Bassinet use has nearly doubled over the past decade, with nearly 45 percent of parents using them for babies younger than two months. Bassinets allow parents and infants to sleep in the same room without sharing the same bed, which can be a dangerous practice. But, according to a recent study, bassinets come with their own significant safety concerns.
Despite the growing popularity of bassinets, there are no official government safety standards for the infant bed/carriers, just construction guidelines for manufacturers from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
A new study in the current issue of The Journal of Pediatrics, evaluated the risk factors in bassinet use. Researchers at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington reviewed the death reports of 53 infants who died suddenly and unexpectedly in bassinets. In 85 percent of the cases, the researchers found that lack of oxygen was the cause of death. More than half of the infants were found on their stomachs, and other items such as blankets, pillows and/or plastic bags were found in 74 percent of the bassinets. Nine infants died in bassinets that were not functioning correctly, either from "misuse" or mechanical problems.
"If parents plan to use a bassinet, they should make sure that it is in good repair and conforms to CPSC guidelines," say the authors of the bassinet study.
The CPSC calls for bassinets to have a sturdy bottom with a wide base, smooth surfaces without protruding hardware, legs with locks, and a firm, snug-fitting mattress. Because 6 of the 53 infants were found with their faces wedged against the side of the bassinet, the authors suggest that a bassinet with sides made of an air-permeable material, such as mesh, may be safer. They also emphasize that parents should always lay infants on their backs and never put loose items like blankets or pillows in the bassinet with the baby.
Look for a bassinet that has a sticker indicating that it has been certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). Although this is no guarantee of safety, it's the best assurance consumers currently have that the bassinet meets the voluntary safety standards set by ASTM International. Consumers would have even more assurance if all bassinet manufacturers were required to conform to ASTM standards.
Consumer Reports Guide to Childproofing and Safety recently offered some bassinet and cradle safety and buying tips. And earlier on this blog, we warned parents about the safety concerns associated with bassinet and crib bumper pads.