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How Safe Are Bassinets for Babies?

Researchers Say Parents Should Follow Safe-Sleeping Guidelines to Ensure Bassinet Safety
WebMD Health News

June 25, 2008 -- What is the best way to keep a baby sleeping safe and sound while in a bassinet?

New research shows that more and more families are using bassinets, although not much is known about how safe they are.

A study led by Jodi Pike, MD, and Rachel Moon, MD, of the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., examined data from 53 infant deaths that involved a bassinet.

The researchers admit the data are limited. They reviewed all infant deaths that involved bassinets as reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) between 1990 and 2004.

The average age of the infants who died was nearly 3 months old.

Here are the main results:

  • In 85% of the deaths the infants had suffocated or they had a lack of oxygen.
  • 74% of the bassinets had blankets, pillows, or plastic bags in them.
  • 37% of the babies had been placed face-down to sleep.
  • 50% of the babies were found in their bassinets face down.
  • 9% of the deaths were due to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • 9 of the infants died because the bassinets had a mechanical problem or they were not used correctly.

The results are published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

The researchers stress the importance of following the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for putting babies to sleep:

  • Put babies to sleep on their backs.
  • Avoid having soft bedding, loose pillows, or stuffed animals in or around the baby's sleeping area.

The researchers also point out how crucial it is to keep bassinets in top shape; make sure they are working well and that no slats are broken.

The researchers advise making sure that there isn't anything that could potentially lead to suffocation in or near the bassinet -- such as a mobile or plastic sheeting.

In 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its recommendations for a safe infant sleep environment, suggesting parents sleep nearby but separate from babies, since sharing a bed with an infant has been associated with SIDS.

"If parents plan to use a bassinet," Pike and Moon say in a news release, "they should make sure that it is in good repair and conforms to CPSC guidelines."

While the Consumer Product Safety Commission has guidelines for bassinet construction, there are no federal government safety standards for bassinets.

Here's what the CPSC advises to look for in bassinets:

  • A sturdy bottom with a wide base.
  • Bassinets should have smooth surfaces.
  • No hardware should be sticking out of bassinets.
  • Mattresses need to be firm and fit tightly.

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