Family Health Guide

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SIDS: Crib Safety

Despite what you see in store displays, all you really need are the basics: a safe crib or co-sleeper, a firm mattress, and a tightly fitted sheet. As a general rule, avoid products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS because most have not been tested for effectiveness or safety.  Keep it completely bare. 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has also banned the manufacture, sale and re-sale of drop-side cribs, after a slew of recalls. These cribs, which have one slide that slides up and down to make it easier to reach for baby, have been shown to be hazardous when the drop side becomes partially detached, creating a space that a baby can get stuck in.

Obviously, the easiest way to make sure you’re getting a crib up to the latest safety standards is to buy a new one.  But if funds are tight, and you must borrow or purchase second-hand, check for the following:

  • Screws, brackets, and joints that are tightly in place and intact.
  • A mattress that fits snugly, so the baby can't become trapped between it and the sides of the crib.
  • Slats no more than 2 3/8 inches apart-the width of a soft-drink can. A wider space is enough to allow a baby to slide through and get stuck.
  • Corner posts that don't extend more than 1/16 of an inch, so clothing can't get snagged.
  • A headboard and footboard without decorative cutouts, which could trap a baby's head.

Should you pay extra for those pricey special mattresses with "breathable" surfaces, which supposedly help to prevent the baby from re-breathing exhaled carbon dioxide? Probably not. Experts assert that the best thing to do is to put a baby on his back on a firm mattress. As long as it’s firm, the type of mattress doesn’t matter much.

But what if your infant turns over on his stomach in his sleep? Not likely. Putting young babies on their back to sleep is effective because they usually stay put. By the time they're able to roll onto their stomach on their own—usually at 4-7 months—infants are past the peak risk period for SIDS.  However, experts recommend that older babies be placed on the back for each sleep time and then be allowed to turn as they wish as they develops better body control.