Could Crib Tents Be Dangerous?

Baby standing in a white crib.

Sally Anscombe / Getty Images

Do you have a little escape artist on your hands? If you think a crib tent will put a swift and safe end to those dangerous, late-night jailbreaks, think again.

Available for standard cribs, portable cribs, and play yards, crib tents offer protection from insects while preventing children from climbing out of their cribs. However, evidence suggests that these popular mesh crib coverings could be dangerous—even deadly.

Safety Stats and Recalls

Between January 1997 and April 2012, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) received 27 reports of product failures concerning crib tents manufactured by Tots in Mind, Inc. While most victims suffered only minor injuries, one two-year-old boy died after becoming entrapped between the top rail of his play yard and the bottom rail of a crib tent. Another two-year-old sustained a catastrophic brain injury after his dome-style tent inverted. A broken rod pinned him at the neck.

The CPSC has since issued a recall of all crib tents made by the now-defunct distributor, Tots in Mind, Inc. However, other brands of crib tents remain on the market. Does that mean these products are safe? Don’t bet on it.

Other Unsafe Crib Accessories

Availability is a poor indicator of safety. Extensive study has proven that crib bumpers kill, prompting official safety warnings from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Yet bumpers continue to be offered for sale. Even so-called "SIDS-safe" products, such as sleep positioners and alternative bumpers, are not subject to FDA regulation, leaving manufacturers free to make unsubstantiated safety claims about their products.

When it comes to your child’s safety, it pays to do your homework. While no official statement has been made regarding the safety of crib tents on a whole, many child safety advocates express concern, maintaining that crib tents may entrap children, leading to strangulation. "Consumer Reports" includes crib tents on its list of dangerous baby products, suggesting that a child who becomes entangled in the mesh of a failed tent could be strangled or otherwise suffocated.

Although the AAP has not issued a safety warning against crib tents specifically, the organization encourages parents to avoid using all such crib accessories, saying that products like crib tents pose an unnecessary safety risk in an unsupervised sleeping environment.

Accident Prevention

The potential for harm associated with crib tents outweighs the benefit of an uninterrupted night’s sleep. That being said, crib falls should not be taken lightly. To prevent accidents, keep up with your child's development. As soon as your little one can sit up independently, adjust the crib mattress to its lowest position. Also, remove any furniture from around the crib that your child could use to climb on.

To help prevent climbing, you can dress your child in a sleep sack (so they won't be able to swing their leg up and over the top of the crib). Or consider moving them to a toddler bed. Another option is to place the crib mattress directly on the floor, so that they cannot climb or fall out of bed.

If you’re struggling to keep your newly promoted "big kid" in bed, try adding a sleep-training clock to your bedtime routine. These help children to learn the difference between night and day by letting them know when it’s OK to get up.

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Article Sources
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  1. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Five Retailers Agree to Stop Sale and Recall Tots in Mind Crib Tents Due to Strangulation and Entrapment Hazard. Published May 2012.

  2. Thach BT, Rutherford GW, Harris K. Deaths and injuries attributed to infant crib bumper pads. J Pediatr. 2007;151(3):271-4, 274.e1-3. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2007.04.028

  3. Consumer Reports. 13 Dangerous Baby Products to Avoid. Published June 2012.