Supplemental mattresses are commonly used in play yards, porta-cribs and playpens to make a baby more comfortable.
But that comfort comes at a steep price, according to Joyce Davis, the founder of Keeping Babies Safe (KBS), a nonprofit that advocates for child safety issues.
Davis founded KBS after her son Garret suffocated while sleeping in a soft-sided play yard. A supplemental mattress in the play yard was to blame, Davis said.
“There were no warning labels advising us against using these products together,” she said, noting she purchased the supplemental mattress because it was advertised as suitable for the play yard.
Mother fights to ban unsafe supplemental mattresses after son dies in playyard
Warning labels on a Graco play yard that were added after Joyce Davis young son, Garret died when an ill-fitting mattress was used. Davis started the campaign KeepBabiesSafe.org to remove certain play yard mattresses from sale after her son died from an ill-fitting play yard mattress in 2000. Thursday, July 2, 2015 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
Patti Sapone/NJ Advance Media
Now, mandatory hazard labels are printed on all play yards, warning users to only use the mattress pad that comes with the product.
Still, supplemental mattresses are readily available
A few months back, Bamboozled wrote about KBS’ fight to have the products banned.
As part of its efforts, KBS asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) for a total ban.
After our story ran, the CPSC voted unanimously to docket KBS’s petition on the ban. Now there’s a public comment period, during which consumers and businesses can share their thoughts on the matter.
“The CPSC has been quoted saying ‘bare is best’ in the crib and play yard,” Davis said. “They recommend using only the mattress sold with the product.”
The CPSC isn’t the only group looking at the issue.
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) advises caregivers to follow manufacturer instructions and to always use the mattress provided by the manufacturer for the product.
“Gaps between a mattress that is too small or too thick become immediate suffocation risks,” JPMA said. “The mattresses provided by the manufacturer are made specifically for the play yard they are sold with to ensure a baby’s safety.”
WHAT RETAILERS ARE DOING
KBS asked major retailers to remove supplemental mattresses from market. With those requests, and with a little Bamboozled spotlight, these products are a little less available.
“We have removed play yard mattresses from the items sold by Sears and Kmart online,” it said, noting the company doesn’t sell the products in stores. “We have put a ban in place to prevent third parties from selling supplemental play yard mattresses on our online Marketplace.”
Then there was Toys R Us and Babies R Us. When our story ran, the company offered 18 supplemental mattress products online. After the story, the products disappeared.
We asked what was behind the company’s move.
“We have been monitoring ongoing discussions and emerging information on the issue of supplemental mattresses and, with this, recently removed the small number of these mattresses available in our online store,” said Toys R Us spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh.
Walmart didn’t go that far.
The company’s vice president of product safety compliance, Beth Schommer, sent KBS an email that essentially said the company was in a holding pattern.
“We are closely monitoring the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s action on the petition requesting rulemaking on supplemental mattresses and will implement any resulting recommendations or changes in the rule,” Schommer wrote.
We asked Walmart for more about its decision, but it had no additional comment.
Amazon.com, which offers several pages of supplemental mattresses, didn’t return our emails or phone calls.
We then asked Dream On Me, a South Plainfield manufacturer of supplemental mattresses whose products are popular with the aforementioned retailers, to comment on the petition.
It vociferously disagrees with KBS’ premise.
Dream On Me’s Robery Omansky said a KBS video contradicted the data it put in the CPSC petition. The video said there were 39 deaths in three years, but the petition said there were 15 deaths in domestic settings and 6 in child care settings over 13 years. (Davis said the higher figure in the video was based on preliminary CPSC data and the video hasn’t been updated.)
“Ten of the incidents clearly state that odd objects like blankets wrapped around baby’s head and neck, sofa cushions, adult pillows and even full size crib mattress and in one case a twin mattress were placed in play yard and were the likely cause of death, not supplemental play yard mattresses as KBS states,” Omansky said of the petition’s data. “In the remaining five incidents only one refers to a supplemental mattress and this one clearly states ‘the mattress improperly fitting.'”
He said the other four instances where a child was found wedged between a mattress and the edge of play yard do not state whether or not a supplemental mattress was present.
He’s right. A supplemental mattress is mentioned only once.
“If in fact a supplemental mattress was the cause one would expect the report to reflect this fact,” Omansky said.
Perhaps. But the other incidents — page down here in the petition to Attachment 4 — do cite mattresses.
One incident said, “Baby wedged between improperly fitted mattress and side of playpen.” Another said, “Head caught between playpen and mattress.” You can read the others.
He said Dream On Me has not received one complaint in the company’s history.
Many consumers are not happy with factory-supplied play yard mattresses, Omansky said, calling them too thin and uncomfortable for sleep. He said as parents look for alternatives, they may turn to “far more undesirable options” such as sofa cushions and adult comforters.
“Banning the play yard mattresses from the market will likely result in increasing the consumers turning to these makeshift items and as such result in an even greater numbers of deaths,” Omansky said. “The root of the problem lies in the original play yard mattresses not being comfortable to sleep on. A better solution needs to be investigated, but until that is found, a ban on supplemental mattresses is not the intelligent move at this time.”
You can read his entire statement here.
KBS’ Davis says one child’s death is too many.
Despite the mandatory standard that says never to use a supplemental mattress, “a loophole exists in which mattress manufacturers – with total disregard to industry regulations – continue to make and sell supplemental mattresses that can only be used in contravention of these mandates,” Davis said.
“Fortunately, the CPSC has voted unanimously to docket our petition,” Davis said. “Major global retailers such as Toys R Us, Buy Buy Baby, Sears and Kmart have concluded that supplemental mattresses are deadly and they’ve taken them off their shelves.”
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
The CPSC won’t make any decisions before the public comment period, which ends on Oct. 13.
If you have an opinion on these products, you can give a comment to the agency.
After the public comment stage, the CPSC staff will put together a briefing package for the Commission that will include responses to comments, discussion of the petition, and a recommendation whether the petition should be granted, denied or deferred, the CPSC said. This should happen during fiscal year 2016.
We’ll keep you posted on what happens next.
Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com.