How to Navigate the Recent Product Recalls

If you have a drop-side crib, make sure your baby is safe without breaking the bank.

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When neighbors offered to give us their $600 crib that they no longer needed, my husband and I, who were busy preparing for the birth of our baby daughter at the time, jumped at the opportunity to save some cash. We were so new to parenthood that we didn’t even know the difference between a drop-side crib and a bassinet.

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We soon learned. Months after we started putting our daughter to sleep in the beautiful hand-me-down, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced recalls of millions of drop-side cribs after 32 reported infant deaths. While our crib’s brand wasn’t mentioned specifically, the commission voiced concerns that all drop-sides – where one side can be lifted up and down to allow easier access – experienced wear-and-tear over time that could create dangerous gaps for babies. Scary photos online show how a baby’s head could get trapped against the mattress or along the side of a crib after a drop-side becomes loose.

Thus I entered the stressful and confusing territory of children’s product recalls. This week’s recall of Nap Nanny recliners joins hundreds of other children’s product recalls listed on the CPSC website, including strollers, pacifiers, and infant carriers.

With each announcement, parents scramble to determine if they are using the dangerous item, and if so, what to do about it. Should they return it? Attempt to fix it? Ignore the recalls altogether? Unfortunately, some consumer experts suspect that parents, overwhelmed by the number of recalls in recent months, may opt to do nothing at all.

Here are some tips on how to handle a recall:

1) If you’re confused about whether or not you own the recalled product, call the CPSC’s toll-free consumer hotline: 1-800-638-2772. That’s what I did when I wasn’t sure if our crib was safe. While the sheer size of the recent recalls are currently causing extra wait time, you can also leave a message and a CPSC employee will return your call. I received a call back within 24 hours of leaving my message. The helpful staff member confirmed for me that my crib was not on any recall list. You can also visit www.recalls.gov or www.cpsc.gov for more information.

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2) If you find out that you do, in fact, own a recalled product, check with the company to see if a replacement or fix kit is being offered. In the case of Nap Nanny, the company is providing $80 coupons for consumers to purchase new products. With many of the drop-side cribs, companies offered free kits to immobilize the drop-side.

3) If you own a drop-side crib that has not been recalled, check it out to make sure it is not missing any hardware and it has not weakened with age. “If it wasn’t recalled, and there are no signs of breakage, our recommendation is to just stop using the drop-side component,” says Scott Wolfson, director of public affairs for CPSC. Leave the drop-side locked in the “up” position, he adds.

4) If you are still concerned about safety, then replace the defective product. New cribs that follow all of the latest safety recommendations can be purchased for under $200. Three-in-one conversion cribs can transform into a toddler bed later, for extra savings.

5) In general, be wary of secondhand car seats, cribs, strollers, high chairs, and other children’s products where safety is of utmost importance. For cribs in particular, Wolfson says to always look for one with four fixed sides and to stay away from used cribs. “There have been so many recalls and there’s such a serious risk, that newer is better,” he says.

For my own crib saga, the last straw came on July 14, when the CPSC voted to propose new rules that would prevent drop-side cribs from being made or sold in the United States. How could I put our baby to sleep every night in a crib that the U.S. government deemed dangerous? I couldn’t.

Even though he didn’t want to spend the money to buy a new crib, even my husband agreed that we should buy one, given the latest from the commission. Now, when I put my daughter to sleep each night, it’s in a sturdy new crib with no moving sides. I sleep better, too.