Time to reinvent cribs?


 My baby’s crib was one of the big purchases that I wasn’t willing to compromise on. Because I knew how often they are recalled, and because improper assembly (or reassembly) can damage the parts, there was no question that I would purchase a new crib. All cribs must meet stringent standards, including having slats that are no more than 2-3/8 inches apart. This ensures that the baby’s head or body cannot pass through the slats. We purchased a brand new, high quality crib for our baby, and we’ve never had any safety concerns with it–until today.

I brought my baby upstairs to place him in his crib while I used the bathroom. He is walking, and I like to know that he is completely safe when I can’t watch him. It wasn’t long before I heard him screaming. It was the type of scream that meant he was in pain–the type of scream that goes silent for a few seconds until he lets out a sound even more blood-curdling than before. I couldn’t imagine how on earth he had hurt himself so badly in his crib. I was even more confused when I went into his room and found him lying flat on his back. I had thought he had perhaps bumped his head or managed to pinch his finger, but there was no sign of such injuries. Finally I noticed that his right thigh was lodged between two of the slats! To make matters worse, it had begun to swell, and his leg wouldn’t budge.

I have never felt so helpless in my life. I tried repeatedly to free his leg, to no avail. My baby was so upset that he was hiccuping, and tears were rolling down his face. I wanted to cry myself when he reached out his little arms to me, and I could not pick him up and cuddle him. If I had had my wits about me, I would have used baby oil or soap or something to lubricate his little leg, but instead I was somewhat panicked and did not want to leave my baby by himself; he was so distraught. I tried to bend the slats ever so slightly, but being a high quality crib, they wouldn’t give. I was about to call the fire department when I decided to take one last look at the situation to see if there was anything I could do. My son was lying parallel to the side of the crib, and his leg was stuck at an angle. I tickled his foot to make sure he still had feeling in his leg. I thought that if I carefully repositioned him to straighten his leg, it might help. At first it still wouldn’t wiggle free, but with a little coaxing I was able to ease him out of his predicament, and give him the cuddles he needed. He hiccuped for many minutes after he was safe, he had been so upset. The slats left red marks on his leg, and there was some swelling, but he was able to walk on it just fine.

I know the latest safety requirements for cribs have prevented many deaths, but it seems that more thought should go into the design of this important furniture. Babies frequently get limbs caught between slats, and although I had thought that couldn’t be a big problem, I now understand just how bad it can be! If my son had fallen just the “right” way, he could easily have broken his leg or severely injured his knee. My son’s crib has slats spaced 2-1/8 inches apart, which is less than the requirement. The extra 1/4 inch allowed by regulations may have prevented this particular incident, but a slightly larger baby could still become stuck. I don’t really want to question the 2-3/8 inch dimension or whether slightly larger spacing would be acceptable. I’m not familiar with the research. But I think it’s time that someone really thought outside the box and invented an entirely new type of crib, without slats at all! Let’s face it, they kind of resemble jail bars anyway.

(Note: Before you yell at me and/or have a stroke, the picture above of my son’s crib was taken when he was still an immobile infant. The mattress has since been lowered, and the bumper pad removed)

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