Monday, February 14, 2011

Child Safety is Flawed

An Accident Waiting to Launch

I’m constantly amazed at the prevalence and frequency of recalls on infant and baby products. Just this week, Dorel announced a recall on nearly 800,000 child safety seats for safety harness issues. What a bummer. Imagine those parents that spent endless hours at the NTSB website comparing infant seats and straps and buckles and ease of installation compared to other brands only to find out that it wouldn’t actually matter how easily it strapped into the car, the baby is in constant danger of failing to stay in the seat. I sorted through the rankings once trying to find the perfect seat that would be easy to install and provide instant crash protection like a baby bubble for the car. Then, armed with my list I headed for the closest mega-mart and ended up picking the one on sale because none of the 50 models ranked on the NTSB site were available or the plushiest one with the plushiest price tag that sort of resembled one of the numeric model numbers threatened to engulf the entire backseat of the car. If it won’t fit in the car, I guess that’s the safest kind of car seat. I doubt there are recalls on those too.

For my second child who was born nearly seven years after the first, there was nothing but second best for the poor tyke. I admonished myself for using an old car seat or dragging the bouncy toys from the attic believing myself to be putting him in mild danger because the plastic might have warped or if we were in a front end collision, he may get bruised slightly more and the expiration on the newest of the seats we had left was a whole three months from being expired. The date calmly passed and no Inspector Gadget style peculiarities happened to the seat spontaneously so we still use it. I can tell you that none of those items I bought all of those years ago ever got recalled so I console myself that it just means I’m at less danger of my child becoming a human rocket launched from his car seat.

Sleep It Off

We also use an antique crib. It was free and it does the job so far. I have a friend who terrifyingly asked me when I set it up (and it’s held all together with maybe 8 antique screws) if the crib bars were up to code and far enough apart or close enough together or some such nonsense. The pamphlet that came with her newer model must have extolled the virtues of the latest NASA testing on her crib bed ensuring government approval (which I wasn’t convinced was a sure thing anyway). I said the bars were fine- the crib was made before all of those modern cost savings initiatives where they slacked on materials for the bars and I didn’t need them any closer together unless I was having a baby with a tiny head. I wasn’t planning on doing crack cocaine, smoke, drink excessively, perform voodoo or do any of those things that cause head shrinkage. Let me assure you- my child inherited his father’s skull and the poor tyke looked so off balanced as a newborn with his giant head he was like a mini parade float. I used to pass by him while my husband was holding him as an infant and pretend I was watching the Macy’s Day Parade and then thank my husband for the experience. He was not amused and my friend was not convinced his head might not shrink in the middle of the night and get stuck in the railings.

In the beginning of my baby sleep search he wasn’t in the antique. I was trying to be forward thinking and nurturing or modern or something and really trying to find the one solution where the baby would sleep at night and therefore let me sleep at night. You know- the newest invention to get us out of these Victorian notions of little cages for the squirmy monsters. I found out in my online search on the best sleeping arrangement that my unborn son could have reflux or colic or separation anxiety or miss the feeling of being in the womb. I couldn’t see how this was true since I was awkward in my gait and constantly bumped him into things but at the time, I fell for it. There were side sleepers, co-sleepers, monitored sleeping pads, sleep positioners and new fangled sleeping beds. I purchased this monstrosity called an Amby bed. It resembled one of those half-moon porch swing chairs but that was hanging by an industrial looking spring that you covered with organic cotton and a bow. The idea was that it would elevate and cradle and simulate the closeness and movement of the womb and he wouldn’t get the flat spot on the back of his head. It also promised that babies that had reflux or colic would magically be enticed to sleep through the night by age 48 hours. It did look quite cozy and I asked my mechanically minded husband if it would be strange if we designed adult sized ones for the bedroom. He mumbled something about Alien Vs. Predator and cocoons and pretended he heard the phone ring.  The bed actually worked pretty well as far as I know- I sleep so deeply my husband usually has to get up with the kids anyway but it looked really cute. After the helpless tyke outgrew his Amby hammock, there was a lawsuit alleging that the beds were a suffocation hazard. They also said that the sleep positioners were also banned for the same reason. At least I knew the alternative in the crib would have been dangerous too. I thought briefly about reverting to my parent’s old penny-saving standby- a folded blanket in a dresser drawer on the floor (hey, I survived!) may have been a good move but he was getting mobile. So I was glad I had already reverted to the antique crib and he didn’t need to be positioned anymore. I hadn’t given the bed a sideways glance over the last nearly 2 years except that now my son has taken to gleefully rattling everything that rattles on the old bed while jumping when he wakes up. Now I’ve heard they’ve recalled or banned manufacture or sale of those cribs that have the drop-side. Of course this antique gem with the 8 loosening screws with every shake and jump has a drop-side that rattles fiercely when shaken. I wonder if it’s too soon to put him in a bed he can escape from—and it would mean dragging the old toddler bed down from the attic and assembling it. Chances are they will issue some death sentence warning for those too just as I get comfortable enough to wonder what he could stuff in his mouth if left in an escapable bed for naptime.

Looking Back

There was a Victorian invention I saw one time where there was this wrap thing you could put your infant in and then conveniently hang them on coat hook contraptions as you went about your housework. The little tyke could watch you safely from the wall as you stoked fires and laced up your excellently tall shoes. There was also this wheel you could hang them on and then walk them around in a circle like a straight-jacketed pony at exercise time. I guess it could have had dual-use as a rotating indoor clothes hanger. I think maybe that would be safer. There’s no choking, suffocation, dropping sides, flinging babies, rocket chairs, or recalls. The child’s limbs would be strapped down to their sides and they would be prevented from even stuffing anything up their own nose- what could be better? Is there an older description than antique?

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