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June 28th, 2011
04:26 PM ET

Dangerous drop side cribs no longer for sale

Cribs are supposed to be the safest place in the house for a parent to leave a baby unattended and any new parent shopping for a new crib should now feel a little more confident that their child will indeed be safe.  Beginning Tuesday, companies that manufacture or sell baby cribs in the United States have to comply with the latest safety standards set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The standards will no longer allow the manufacture and sale of so-called drop side cribs, where one side or both sides of the crib can be lowered to provide easier access to a baby.

"[The] detaching drop side rails have been associated with at least 32 infant deaths since 2000," says Yvonne T. Maddox, of the National Institutes of Health. "Gaps may form between the crib mattress and the drop side rails, due to errors in assembly or installation or to wear or malfunction from use," she explains. As a result a baby’s head could get caught between the mattress and the side rails, leading to suffocation, or the baby could fall out of the crib.

The CPSC says there have been a reported 3,520 incidents and injuries, including infants falling from cribs, skull fractures and babies getting their limbs caught between the crib slats from November 1, 2007 to April 11, 2010.

CPSC spokeswoman Patty Davis says the new safety standards also require manufactures to provide stronger hardware, like bolts and screws so the entire crib is better secured; crib slats need to be stronger, so babies can’t accidentally kick them out and the mattress supports to avoid any possible gaps which again could trap a baby or cause the infant to fall out of the crib.

Since 2007, 11 million cribs have been recalled, mostly because of the risk linked to the drop side feature, says Davis.

"All of these improvements will bring about a new generation of safer cribs to consumers and America's children," said CPSC chairman, Inez Tenenbaum, in a statement.

The CPSC approved the new rules in December 2010, noting that federal mandatory guidelines on crib safety had not been changed in nearly 30 years. Davis says cribs manufactured according to the new guidelines will make them the safest to date.

While retail stores and second-hand shops may not longer sell these drop side cribs, hotels and daycare centers have another 18 months – until December 28, 2012 – to get rid of the old cribs and buy new, safer models.

It’s not illegal to have a drop side crib in your home, but Davis says the CPSC is appealing to consumers to not sell or give away their old cribs because they are “dangerous products that can kill” a baby.

She says the recommendation is to throw these cribs in the trash. If, however, a family cannot afford to throw out their drop side crib, they are urged to use an immobilization device that is attached on both sides of the drop side. It keeps the drop side of the crib from moving up and down, says Davis, thus reducing the risk.

Once parents have found the safest crib for their baby, there's more they need to do to prevent their little one from suffocating.   Aside from a sheet on top of the mattress, cribs should be empty when the baby is laying in it.  That means no pillows, blankets, billowy bumpers that protect the baby from hitting itself on the slats –  of these things could possibly suffocate a child if it were to roll over and bury its face in it.

Parents can find more information on how to keep your child safe in their crib, by checking out the CSPC Crib Information Center, the SIDS factsheet from the NIH and the Consumer Reports Crib Safety Tips.

CNN's Miriam Falco contributed to this report


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.