the baby.

Hesperus was a flail-y sleeper. Even as a newborn, Hesperus rarely fell asleep nursing (though I did). I napped curled around her tiny body, holding her foot in my hand. We also put her in her crib. Everyone we knew told us not to sleep with the baby, to let her “cry it out,” and to teach her to sleep on her own. My dad bought me the Ferber book on “solving” your child’s sleep problems even though in retrospect I realize that the baby didn’t have any. I read it. I wish we hadn’t listened but we did. James and I spent several difficult evenings upset and holding each other as we listened to the baby cry herself to sleep in the other room. After that, when she was tired Hesperus dove for the crib. When I think of it now I feel like I betrayed her, leaving her alone to comfort herself when she needed me most. But I wouldn’t be telling the whole story if I didn’t add that she’s always been our best sleeper. I don’t credit the sleep “training” (which could be more aptly dubbed sleep “abusing”) but the fact that Hesperus was the only one of our four kids to comfort herself by sucking her thumb. Though I remember her having fussy nights, Hesperus usually slept long and often, waking briefly for a quick diaper change and a midnight nurse. I loved her crib. She loved her crib.

Until she learned to climb out of it. Then, for a few very difficult months, every nap and every night was an opportunity for our toddler to practice her gymnastics, pad down the hall, and wander around the house looking for uncovered wall sockets and sharp objects.

Babies #2 and #3 used the crib, but not nearly as often. As our family grew, we learned to listen more to our instincts and we realized it was often easier to have a baby in bed with us.

Now there’s a new study, which was just published in the March issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, that analyzes the injuries associated with cribs, playpens, and bassinets between 1990 and 2008. The study reveals some surprising facts:

–There is an average of 9,561 crib, playpen, and bassinet injuries a year in American children under two.

–More than 9 million cribs have been recalled by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission since 2007 because of safety issues.

–An average of 113 children died a year from crib-related deaths. Often from getting caught or wedged in the crib. The study authors suggest because of lack of reporting the number of crib-related deaths actually might be much higher.

The authors of the study conclude that more attention needs to be paid to nursery product safety. But most cultures around the world, and many parents in the United States have a different answer: sleep next to your baby on a firm mattress and forego the crib, bassinet, and playpen completely.

Does your baby sleep alone in a crib or in bed with you? Are you concerned about crib safety?


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28 thoughts on “Cribs, Playpens, Bassinets Associated with Infant Injury, Death”

  1. I was always relieved when my babies were big enough to move to regular beds. We did not let our kids sleep with us on a regular basis, because we valued our privacy. Now that cribs are made in China, I would be even more frightened of something happening. My son’s has a crib that turns into a small bed. It’s made of unpainted wood, and sturdy. I don’t think it comes from China, but I may be wrong. Seems like we hear more and more recalls of baby products on television every year. What a challenge to be a parent these days!

  2. We used a crib, but stopped as soon as the babies could climb out. We then went to toddler beds. I did have my babies in bed with me part of each night, but I did not sleep well when they were there because I worried about them falling out or suffocating. I recently realized I need to throw out our crib (which I was saving for grandchildren) because drop side cribs are now banned.

  3. We’ve never had a crib for any of our four children. Actually, the more children I’ve had the less baby equipment of any sort I’ve had – something other friends say too. You end up realizing how much of that stuff you simply don’t need. (That said, now that my baby is a big toddler I’m thinking of finding a stroller that is going to be able to maneuver through the snow and slush so that we can continue to walk everywhere. I think it’s worth it if it enables us to stay as car-free as possible).

    It may have helped that I have lived in countries where co-sleeping is the norm, but it also helped that I was able to surround myself with like-minded friends to validate this alternative way of sleeping.

  4. Like the previous commenter, I’m feeling relieved my own children are grown and I don’t have to face such issues now. But, in the interest of the whole story, I would like to ask this: Is there any truth to the stories earlier generations of parents heard about the dangers of sleeping with your babies? Are there any statistics on this?

  5. These are frightening numbers. I’m also wondering if there is any info on the dangers of babies sleeping in bed w/their parents. And like Ruth, I’m relieved I got through all this with my children and they are intact!

  6. Like you, my first mostly slept in his own bed and never with us. But one night he had been crying (not howling.. mostly a sleepy cry) and when he was quiet I went in to check on him. His fat little thighs were stuck in the rails and he fell asleep that way. I was DEVASTATED. I had to call my neighbor to come over and help me pry him out. The next day I got rid of the crib and got him a toddler bed. He was 16months at the time.

    The other two? Never slept in the crib.. no matter how much I bribed. 🙂 They slept with us until they finally slept in their own beds (and my 5 year old is a frequent middle of the night visitor). I asked her recently if she had had a nightmare. She said no. I asked, “Then why did you come to our bed last night?” She shrugged her shoulders, “I just love you.”

  7. difficult choices all around, I think. and very much an individual decision for parents, of course — who will be able to make more informed decisions with thoughtful articles such as this. thanks.

  8. This article in Mothering concludes that co-sleeping is twice as safe as crib-sleeping: http://mothering.com/parenting/where-should-babies-sleep-at-night

    It’s worth reading. As long as a family makes the necessary precautions to ensure they are bedsharing safely, it can be a much safer option. It’s important to remember, too, that co-sleeping doesn’t mean bedsharing; a baby asleep in a co-sleeper, cradle, or crib in the same room as parents is safer than a baby in her own room, which is now even recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    I think bedsharing may have saved my daughter’s life- she had reflux as an infant and was often unable to clear the fluid from her throat without being held upright and sometimes suctioned. Many times, I woke just as she was choking and helped her through the episode, terrified. I can’t imagine what would have happened had we swaddled her and left her on her back by herself. Now she naps and starts the night on a crib mattress on the floor and sleeps most of the night snuggled up with me- heaven 🙂

  9. Never having had babies, I find that I learn a lot from this blog, particularly in looking at all sides of an issue. These are huge issues we’re talking about, and it feels that you take the time to really explore and go in depth. This blog is a tremendous resource – certainly for moms but also for those of us who want to learn. Many thanks.

  10. This is such a personal issue. I know some parents don’t feel comfortable having their babies in the bed with them. When our kids were just infants it seemed like they’d spend part of the night in their crib and part with us. I’d usually fall asleep nursing them too. But we never bothered with a crib until our kids were about 2 months old.

  11. I can count on one hand the number of times our two babies used their crib. They always slept with us, and at one time, there were 4 of us in the family bed. Crowded! But the kids are 13 and 16 now, and the husband and I are still together after 30 years, so I guess it all worked out.

  12. I have an idea for a follow up post. Mine was in a crib because I’m a light sleeper and also a nervous mother and just a change in her breathing pattern woke me. Anyway, this is what I really want to know and I really think you would do a service writing about:

    1. How do you have sex with a baby in the bed? I know you manage or you would not have had two more kids. So what’s the secret?

    2. How do you ensure that you all get a good night’s sleep? Any tricks?

    3. I always worried about the baby rolling off the bed. Does this ever happen? Not happen? Or do you put her in the middle?

    4. Do you do special things to the covers and pillows to make sure she doesn’t get trapped up in them?

    5. I could never figure out how to nurse while lying down. Maybe my breasts were too small, or maybe I was doing it wrong. Is there a secret?

  13. I’ve heard that about families with several kids. Economy of scale also helps keep costs down.

    One of my cousins (whom I never actually met because she died young) died due to crib birth. What a horrible tragedy for these families!

  14. I have two kids and am pregnant with my third. We have never owned a crib. I can probably credit my Bradley childbirth class with teaching me about the safety and benefits of bedsharing. To answer someone’s earlier questions:

    1.) When babies are asleep, they’re asleep. If you have a big enough bed, the baby is never going to be aware of what you’re doing. If having the baby in bed with you while you’re having sex weirds you out in any way, there are a lot of other places in the house to have sex! Also, some families start with their babies in a bassinet or co-sleeper and then move them in bed later. That’s always an option, too.

    2.) I don’t have any tricks for this. I’ve always slept better with my baby next to me. Even when they are in the same room but not in my bed, I don’t sleep well.

    3 & 4.)Neither of my kids ever rolled off the bed. The baby and I would usually fall asleep nursing, with my arm above his/her head and cradling around the baby’s side and my knees curled up under the baby’s feet. This also keeps blankets/pillows away from the baby.

    5.) Perhaps support pillows would have helped you? Learning to nurse lying down was the best thing that ever happened to me!

  15. My babies slept primarily in cribs. I just could not sleep with them in bed with me. As to nursing lying down, I loved the idea of it, but after trying it several times, I was too afraid I’d smother the baby. I fell asleep while nursing and as I relaxed, my breast covered the baby’s nose, leaving him gasping for air. Too scary.

  16. 1. We had a cosleeper for DS, which he slept in for unaccompanied naps and whenever we wanted to have sex. When he got older we got another mattress, put it in our room and placed him there while we DTD. PLUS – there are other places you can have sex besides a bed…cosleeping can help put a little more zing and creativity back into your sexlife! 😉

    2. Being able to nurse on demand ensured that we all got the best sleep possible. DS woke gently and almost never, ever cried at night. I slept lightly and woke lightly, when he did, or even a little before he was awake.

    3. We had a snug tuck pillow bedrail, and DS slept on my side or inbetween us, depending upon which side he was nursing on.

    4. Nope.

    5. I have small breasts. Nursing while laying down was difficult until DS was about a month old and didn’t need as much help latching. It was also a bit of an adjustment for me, but eventually I did learn to do it out of sheer desperation.

  17. This will be our first baby, and we plan to buy a crib because the first thing I thought of was how are we gonna make love if the baby is in the bed. And also we have 5 cats that love to sleep in the bed too. I want our child to sleep in our bed, but I’m kind of nervous about the cats squishing the baby. So the crib is gonna be a back-up. We do plan to do attachment parenting, so the crib will be next to me on my side of the bed if anything.

  18. Neither of my children slept in cribs at all. They both were in our bed until around 2 years, when they moved to their own youth bed.

    Once they started rolling/crawling, our mattress went to the floor to prevent falling off. This worked out just fine for our family. Both of our boys were able to transition smoothly to their own bed when they were done night-nursing.

  19. We never had a crib. We didn’t have room for it when he was first born and we were living in one bedroom at my parents house. I was opposed to bed sharing so we bought a cosleeper bassinet. When my homebirth turned into a cesarean, I was incredibly sore from two days of laboring prior to a rough c/s. I couldn’t get out of bed unassisted for over a week. DS slept on my chest because I couldn’t bear to put him down, then have to wake my spouse every time he awakened.

    Any time he fell asleep and I wanted time alone, I would put him in the cosleeper. I felt he was safer there than on the bed, which at that time was very high off the ground. Once he started crawling, we taught him to scoot off the bed backwards, and he took his naps in bed after that, since he had outgrown the cosleeper. I’m expecting #2 and my plan is to do the same with this child. We are now in an apartment of our own but we all still sleep in the same room (DS is often in bed with us for part of the night), and we don’t feel the need for a crib.

    DS has slept in a regular bed from birth and I don’t have the same worries my friends do with their sleep-trained, solo sleeping toddlers. They worry about transitioning to a toddler bed and most lock their kids in their rooms at night because the kids wake up and wander the house. I know if DS (2yrs) wakes he is going to do one thing – hop straight into bed with us, no wandering needed!

  20. I found having my baby right next to me in bed was much safer with my cats. They quickly learned where they could not be on the bed. When I put her in her crib which is rare they are all over her and her and get way to close to her face.

  21. We bedshare with our babies, and work them into their own beds (just twin beds, nothing fancy) when they’re around 2. Right now, my 2-year-old starts out in his own bed, and crawls in with us to nurse around 5 or so.

    1. Whatever works at the moment. I have a baby hammock around to sleep tiny ones in for naps–and we have been known to use that while we used the bed for other things. Sex in places that are not the bed. My little guy has been dumped (asleep) in his sister’s bed with her for a little while, etc. And the baby that’s due in August was conceived the first night we had the bed to ourselves in 3 1/2 years! (And after being apart for a month & staying in a motel with all of us in one room for another 6 weeks, while househunting). We are planning to build ourselves a storage-type bedframe this summer. I intend to make one of the “drawers” the right size for a pack-n-play mattress, to give me a stowable baby bed for a while. When we’re done with babies, it can be a drawer.

    2. Co-sleeping is FAR more conducive to everyone getting a good night’s sleep than having to get up with a crying baby in the night! We just all go to sleep.

    3. I actually usually sleep with the baby to the outside, cuddled in my arms like a Teddy bear–not the recommended positioning, I know, but it seems to work best for us. Falling out of bed hasn’t been an issue with 2 babies so far. And this leaves the baby where all he has to do is root & he will find. Past the first couple of months, half the time, the baby nurses and I don’t even wake up! Sometimes, I don’t even wake up when my 2 year-old crawls into the bed and nurses. He’s quiet about it, and knows what he’s doing.

    4. Nope. I make sure the blankets aren’t over the baby’s head, but that’s about it.

    5.I’m not small, but my first baby was a preemie, and it took us a few months to get nursing in bed figured out. With my 2nd, we had it knocked before he was a week old. I slept sitting in a chair with my first nursing on the Boppy quite a few times. With my 2nd, I don’t remember taking him out of the bedroom (so Daddy could sleep, since he had to work in the morning) more than about twice.

  22. When I became a first time mama 10 years ago, my husband and I bought a crib and thought that was just the way sleep arrangements would be. The crib quickly became a bed for our kitties and my daughter never spent one night (or nap time) sleeping in our sparkly new crib.

    Over the past decade, we have had 4 more babies (including twins) and with another expected in Spring and they all shared our bed with us for at least their first 2-3 years. When a new baby was born, they were placed in a toddler bed in their new bedroom. We never had any sleeping “problems” with any of our children. They have always made the transition to a new bed and room with ease.

    As for sharing our bed with our babies, all were breastfed and I can honestly say my husband and I never had any sleepless nights. When the babies would wake in the night, I would feed them and they would drift back to sleep with their Mama and all was well.

    My family and friends chuckle when I tell them our bedtime stories but they are the truth! They tell me I just must be incredibly lucky because they did not believe that our babies (or any baby) were actually sleeping a full night (usually from 9pm-7am). Perhaps a bit of luck enter our nighttime hours but what are the odds that all five of our children have slept beautifully?

    I give much praise to our breastfeeding/bed-sharing combination!!

  23. My nearly 4 year old still comes to our bed most nights and says, “I want to be with you all the time” She sometimes adds, “But not at preschool” 🙂

  24. I would HIGHLY suggest a Phil & Teds stroller. I love it! This stroller is going to be able to maneuver through the snow and slush can convert into a double if you buy a doubles kit (very easy to install and disassemble) You can also lock the front wheel and use it at a jogger! It is light-ish (I think 18#) and folds very compact, the front wheel comes off very easily for even more compact storage. The wheels are replaceable and the fabric is durable. My only dislike is the under carriage storage is small and hard to access, but they sell side saddle bags if you need the storage and many fun accessories to personalize you ride. Check craigs list in your area, I am not sure if you will find many as I am sure people hold on to them. But you may get lucky!

  25. Hey Alisa, wanted to respond to you because I, too, had questions about co-sleeping before the baby came along, and I also answer these types of objections (mostly from family members) often.

    1. As others have said, it’s really not that big of a deal to have sex while the baby’s in the bed – they sleep through it! You can also find many other places…guest room, couch, floor…just to name a few – it can actually make things more interesting!

    2. I’ve never been the best sleeper, but I do find it much easier to be right next to her if she wakes in the night than to have to get up, go to another room, get her out of the crib, take care of whatever needs there are, and then go back to my room. Often when she’s next to me I can just put a hand on her to get her back to sleep. It’s also something you really just get used to after awhile.

    3. I bought a couple foam pool noodles and slide them underneath the sheet on either side of the bed to create a barrier so she can’t roll off. Works like a charm!

    4. Just make sure the pillows and covers aren’t in reach when you’re not there.

    5. Can’t help with this one…but I know a lot of mums have just gotten more used to it with time.

    Good luck! 🙂

  26. My first child was born in Japan and everything is done on the floor, eat, sleep, change the baby etc. My baby had her own little baby futon, made by my mother-in-law, that and her sling were the only baby things we own. There was no room for any furniture and strollers were impractical on the narrow roads that haven’t got sidewalks or in cramped stores and on buses or trains. My inlaws had never heard of SIDS and wouldn’t dream of letting a baby sleep on her own. Japanese women do leave their babies at home alone during the day because they don’t have the concept of babysitters and may not have family to watch the baby if mom has to do errands. There are many cases of small children and babies dying in fires and accidents because they are unattended, but all Japanese mothers sleep with their babies.

  27. I live in Norway and at the hospitals often they recommend to co-sleep the first months, but to take the baby to their cribs when they are around 6 months old. I try to be an “attach parent” so our child is 14 months old and still sleeping with us. We have really tried to make it so safe for her as possible. So we think that she is safe and happy. Sometimes she shouts while dreaming (nightmares, I guess), but only before my husband and me go to bed ourselves (never while sleeping with her).

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