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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on Friday, February 25th, 2011 at 9:59 am and is filed under infancy.
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