Killer Bassinets!

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THE PLANK JULY 25, 2008

Killer Bassinets!

Going back to Tuesday's WaPo, there was an infuriating bit in the "Health" section purporting to warn new parents of the dangers of bassinets. Headlined "Beware the Bassinet," the item noted: 

In the hope of reducing deaths of babies from sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies sleep in their own space, such as in a crib or bassinet. But bassinets may not always be so safe, new research shows. [emphasis mine]

Then we are told how two researchers from the Children's National Medical Center:

reviewed all 54 deaths involving bassinets reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission between 1990 and 2004. Eighty-five percent of the babies suffocated. More than 30 percent had been placed on their stomachs to go to sleep. About 50 percent were found facedown. In 74 percent of the cases, other items, such as soft bedding, were in the bassinets. [Again, emphasis mine.]

For starters, with the requisite caveat that every death is tragic, 54 deaths over 14 years doesn't seem like much to issue a warning about. More to the point, putting babies to sleep on their stomach and putting bedding in their sleeping areas are risk factors for SIDS regardless of whether a baby sleeps in a bassinet, crib, or clothes dryer. Are we being asked to "beware bassinets" because they cannot protect our children from independent risk factors? Oh my God! Does this mean if I put a live python in a bassinet with my child at night she might not be safe? And are we also to blame the bassinets for preventing infants from rolling over during the night? 

In fact, according to this study, only 17 percent of deaths were attributable to a bassinet-specific problem, such as a collapse or mattress malfunction. I figure that at around 9 deaths over 14 years, though someone feel free to check my math. My guess is that, over the course of 14 years, there have probably been more babies than that actually were eaten by pythons. (Seeing as how it's Friday, I refuse to track down the actual number.)

Now what if some hysterical mom throws out her bassinet because of this silly item and opts for a riskier sleeping arrangement for her infant? More broadly, parenting is unnerving enough without bullshit warnings like this. Unless I'm missing something here (which is entirely possible), the WaPo should be ashamed of itself.

--Michelle Cottle

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