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As Long as We Remember...

October 19, 2011

Babies, Bassinets and Basements

Norman M. Covert

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) collective wisdom may result in saving a lot of infants’ lives, and that’s a good thing…


,,,but it also means I’m stuck with: 1. A bassinet that rocks; 2. A 41-year-old Port-A-Crib™; 3. A drop-side full-sized crib; and 4. A Yuppie’s-dream solid oak crib, which converts to a youth bed.


No one wants the nostalgic and emotionally-connected items, especially not the Children’s Center in Washington, Good Will Industries in Frederick, Vietnam Veterans of America, nor any other organization that clamors for the leftovers in my garage and basement.


This exceeds the hue and cry to recycle and supersedes our penchant for planned obsolescence.


I have sent out the call to a couple churches in case some young mother or family has need of a crib that can be made safe. We can’t sell it, but we can “gift” it. I don’t doubt the efficacy of these accommodations. Each of my four children occupied the Port-A-Crib as well as older versions of the drop-side cribs, which we long ago gave away.


We never had a moment’s problem with any of the drop side cribs, although I am reminded that daughter Sara once wriggled around in the crib and got her leg caught between the slats. We were, however, vigilant parents and righted the problem quickly.


I am one of those parents who constantly checked to see if the baby was breathing and the wife could come wide awake at any difference in breathing sounds from the nursery.


Apparently we have a generation of parents who believe the government should be watching out for the welfare of their babies. Thus they can leave a probably more responsible teen in charge while they go to a second job or hang out at their favorite haunts with more absent parents.


I really don’t reject my indictment above. This is serious business; babies are such. I realize there is a huge percentage of parents who do take their role seriously, nurture their babies and embrace the new crib standards. Good for you!


AAP announced new guidelines for baby bumpers for cribs this week. It claims they do not protect a child from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It has to do with “safe sleeping environments.”


We used baby bumpers and they worked. My children grew up to be loving and attentive parents. The dismantled items took up residence in my basement when their children – and several grandchildren – outgrew the cribs.


I did manage to donate two traditional wicker bassinets a couple years ago, accepted by a downtown Frederick organization which provides help to low-income families having small children.


New OSHA crib guidelines went into effect in June. Traditional drop-side cribs may no longer be manufactured or sold. This includes a prohibition against immobilizers and repair kits. Wood slats must be made of strong woods (?); hardware must have anti-loosening devices; and mattress supports must be more durable.


AAP says children should sleep on their backs with a firm mattress. It accepts room sharing with an infant, but not bed sharing (presumably with Mommy or Daddy); soft objects and loose bedding must be avoided; avoid overheating; avoid cardio-respiratory monitors.


They also want “supervised tummy time” to facilitate development. I guess the latter is simply holding the baby on your lap, playing with, cuddling and nurturing with someone making sure you do it correctly.


Wow, how did we ever grow past infancy? Perhaps we were improperly or not given “tummy time,” explaining our unpredictable adolescence and poor decision making at 16, 18 or 21. I suppose a Harvard-educated childhood expert would have made a difference. We had our grandmothers, thank goodness.


This is serious business. The following numbers aren’t staggering, but every child is important:


Among infant fatalities, 12 percent were due to drop-side related problems. OSHA reports 12 percent of all non-fatal incidents included infants having their legs caught in the slats; another 12 percent of related to wood quality issues.


OSHA also reports in the Federal Register that 82 percent of the 3,520 incidents (from November 2007 to April 2010) pointed to crib failures or defects. Twenty-three percent were falls from cribs. One opines that the child climbed up and over the side and fell. I suspect of the latter incidents, children probably cried for a long period of time before taking matters into their own hands, resulting in the falls.


Again we may perceive a parenting questing, not so much a crib problem. We want to see every infant in a safe environment, but that means good parenting as much as good furniture and equipment.


It is worth mentioning that my daughter Bethany’s first high chair came by way of S&H Green Stamps™. It withstood the test of all four children and at least a couple grandchildren. OSHA probably wouldn’t approve.


Finances dictated that I fashion a new tray by the time my second child came along. It used a portion of my pine bricks and boards shelving and fit securely after transferring the metal brackets from the plastic original. A coat of polyurethane helped it withstand the assault of breakfast lunch and dinner foods.


The chair remains on the garage shelf, a symbol of a Dad’s talents born of necessity.


All this said, I still have a bassinet and three cribs with plenty of useful service in them if properly used and supervised by a responsible adult. I refuse to put them on the curb. If you want one or all, give me a call. Everyone knows my phone number.


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