The Nodaway County Health Center released information this week urging parents of infants and toddlers to exercise extreme caution when bedding down their children in previously owned — and to altogether avoid older drop-side models prohibited by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2011.
"We've been pretty fortunate in in Nodaway County. However, it is really a problem out there," said Tabitha Frank, RN, a public health nurse at the Maryville-based center.
Drop-side cribs are dangerous, Frank said, because infants can become trapped between vertically sliding rails and the mattress, where they can suffocate or die of strangulation.
No deaths have been reported in Nodaway County, but that doesn't mean it can't happen, especially in a tough economy where a lot of new parents are trying to stretch every nickel as far as they can.
"A crib is one of the most expensive items parents have to buy," Frank said, "so they are going to the garage sales and using hand-me-downs. We want to get the word out there that that is probably not the safest route to go."
According to Consumer Reports, obsolete or unsafe cribs were associated with at least 32 deaths nationwide since 2000, plus hundreds of infant injuries and close calls.
The fatalities occurred even though millions of drop-side cribs were recalled before being banned outright two years ago.
These days, parents are urged to acquire new or recently manufactured cribs that combine fixed sides and simple designs that prevent clothing from becoming entangled in decorative embellishments.
Families who already own a crib with a drop side can immobilize it with manufacturer-supplied hardware. Frank said anyone missing the proper fittings should call the maker and ask for a kit. The CPSC severely discourages using any crib more than 10 years old because numerous safety improvements have come about over the past decade.
Cribs are a necessity for newborns and young toddlers, and good one still in the box will set parents back at least a couple hundred dollars, said Frank, who nevertheless recommends that families make this potentially life-saving investment in their child's safety.
Parents who do purchase a second-hand crib, or accept one from a family member, must take several precautions, she said.
First of all, make sure the crib is sturdy and has a sufficient number of secured wooden slats to support the mattress. Slats should be spaced no more that 2 and three-eighths inches apart, or about the width of a soda can.
Second, look for a label or other documentation containing the make and model number, and use these to go online and ensure that the crib meets current requirements and has not been recalled. One source for this information can be found at CPSC.gov/info/cribs/index.html, which is part of the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
Page 2 of 2 - Finally, when placing a child inside a crib — new or used — take adequate precautions. These include laying the baby on his or her back on top of a firm, tight-fitting mattress. Avoid pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, bumper pads and stuffed toys.
Other don'ts embrace cribs with corner posts over one-sixteenth of an inch high, which can catch at clothing, and headboard/footboard cutouts that can trap the baby's head.
If you plan to acquire a mesh-sided crib or playpen, look for mesh less than a quarter inch in size, which means smaller than the tiny buttons used on baby clothes. Mesh should attach securely to the top rail and floor plate and contain no no tears or holes.
If staples have been used to fix the mesh to the frame, make sure they are not missing loose or exposed.