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Dangers of Drop-Side Cribs

Is Your Child at Risk?

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Dangers of Drop-Side Cribs Photo courtesy of Bambu Productions via Getty Images.

Despite their convenience and widespread popularity, drop-side cribs pose a serious threat to infants, many of whom have been injured or even killed as a result of hardware malfunctions common to the crib’s design. In the interest of safety, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has now issued a ban against the manufacture and sale of all drop-side models; however, many of these cribs remain in use.

Currently using a drop-side crib? Take a moment to consider the potential risks associated with their use, and learn what you can do to protect your child.

Hidden Dangers

Designed to provide parents with easier access to their child, drop-side cribs allow for one or both sides of the crib frame to be lowered via a built-in track system - a convenient feature, especially for those who suffer from back pain or simply lack the height needed to reach comfortably over the rail. A seemingly elegant solution to a common problem, the drop-side crib has enjoyed decades of popularity. However, the crib's convenient design comes at the expense of its overall stability. Unlike a traditional crib, a drop-side crib has moving parts. This increases the potential for wear and tear and the risk of hardware malfunction, which can have deadly consequences.

Between November 2007 and April 2010, the CPSC received 3,520 incident reports regarding the use of drop-side cribs, many of which resulted in serious injury and even death. These incidents occurred when the hardware associated with the crib’s drop-gate action failed, allowing the gate to separate from the rest of the crib and creating a dangerous gap between the mattress and the frame. Since 2000, at least 32 infants have died due to trauma, strangulation, or suffocation suffered after falling through or becoming trapped in this gap. As a result, dozens of recalls have been issued effecting millions of cribs.

New Regulations and Safety Recommendations

Thankfully, drop-side cribs are no longer available on the market. New federal crib safety standards, effective as of June 2011, banned the manufacture and sale of all drop-side models in the U.S. Yet, many remain in use. Second-hand cribs are still available through private sale, and many parents who already own a drop-side crib continue to use it, unaware of the potential dangers.

While it’s not illegal to own a drop-side crib, the CPSC recommends that any parent still using one replace it immediately, taking care to ensure the crib ends up in the trash rather than in someone else’s nursery. Used models present an even greater danger to their tiny occupants because of the increased potential for poor assembly, missing or damaged hardware and significant wear and tear. In other words, the fewer used cribs available, the better.

Keeping Your Child Safe

While replacing your drop-side crib remains the safest option, parents who can’t afford to buy a new crib can take the following steps to protect their child:

  • Check to see if your specific crib has been recalled. You may be able to exchange it for free.
     
  • Purchase an immobilization device, which holds the drop gate in place, thus reducing the risk. Do not use the drop gate feature.
     
  • Make sure the crib is assembled properly, ensuring that all hardware is accounted for. If you don’t have an instruction booklet, call the manufacturer and ask for one.
     
  • Give your little one’s crib a regular once-over. Check for missing or broken parts, and ensure that all hardware is tightly fastened.

For more information regarding current crib safety guidelines, please visit the CPSC’s Crib Safety Information Center. You can also learn more about crib safety, SIDS and SIDS prevention as well as other safety-related issues on our Safety Basics page.

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