A lot has changed with the past generation when it comes to the sleep environment for babies. The once-standard drop-side crib is now banned. The idea of what should -- or should not -- be in a crib is still in flux. Follow this guide to safe sleep for babies to make sure you create the safest possible environment.
The rules and perceptions about crib safety have shifted in the past few years, and with that shift have come new requirements for how cribs must be made. Millions of older cribs remain in people's homes -- cribs that are no longer considered safe. Drop-side cribs, particularly those that are more than a couple of years old, are particularly worrisome because the hardware has a tendency to fail and create gaps that can trap or suffocate a baby.
Avoid using hand-me-down cribs that have not be subject to the latest safety standards, which are intended to give some assurance the crib will remain sturdy for years. And resist the temptation to give away an older crib to a friend or relative.
"There is a real risk of entrapment from drop-side cribs that have been recalled and from those that haven't," says Nancy Cowles, executive director of the safety group Kids in Danger.
When it comes to where babies sleep, less is better. Use a tight-fighting sheet to cover the mattress. And that's about it.
Avoid crib bumpers. Avoid sleep positioners. And quilts too.
"The safest place for a baby to sleep is on his back in a safe, bare crib," Cowles said. "Although crib bumpers and quilts may look cute, they pose a real suffocation risk to your baby."
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC ) is reviewing its position on crib bumpers. Currently, the agency advises against using billowy bumpers, but not bumpers in general. Recently, though, some cases have been reviewed and have put crib bumpers in the spotlight, prompting some advocates to call for their ban.
Juvenile-product manufacturers have lobbied against that, asserting that no deaths have been tied to bumpers. Preston Maxwell, a 2-month-old, died last year after rolling off his sleep positioner and suffocating in the crib bumpers.
The idea of the baby monitor is a good, but the sense of false security it gives isn't. If you use a monitor, remember that it is not a substitute for being there or periodically checking on a baby.
The parents of Preston, the baby who died in his crib bumpers, had a monitor on. No matter how loud a monitor is turned up, the type of silent death suffered by Preston would not be heard.
"Parents think they will hear their baby in distress, but suffocation is silent," Cowles said. "Monitors and other devices aren't a substitute for a safe crib, free of any soft bedding."
Just as the rules have changed for cribs, they are not different for toddler beds. Toddler beds should be the next step when a toddler begins to climb out of the crib, to avoid the tumbles that can be caused by the desire to explore.
The new rules adopted in April by the CPSC change the location of a bed's guardrail, which must be at least 5 inches above the mattress, and establishes a strength test of the spindles and slats.
In addition, warning labels about entrapment and strangulation risks must be affixed to the beds. The new rules won't likely take effect until 2012.
The CPSC said that since January 1995, at least four toddlers have died and another 43 have been hurt due to issues with toddler beds.
Copyright © 2010 Meredith Corporation.