Why Baby Beds?
Every living creature needs sleep! It’s the primary activity of the brain during early development. Most two year olds have been asleep for 13 months of their lives. Newborns (0-3 months) sleep a total of 10.5 to 18 hours a day. Infants (4-11 months) typically sleep 9 to 12 hours a day. Toddlers (1-2 years) need about 11-14 hours a day of sleep. Sound, restful sleep.
We don’t fully understand why we sleep, but we do know the consequences of not sleeping well. Babies are more fretful and difficult to manage. They don’t feel so well and newborns find it more difficult to feed. Lack of restful sleep also negatively impacts children’s learning, memory, and development.
While a crib may seem like a cold and big place to put your tiny newborn, it’s the safest place. Your baby’s crib is a controlled environment for sleeping with proper conditions free of pillows, soft bedding such as blankets and comforters, stuffed animals, and toys that may cause entanglement, strangulation, or suffocation. While you may be tempted to let your baby sleep with you, don’t! Adult beds pose hazards for babies, such as, accidental suffocation in soft bedding, and your movements during sleep may result in baby being trapped against a wall or headboard, being pushed off the bed, or being trapped beneath you as you roll over.
Your baby needs to sleep calmly and deeply in a safe, comfortable bed of their own.
Sources: sleepfoundation.org, tesco-baby.com
Types of Baby Beds
Bassinets are more compact and usually portable. They are typically less expensive than a crib yet still provide a safe sleeping environment. They are small, foldable, and movable, so it’s easy to use them in different rooms to keep baby nearby. Bassinets are usually a consideration for new parents wanting to keep baby close, but they are only usable for a short time, typically until baby is 15 to 20 pounds or until baby can roll over or sit up at about age 4 to 6 months. You’ll also see variations called rocking sleepers and playard sleepers.
Standard cribs are just that, standard. There only purpose is to serve as a place to sleep. They don’t fold up, lack unique design, and don’t contain drawers or other nursery furniture elements. The are generally the lowest priced type of baby bed, but they offer long lasting, sturdy construction.
Convertible cribs, also known as lifetime cribs, are designed to grow with your baby. The can be converted from a crib to a daybed to a headboard. Since cribs are used only 24 months for most children, it’s a great way to get more for your money. However, they are more expensive than standard cribs and may require a conversion kit at an additional cost.
Portable cribs, also known as folding cribs, are essentially a crib on wheels. They are made to move about and be easily stowed away when not in use. Because they are designed to move about, they are normally made of sturdy materials like wood. An easily stowed folding crib is particularly suitable if you are space constrained.
Travel cribs are collapsible cribs made of soft materials like mesh and foam. They pack up well and often come with their own carrying bag. They are suitable for parents that need to travel with a child. Travel cribs should not be used as a permanent crib solution. They are not sturdy, and the focus on lightweight materials make them prone to wear and tear.
Multipurpose/Multifunctional cribs incorporate one or more other pieces of nursery furniture into their design. Typical inclusions are drawers, shelves, and changing table. They can eliminate the need for separate pieces of furniture but do take up more space than a regular crib.
Toddler beds are a great next step for your child between a crib and a regular bed. After all, moving to “big” bed can be a scary experience. Smaller than a twin bed and lower to the ground, the toddler bed is a great transitional bed. Toddler beds come in whimsical designs as well as standard designs. Most will have some type of removable railing.
Sources: safewise.com, parents.guide
Buying Guide for Cribs
Basic is best. The safest cribs have simple lines and no scrollwork or decorative posts or knobs. There should be nothing that could catch your baby’s clothing or entrap an extremity. Drop-side models are not safe and are no longer allowed under Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations. You won’t see new models with drop-sides, but it’s worth mentioning.
Buy new. Avoid buying a used crib if possible as older models might not meet current safety standards or might be in disrepair. Even when buying new, check to be sure there are no sharp edges, protruding screws, nuts, corner posts, or decorative knobs that could catch you baby’s clothing or cut or scratch their skin. Check the spaces between the side slats to be sure they are not greater than 2 3/8 inches wide.
Check construction and workmanship. Look for metal stabilizing bars attached to both end boards underneath the crib to make the frame more rigid. Check to be sure there are no loose slats. Be sure there is no cracking or splintering of wooden parts. A metal spring base will better withstand a jumping toddler than a wooden slat base. Casters are a popular feature on portable cribs. Look for wheel locks to secure the crib in position after moving.
Buy the mattress at the same time. Pair the mattress to the crib to make sure it’s a good fit. By law, full-sized crib mattresses must be 27 1/4 inches wide by 51 5/8 inches long and no more than 6 inches thick. There should be no more than two fingers width between the mattress and crib frame for a snug fit. Innerspring mattresses are heavier, longer lasting, and more supportive than foam mattresses. Foam mattresses, however, are less expensive.
Use properly fitting sheets. Make sure the sheets fit the mattress tightly; otherwise, your baby might pull it loose and become entangled. Make sure the elastic in the corners is strong and that the corners won’t pop off the mattress corners.
Assemble correctly. Cribs are shipped unassembled. You must ensure the crib is correctly assembled and there are no missing or loose parts. Tighten all nuts, bolts, and screws. Make sure the mattress support attachments are secure and none are bent or broken. Recheck regularly, especially after the crib has been moved. Assembling a crib usually takes about an hour and is a two person job. If you don’t feel comfortable that you can do it correctly, get knowledgeable help.
Adjust the mattress to the right height. Most cribs let you adjust the mattress height. Higher levels make it easier to remove and infant, but are dangerous when your baby is able to pull up to a standing position. Monitor and adjust to lower height before this happens.
Sources: consumerreports.com, whattoexpect.com
Certifications, Standards, and Regulatory
Almost a decade ago, ASTM International, recommended new standards for safer cribs. The standards were incorporated into the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s landmark ruling that all cribs marketed in the United States must meet new robust safety specifications that banned drop-side assemblies, strengthened slats and mattress supports, called for anti-loosening devices on hardware, and defined more rigorous testing standards.
Cribs are regulated by the federal government and many are certified by the JPMA to meet standards. There are no federal standards for co-sleepers or bassinets, although some bassinets are certified by the JPMA.
JPMA – Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association
The JPMA Certification seal signifies the highest level of established product testing and ensures adherence to ASTM safety standards, federal and state laws, as well as some retail requirements. Each product is sample tested at an independent laboratory to guarantee it meets the highest safety standards.
ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials
ASTM is a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of international voluntary consensus standards to improve product quality, enhance safety, facilitate market access and trade, and build consumer confidence.
CPSC – U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission
CPSC is an independent federal regulatory agency with a mission to protect the public against unreasonable risks of injury or death from consumer products through education, safety standards activities, regulation, and enforcement. While the CPSC does not endorse or recommend specific brands of products, they provide information to consumers on what safety features to look for in products. They also announce recalls of products that present a significant risk to consumers, either because the product could contain a defect or because it violates a mandatory safety standard.
You can check for recalls here: https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls
Sources: astm.org, cpsc.gov, jpma.org
Recommendations for a Safe Nursery
“Bare is best,” said Ann Marie Buerkle, acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. “That means no pillows, blankets, extra padding or other soft bedding. Nearly half of the infant crib deaths … reported to CPSC each year are suffocations caused by placing infants to sleep on top of pillows, thick quilts and/or overcrowding in the baby’s sleeping space.”
The crib: You should purchase a crib made after June 2011, when new safety standards became mandatory. This is no time for hand-me-downs. The new standard banned drop-sides and improved the slats, supports and hardware of cribs sold in America. These standards are all meant to prevent suffocation deaths.
The mattress: Gaps are the enemy. The mattress must fit snugly, leaving room for no more than two fingers between it and the crib. If possible, get a list of appropriate mattresses from the crib manufacturer. Also look for a crib mattress certified by the nonprofit CertiPUR-US, which means it is made without harmful chemicals and has low emissions.
The bedding: Current guidelines recommend putting nothing in the crib other than a fitted sheet and your baby. And yet, popular store catalogues continue to show quilts hanging from crib rails and some still sell crib bumpers, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents not to use them.
Artwork: It’s best not to hang hard-edge, glass-encased pictures over your baby’s crib or changing table. Mobiles, another common fixture in baby’s rooms, should not contain small parts that could become choking hazards, and should be hung out of the baby’s reach.
Windows: The CPSC recommends installing window guards and/or window stops to prevent falls though the window screen.
Blinds: The government estimates an American child used to be strangled in window blind cords every two weeks. Securing cords out of reach just isn’t good enough. Cordless blinds are a worthwhile investment in your house.
Cords: Make sure cords from baby monitors, lamps and other electronics are at least three feet from your child’s crib. It’s best if products with cords are placed near wall outlets, so the cords can be tucked away where crawling and walking babies can’t get at them.
Furniture: Tip-overs are the big risk here. It’s crucial that you anchor top-heavy furniture to the walls. That includes any piece of furniture taller than 30 inches and also television sets. Heavy-lidded toy chests are another hazard. Choose an open-topped chest or take the lid off.
Carpet: Look for carpeting, rugs and pads that emit low levels of volatile organic compounds. VOCs can cause eye, nose and throat irritation and headaches in the short term and nervous system damage and cancer in the long term. Look for the Carpet and Rug Institute’s “Green Label Plus.”
Paint: You don’t want your baby exposed to any more chemicals than absolutely necessary. All of the major paint brands offer low-VOC formulas. Greenguard certifies low-emission paints as does another organization called GreenSeal. Complete any paint jobs well before you bring your baby home.
Smoke detectors: The National Fire Protection Association recommends installing one smoke detector inside every sleeping room in your home — including your baby’s nursery. You should also install a detector outside each sleeping area, such as in the hallway.
“Your baby’s sleep environment should be the safest place in your home,” Buerkle said. “While many new parents are focused on making their nursery beautiful, all parents — new and experienced — should think about safety first.”
Consumer Reports states, “If you get a bumper, toss it in the trash because they can be a suffocation hazard for your baby. Bumper pads and large toys can help your little escape artist climb out, which is another reason they don’t belong in the crib.”
Bumper pads should never be used in infants’ cribs, according to guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The conclusion of a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics read, “These findings suggest that crib and bassinet bumpers are dangerous. Their use prevents only minor injuries. Because bumpers can cause death, we conclude that they should not be used.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute for Health (NIH), and National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) recommend not using bumper pads in your baby’s sleep area.
Other studies by the CPSC and JPMA indicated no significant risk factors for infant death from using bumpers. “This study found that a more thorough analysis of the injuries that occur to infant children within the crib demonstrates that crib bumpers could serve to mitigate the injury potential (e.g., lacerations, fractures) across a variety of the common accident modes (e.g., contact with railings, extremities caught between railings).” In 2016, CPSC issued a statement disagreeing with earlier report findings and recommend parents and caregivers not use padded crib bumpers, but stopped short of banning them.
So what are parents doing? Many parents believe bumpers prevent injury from a baby’s head hitting the sides of a crib, or from limbs getting stuck in the slats. And indeed, bumpers were first conceived to cover the space between crib slats so babies couldn’t fall out or get their heads, arms or legs stuck between the bars. But regulations changed and now mandate less space, just 2 3/8 inches between slats, making bumpers more of an aesthetic choice than a safety necessity. Parents also buy bumpers because they think they’re supposed to, given that they’re sold in crib bedding sets, and because they just plain look good, explains one doctor.
There is mounting evidence and sentiment against the use of crib bumpers. It is your responsibility to do your own research and make your own decisions regarding the safety of your child.
If you choose to use a bumper in your baby’s crib, refer to the JPMA Bumper Safety brochure.
Sources: consumerreports.com, parenting.com, jpma.org, cpsc.org, cdc.gov, nih.gov