May 23, 2008

DT Friday Freakout: Allergies, Bread & Crib Bumpers

BPA. Phthalates. Sugar-spiked formula. Mercury in sushi. There's always some new study or story that stokes parental anxiety and powerless fear in the face of a threatening world, but the uncertainty of when they come out is nervewracking!

Which is why I'm testing out a new feature, DT Friday Freakout: a weekly highlighting of preliminary scientific studies and isolated incidents that you can whip into a frenzy over, and transform your entire parenting philosophy on a weekly basis.

So here goes:

  • Researchers have long known that firstborn children are more prone to asthma and allergies than other kids [REALLY? First I've heard of it, I smell a coverup.], but now a group of University of South Carolina researchers have identified the gene associated with it. Or as the BBC headline puts it, "Allergy risk 'may be set in womb'". Or at conception, maybe? For parents who worry about allergies, then, the solution is clear: skip the first kid and go straight to the second. [bbc, via dt reader sara]
  • In their puffy interview in the Boston Globe, the moms behind the eco-friendly kids clothing startup Toby + Rei got a chance to share their story and provide some helpful, healthy perspective for moms:
    What's the biggest environmental issue facing us now?

    Mallon: I don't know if I can answer that. The gas crisis. The food crisis. Global warming. It's such a multitiered problem. You know, what Kate and I thought was, what can we do to make a difference? And what we do is design clothes. Really, the main crisis facing us right now is that people aren't willing to change little small things.

    Browning: I'm really into the food thing right now - I think that's a huge issue for our kids. The foods we give to our kids at school . . . and then we wonder why they have ADD. These corporations are feeding us junk. At school, I mean, I can't believe they still give our kids white bread. I'm appalled by it.

    [ via dt reader sara, who may need to become the official freakout correspondent]

  • And finally--for today--in response to the American Academy of Pediatrics journal's latest article, "Crib bumpers in the night: a hazard to infants,” the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association has issued an essential and invaluable clarification. The JPMA points out that the study only pertains to "pillow-like" bumpers, "not traditional bumpers which are thin and firm." Uh huh. They also provide a simple 25-point checklist for buying safe cribs and crib accessories. I've reproduced the entire response after the jump, so you can print it out and take it shopping with you this weekend!

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics’ news magazine, AAP News, recently published an article on the safety of crib bumpers.

    The article entitled “Crib bumpers in the night: a hazard to infants,” published in the January 2008 issue, warns of the safety hazards associated with crib bumpers and other soft bedding. The article cites the September 2007 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics by Bradley Thach, which contains data that the U.S. CPSC staff has noted does not establish a direct connection between traditional bumpers and any increased risk.

    We would like to stress that CPSC warnings relate to pillow-like bumpers and adult bedding placed in cribs – not traditional bumpers which are thin and firm. Traditional infant bedding, when used properly, provides an infant with a safe environment in which to sleep.

    Cribs, bassinets, bedding, and nursery décor represent a large portion of the overall $8.9 billion juvenile products industry. Today’s parents are very safety conscious, especially when it comes to their children sleeping. The following are some general guidelines JPMA provides to consumers on creating a safe sleep environment:

    * Infants should ALWAYS sleep in a crib, which meets current Federal and ASTM standards.
    * Normal, healthy infants should ALWAYS sleep on their backs unless otherwise advised by a pediatrician.
    * NEVER place infants to sleep on pillows, sofa cushions, adult beds, waterbeds, beanbags, or any other surface not specifically designed for infant sleep.
    * Only a fitted sheet, mattress pad, and/or waterproof pad should be used under baby.
    * ALWAYS use a crib sheet that fits securely on the mattress, wraps around the mattress corners, and stays securely on the mattress corners.
    * The crib mattress should fit snugly with no more than two fingers width, one-inch, between the edge of the mattress and the crib side.
    * NEVER place the crib near windows, draperies, blinds, or wall mounted decorative accessories with long cords.
    * Crib slats or spindles should be spaced no more than 2 3/8” apart, and none should be loose or missing.
    * Never use a crib with corner posts over 1/16” above the end panels (unless they’re over 16” high for a canopy).
    * When baby is put to sleep, remove pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, pillow-like stuffed toys, and other pillow-like products from the crib.
    * Never use pillows or add extra padding.
    * No pillow-like bumpers.
    * Use bumper pads only until the child can pull up to a standing position. Then remove them so baby cannot use the pads to climb out of the crib.
    * Decorative bows and ribbons should be trimmed short and stitched securely to prevent strangulation.
    * Flexible ribbons, strings, or ties attached to any infant bedding or related accessory item, with the exception of ties on bumper guards and headboard bumper guards, shall not exceed 7”. Ribbons, strings, and ties on bumper guards and headboard bumper guards shall not exceed 9”.
    * Cover baby with a thin covering, specifically designed for infants, only reaching as far as baby’s chest, and tuck the covering around the crib mattress. Consider using a sleeper, sleep sack, or other sleep clothing.
    * No cutout areas on the headboard or footboard so baby’s head cannot get trapped.
    * No cracked or peeling paint, splinters, or rough edges.
    * Mobiles should be removed when baby can pull himself or herself up.
    * Don’t tie items across the top of a play yard as they can entangle a baby and cause strangulation.
    * Never suspend strings over play yards or cribs or attach strings to toys.
    * Choose a play yard with mesh holes no larger than 1/4”. Slats on a wooden play yard should be no more than 2 3/8” apart.
    * Check vinyl or fabric-covered rails frequently for holes and tears.
    * Choose a toddler bed that is low to the ground so that there is less chance of injury if your child falls.
    * Place headboard against wall rather than the side of the bed so that the child can’t become trapped between wall and bed.


    Well, despite the great Bostonian Mother's White Bread In Schools Crisis of 2008, toby + rei's clothes are the real deal, eco friendly and cute.

    I love the Freakout Fridays - I just heard about the flame retardant chemicals on the carseats and babycarriers. Should I start freaking out or not? Baby Industrial Complex, say it ain't so (I'm sure thats exactly what they will say)!!

    [oh wait, I forgot that one! -ed.]

    Oh man, am I ever gonna have me some freakouts. It may be time to rerun some greatest hits. How about car seat side impact standards?

    Wait..."Never use pillows or add extra padding?" I'm sure the "$8.9 billion juvenile products industry" has nothing to do with any of this.

    As with BPA, Canada is ahead of the curve and willing to go farther on this evil bumper pad thing, releasing an offical policy in 2005 stating that: "Health Canada does not recommend the use of bumper pads in cribs because they pose an entanglement, entrapment, strangulation, and suffocation hazard to infants."

    And further: "The presence of bumper pads in a crib may also be a contributing factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). These products may reduce the flow of oxygen rich air to the infant in the crib. Furthermore, proposed theories indicate that the rebreathing of carbon dioxide plays a role in the occurrence of SIDS."

    The full deets are here:

    Manufacturers still make them, so they aren't illegal, but every person connected with educating parents pre and post natal (including doulas, educators, nurses, Peds, etc.) is ethically bound to instruct parents to open their bedding sets and chuck the bumpers straight into the rubbish bin.

    My wife custom designs bedding sets and the bumpers are what everyone loves (mostly because they are soft and pillowy).

    I find it the most humorous when new to-be-dads come in to the store and raise and lower crib rails like 100 times. Just to make sure.

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