Following growing concerns about drop side crib safety issues which have led to a number of major crib recalls and several infant deaths, the retailer Toys “R” Us has decided to phase out the crib design and will no longer order new drop-side cribs for their inventory.
Drop side cribs are designed to allow easy access to the baby by having one side that can be unlocked and lowered. They are particularly popular with shorter parents or those with back problems who have difficulty reaching over the rails of a standard crib.
However, defects in designs of several models of these cribs have been blamed for the death of at least five babies when the parts of the crib came loose, creating a gap that trapped and suffocated the infant. Problems have involved malfunctioning retractable pegs, metal locking pins that came loose, broken slats and other issues.
Since 2007, there have been 21 major drop side crib recalls involving 10 different brand names and over 4.2 million cribs. Among the major manufacturers are Delta, Simplicity, Jardine and Stork Craft.
One of the biggest concerns surrounding drop side cribs is that they are not sufficiently durable. Many parents reuse the cribs for multiple children or pass them down to other family members. When the cribs are disassembled and then reassembled the risk of defects causing dangerous conditions increases greatly, and many of the cribs are inexpensive and built without durable parts.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Toys “R” Us Chief Executive Jerry Storch has indicated that there are enough concerns to lead his company to decide that drop side cribs should be phased out, as cribs with four attached sides appear to be the strongest and have less complicated hardware.
Last month, several major manufacturers of cribs agreed to support a proposed drop-side crib ban. If enacted, the ban would only apply to new cribs and it would likely take several years before the drop side cribs are no longer available.
Safer alternative designs are available, that still allow parents to have easy access to the infants, including “drop-gate” cribs. Instead of having the entire side of the crib slid down, a drop gate crib hinges the upper portion of the side rail on one side of the crib, allowing it to fold down outside the crib. However, the portion of the side of the crib at the level of the baby remains rigid and firmly attached to the rest of the crib.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently scheduled a meeting where consumer advocates, manufacturers and other interested groups can discuss ways in which Government standards can be tightened to ensure all cribs are safer and more durable.