Few safety experts have focused on the dangers of playpens. Today, however, the playpen is often used not only as a place to play, but a place where small children and infants sleep. If you use a playpen, you should take steps to protect your child.
- Do not put soft bedding in a playpen. Soft bedding can be a risk factor for infant suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). 68 children have died in playpens where soft bedding was present and the cause of death was suffocation or SIDS.
- Set up a playpen carefully before putting a child in it. Make sure the sides are locked in place. If you have questions, read the instructions or call the manufacturer to request instructions if they are not with the playpen. If side rails are not properly locked in place, they can collapse and children can be injured or even strangled in the v-shaped spaces between the rail sections. Infants can also suffocate if they roll under a pocket formed at the bottom of a mesh playpen when the side is down.
- Use only the mattress or padding provided by the manufacturer. Do not add additional mattresses in playpens. Children can suffocate in the spaces formed between mattresses, or from ill-fitting mattresses, and between additional mattresses or padding and the side of a playpen.
- Check to make sure the playpen is in good shape. Using a modified or improperly repaired playpen can create additional hazards.
- If using a mesh-sided playpen, make sure the mesh is no less than 1/4 inch in size. Make sure the mattress is securely attached to the top rail of the floor plate and the mesh does not have tears, holes or loose threads. Torn, loose or over-sized mesh threading can cause strangulation.
- Do not use playpens with catch points such as protruding rivets. Remove any strings or cords on children's clothing that could catch on a playpen. This can also be a cause of strangulation. Before using any playpen, make sure it has not been the subject of a recall.