Report Finds Soft Bedding a Factor in Playpen DeathsCPSC, Mattel Launch Campaign to Alert Caregivers

July 12, 2001
Release Number: 01196

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a report today on deaths in playpens. Since 1988, CPSC has reports of more than 200 babies who died while in playpens. In almost 100 of these deaths, soft bedding or improper or extra mattresses were present in the playpen and the babies died of suffocation or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). More than 70 percent of these deaths were to babies less than 12 months old. Twenty-six of the playpen deaths occurred in a daycare setting.

Over the years, playpens, portable cribs and play yards have evolved into virtually identical products. Parents use playpens today as places for babies to both sleep and play. To educate caregivers, CPSC and Mattel, Inc. are launching a "Sleep Safe, Play Safe " campaign to address the two greatest hazards revealed by the study: 1) adding soft bedding and 2) adding extra mattresses or cushions.

For years, CPSC has warned about the dangers of soft bedding such as quilts, comforters and pillows in cribs. Soft bedding can become molded around an infant's face and cause suffocation. As many as one-third of baby deaths attributed to SIDS, in fact, may be suffocation in soft bedding.

"Many parents and caregivers know the dangers of soft bedding in cribs," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "This study shows, for the first time, that the same dangers exist when using pillows, quilts, and comforters in playpens."

The findings emphasize the need for caregivers to be aware that the same safe sleeping guidelines that they follow for their babies' cribs should be followed in these playpens. That means placing baby on his back on a firm, flat mattress and not adding extra mattresses or any soft bedding, such as pillows, quilts, or comforters.

"At Mattel, the well being of children is an inherent part of the reason for our organization to exist and we reflect this in all that we do," said Jim Walter, vice president of corporate product integrity for Mattel. "We are happy to be working with the CPSC on the 'Sleep Safe, Play Safe' campaign."

Today, CPSC, in partnership with Mattel, is kicking off a "Sleep Safe, Play Safe" campaign to educate parents and caregivers about the dangers associated with soft bedding and extra mattresses or cushions in playpens.

The campaign includes a Public Service Announcement (PSA), featuring a lullaby by singer/songwriter Tom Paxton, that will be distributed to 3,400 radio stations nationwide. CPSC will reach out to practicing pediatricians and organizations that are influential in educating parents about ways to keep their infants healthy and safe. Mattel will send more than a million posters and brochures to practicing pediatricians across the country and to organizations who work with or serve parents and childcare providers.

Other hazards identified in the study were playpens that were in poor condition, had broken or protruding hardware or had side rails that collapsed creating an entrapment hazard.

To prevent deaths or injuries to children in playpens, parents and caregivers should take these precautions:

- Before using a playpen, make sure it has not been recalled. Contact CPSC at 1-800-638-2772 or check the recalls section of CPSC's web site.

- Always put a baby down to sleep on his back in a playpen or crib with no soft bedding, such as quilts, comforters and pillows. This can help reduce the risk of SIDS and prevent suffocation.

- Use only the mattress provided by the manufacturer. Do not add additional mattresses in playpens. Children can suffocate in the spaces formed between mattresses or from ill-fitting mattresses.

- Check that the playpen is in good shape. Using a modified or improperly repaired unit can create hazards.

- Make sure the top rails of the units lock into place automatically. More than 1 million older playpens with top rails that had to be manually rotated into a locked position have been recalled.

- Do not use playpens with catch points, such as protruding hardware. More than 9 million older units with protruding hardware have been recalled.

- If using a mesh-sided playpen, make sure the mesh is less than 1/4 inch in size and that it is attached securely. This will help prevent strangulation.

For more information on playpen safety, visit the publications section (Children's Furniture) of CPSC's web site or call (800) 638-2772. Here is the link to the PDF version (NOTE: you need Adobe Acrobat Reader 4 or later, which you can get without cost, to successfully view these documents) of the Sleep Safe/Play Safe brochure, or you can get a free copy by writing to CPSC, Washington, DC 20207. A PDF version of the brochure is also available in Spanish.

movie iconConsumers can also view a
video clip (transcript) about this campaign and the lullaby (transcript) by Tom Paxton. This is in "streaming video" format.