Deaths have occurred when the drop-sides of mesh playpens and cribs were left in the down position. When a mesh side is left down, the mesh hangs loosely, forming a pocket or gap between the edge of the floor panel and the side. Young infants, even a few weeks old can move to the edge and fall into the loose mesh pocket where they can be trapped and suffocate.

New mesh-sided playpens with drop-sides have warning labels that alert parents and others never to leave infants in playpens with sides in the down position. Be aware that older mesh playpens or cribs do not have these warning labels. Many of these products are still in use.

Deaths have also occurred in playpens or travel cribs that have a rotating hinge in the center of each top rail to enable the product to be folded into a compact package. These deaths resulted when the top rails collapsed and formed an acute 'V' shape that entrapped the child's neck. In the entrapment incidents, the hinges were either not turned inward and down or they somehow rotated during use to the unlocked position. CPSC has recalled several brands of playpens with these rotating latches in the center of the top rails.

Some playpens or travel cribs have a hinge at the center of each top rail with a latching mechanism that locks automatically when the rail is lifted into the normal use position. To fold these products, a button or other release mechanism must be used to release the latch. Such products, while similar in appearance to those with rotating hinges, are not known to have been involved in any fatal entrapment incidents.

If You Are Buying a New Playpen

1. For playpens with a hinge in the center of each of the four top rails, look for a playpen or travel crib that has top rails that automatically lock when lifted into the normal use position.

2. Look for mesh netting with a very small weave (less than 1/4 inch)-smaller than the tiny buttons on a baby's clothing.

3. Slat spaces on a wooden playpen should be no more than 2-3/8 inches (60 mm) in width.

If You Already Have a Playpen or Are Buying One Secondhand

1. Check the slat spacing on older, wooden playpens. The Commission does not recommend using it if the space between slats is more than 2-3/8 inches (60 mm).

2. Check to see if it has a hinge at the center of each top rail that must be turned toward the inside of the crib and down to prevent folding. CPSC does not recommend that you use this type of product.

Safety Tips

1. Always show babysitter/caregiver how to properly set up playpen according to the manufacturer's instructions. Improper setup can cause the playpen to collapse, resulting in injury or death to the child.

2. Never leave an infant in a mesh playpen or crib with the drop-side down. Infants can roll into the space between the mattress and loose mesh side and suffocate. Even when a child is not in a playpen, leave the drop-side up. Children may try to climb back into a playpen and cut or pinch their fingers on the unlocked hinge mechanism.

3. Remove large toys, bumper pads, or boxes from inside the playpen. They can be used for climbing out.

4. Avoid tying any items across the top or corner of the playpen; they can be a strangulation hazard.

5. Toys should not be hung from the sides with strings or cords because they could wrap around a child's neck. Use another method for attaching the toys to the playpen.

6. Children may use the top rail of the playpen for teething. Check vinyl or fabric-covered rails frequently for holes and tears. A teething child can chew off pieces and choke.

7. If staples are used to attach the mesh side to the floor plate, make sure none are loose or missing.

8. Examine the mesh and its attachment to the top rail and floor frequently for loose threads. There have been reports of entanglements in threads (stitching) that unraveled.

9. Never use a playpen with holes in the mesh sides. These could entrap a child's head and cause strangulation.

10. Never use a playpen with a hinge in the center of each of the four top rails that fold if each top rail does not automatically lock when the rail is lifted into the normal use position.

11. Never use a pad that does not fit snugly and never add a second pad or mattress. Babies have suffocated when trapped between mattresses or between the playpen side and mattress that was too small.


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