From June this year the sale of new or second hand drop sided cots will be banned in the USA.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is the body that has bought about the ban, reports that in a 9 year period from 2000 – 2009 drop sided cots were responsible for the deaths of 32 babies who became trapped by the drop side and were either suffocated or strangled.
Since 2002 accident data has not been collected in the UK so it is not clear whether there have been any similar problems here, but the Consumer Association “Which” reports that the Trading Standards Institute have had no patterns of injuries involving drop sided cots.
Obviously any baby’s death is a tragedy and many times more so if caused by an avoidable manufacturing fault in equipment or by poor assembly, but is the ban on drop sided cots all good news?
The problem is that for a cot to be effective in its prime purpose of providing a baby with a safe sleeping place there must be a minimum distance from cot top to mattress otherwise the baby or toddler is at risk of falling out. With a fixed side cot the parent has to lean over the side of the cot and lower the baby to the mattress. A lift in a bending forward at the spine position has long been recognised as one of the most common ways of causing an injury to the discs in the lumbar spine. Principles of good lifting include using the strong muscles of the legs to lift rather than the back muscles and keeping the load close into the chest to decrease the leverage effect; with a fixed side cot this is simply not possible. This problem is compounded because mothers, in the early months after giving birth, have an more of a hormone called relaxin in the bloodstream. The purpose of relaxin is to increase the amount of elasticity in ligaments, this is necessary for birth, but means ligaments can be more easily injured if lifting poorly. Additionally some smaller people simply do not have the reach to safely lower a baby over a fixed side to the cot mattress, this is certainly a problem for many with travel cots, there is the risk in this circumstance of the baby being dropped.
Clearly back pain cannot be compared to the death of an infant, but perhaps better design and manufacturing standards would provide a more appropriate solution than an outright ban.