walkitout (walkitout) wrote,


I'm usually really careful about how I talk about where people should sleep. I know that the choices that I and my family make about where to sleep do not meet longstanding US social standards, and I know that a _lot_ of people's sleep locations decisions do not meet longstanding US social standards. I also know that most of the time, this mismatch between expectations and reality is papered over by some combination of not talking about it and making verbal statements that try to shorten the distance between reality and ideal.

There's a word I'm not using here. If someone comes back and says that I used that word, I'm going to challenge you to find that word in this post. Because I am not using That Word.

In any event, today, the CPSC made an announcement that a lot of us saw coming over recent months and years. They banned the manufacture and sale of drop-side cribs, and are requiring hotels to get rid of theirs and replace them with fixed side cribs, altho they have about a year to do so.

Here is decent coverage of the announcement:


There are a couple of things I'd like to point out. First:

"Drop-side cribs have been blamed in the deaths of at least 32 infants and toddlers since 2000 and are suspected in another 14 fatalities. In the past five years, more than 9 million drop-side cribs have been recalled."

My rule of thumb for understanding millions of babies is, there are about 4 million of them born every year in the US. Notice, "about" and notice _only one significant digit_. Thus, when I see "9 million" cribs, I think, wow, about 2 years worth of babies, figure it out of five years and that's roughly (very roughly) 40% of the cribs sold in that five years. Maybe it's 20% of the cribs, because every baby has duplicate cribs. Maybe it's 50% of cribs sold, because each baby gets less than one crib, what with hand-me-downs and so forth. But that's a lot of recalls.

My oldest child is 5 and bit years old, but many of my friends (older and younger) had their children before I had mine. Thus, I adopted a lot of my parenting practices by seeing what people I love and respect were doing with their kids, and imitating them. Some, but by no means all, of my friends spent an awful lot of time trying to figure out where their infants and toddlers should sleep, and quite a few of them commented on how the crib they owned was used only to store stuffed animals and similar toys. In conjunction with a bunch of reading, I concluded that buying a crib was a pointless waste of time, and that cribs were, in fact, basically very, very dangerous. I slept with my babies, for the most part, altho we did also have a moses basket and an Ambi baby hammock (subject to its own recall). As I aged, my knees got less and less happy about getting up off a mattress on the floor (how I solved the bedframe hazard problem: get rid of the bedframe) and I had a very low platform made that saved my knees but kept the sleeping surface low enough that an outright fall would not be particularly dangerous. We did some other things, too, not all of which I would necessarily recommend doing with a fresh baby, but are probably just fine once the kid's old enough to move around (which ours were old enough to do at a shockingly young age. We have developmental problems, but they aren't motor problems.).

In addition to the touchy social interaction issues that arise whenever people are doing one thing but pretending that they are doing another thing, when my first child was very young, and I was pregnant with my second (IIRC), the AMA launched a major anti-bedsharing campaign. This was utterly bizarre and inexplicable to anyone reading the current studies, since more and more evidence was piling up about the hazards of cribs, the hazards of babies sleeping unattended and so forth. The AMA, however, and a couple of doctors in places where life is really tough all over (notably Detroit) chose instead to focus on infant deaths occurring with a sleeping adult. Almost all of these deaths involved overly tired and/or under the influence adults (many of which were not related to the infant), sleeping with the infant in a chair or similar, but somehow all those details disappeared, and the problem became Cosleeping. The goal: make those infants sleep by themselves in a safe location. The plan: deliver new cribs that meet current safety standards to poor parents. Never mind that that's probably not the real problem. That's actually not what I want to draw attention to here. We just _banned_ drop side cribs. Until recently, virtually _all_ cribs sold were drop side cribs, and if you've ever attempted to transfer a sleeping baby to a crib without waking the kid up or destroying yourself, you'll understand the popularity of the drop side. It's hard to imagine that any of those donated cribs of just a _very_ few years ago are not now illegal to make or sell.

In the hormones of my second pregnancy, and my general touchiness in the wake of a small town political project I had undertaken prior to that pregnancy and which continued throughout the pregnancy, I ranted and raved a lot, in writing and to my long-suffering husband R., about the irrationality and, in fact, criminal craziness of the people pushing to end cosleeping and do so in part by passing out dangerous cribs. But what calmed me down, repeatedly, was something that I remembered from when I was a younger adult, over a decade from having a baby of my own.

Once upon a time, pediatricians told parents to put their babies to sleep on their stomachs. There were scientific explanations. It was Best Practice. And then, there was a Back to Sleep campaign. And the AMA never did any really good job of saying, oh, my bad, gosh, we gave you some bad advice, sorry about that. No, they went straight from Thou Shalt Do This, Not That to Thou Shalt Definitely Not Do This But Definitely Do That. Which is really a pity, because while putting a stop to placing very fresh babies on their stomachs to sleep was probably a net win, my personal experience of sleeping with fresh and not so fresh babies is that they spend a lot of time sleeping on their sides and this seems completely fine. For one thing, it's easier to line them up with the boob that way.

I do feel for new parents of the last couple years and for the next few years. Attempting to make fixed side cribs "work" is nightmarish. The compromises these parents will find themselves inevitably making will make them feel uncomfortable, and make it even harder to get enough sleep. I wish them all the best, and encourage them to try their best to ignore some of the advice they are given and to apply the senses and the brain they are fortunate to possess and come up with a solution that works well for them.

And if you need to tell people you are doing something other than what you are doing, try not to lose any sleep over that, either, but try to tell the people who love and respect you and are about to have babies of their own as much of the truth as you think they can handle. They need all the help they can get, and there sure isn't any forthcoming from the medical professions trade associations.
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.