For many years the juvenile products industry has warned consumers not to add padding or additional bedding to a play yard to prevent potential suffocation hazards. In fact, The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), warns on its website, “Never add a mattress, pillow, comforter, or padding.” Every play yard comes with a mattress that is sized to properly and safely fit the product. It is also designed to meet the ASTM safety standard – a voluntary standard to better ensure products are manufactured with consumer safety at the forefront.
Some companies, however, are selling mattresses, marketed as “replacement” or “supplemental mattresses” to use instead of, or in addition to those provided with the play yard. If juvenile product manufacturers themselves warn against the use of additional padding or bedding, why are play yard mattresses being sold as separate add-on products? Is it now safe to forgo the warnings and add extra padding to your play yard? The experts say no. The JPMA has not changed its stance.
Julie Vallese, JPMA Managing Director of Public and Government Affairs, advises: “Parents and caregivers using play yards to always follow the instructions of the manufacturer and to never use a mattress other than the one provided. Gaps between a mattress that is too small or too thick become immediate suffocation risks. The mattresses provided by the manufacturer are made specifically for the play yard they are sold with to ensure the safety of your baby.”
JPMA manages a certification program to guarantee products with their seal meet ASTM International standards for juvenile products. A play yard with their seal is an indication to consumers that the products they are purchasing meet the voluntary standard. Yet, Internet and bricks-and-mortar retailers are doing a brisk business selling these supplemental and second-party replacement mattresses, unregulated and subject to no voluntary standards. Nor are they part of the JPMA certification program. The product has been released into the marketplace and consumers are left to figure it out.
For example, Amy, a purchaser on Amazon.com wrote the following about her replacement play yard mattress:
“It fits, kind of, but it is not a perfect fit. Without pushing the mattress off to the sides, there is a gap around the edges of the mattress and the sides of the playard. Since the sides of the playard are flexible, you can’t really measure the width of the gap. Around 2″ if you don’t force it, 4″ if you do.”
Amy didn’t feel the gap was a big deal, but she had concerns and noted the warnings: “the gap is not big enough for a baby to fall into and get stuck, but it is definitely not snug like a crib mattress is to a crib. So while you’re looking at the gap and wondering if it’s large enough to be a risk, there’s a giant warning tag on the playard that warns not to use any mattresses that did not come with it.”
When industry suddenly creates a supplementary product which conflicts with the warning labels on the primary product it can be confusing and potentially dangerous. Products such as play yards are tested for foreseeable risks, and to the extent feasible, controllable risks are engineered out of the product.
Recently, ASTM passed a consumer safety specification for crib mattresses (ASTM F2933). The standard establishes design and testing requirements and methods, and requirements for labeling for full-size crib mattresses. All crib mattresses whether sold alone or with the crib, must comply with this voluntary standard. This committee has begun to address non-full size crib mattresses with labeling requirements, but has not yet addressed issues such as thickness and compression. The committee is also in the midst of addressing requirements for replacement play yard mattresses.
Mo Anooshah, the ASTM Chairman of the crib mattress subcommittee and Director of Compliance and Quality Assurance for Kolcraft, warned against supplemental mattresses or replacement mattresses that are sold by a second party.
“Consumers must not add anything on top of the existing mattress and if they need a replacement mattress they should call the company they bought the play yard from. Each manufacturer tests their play yard with the mattress they supply so if consumers are buying a replacement mattress from another source those mattresses are not tested with the play yard they have at home so most likely they are not safe to use,” Anooshah says. “Often consumers are using a different mattress as supplemental mattresses – supplemental mattresses are not allowed and are not safe. Babies have died in play yards with supplemental mattresses.”
The committee has a challenging task ahead. Play yards are more variable than cribs in size and shape and carry warnings against using additional products or supplementing the mattresses. All play yards must comply with ASTM standard (F406). According to this standard, the total thickness of the mattress in the play yard, including all fabric or vinyl layers, filling and material any structural members such as wood or hardboard, should not exceed 1 ½ inches. Supplemental play yard mattresses and second-party replacement mattresses are sold in different thicknesses, and some may raise the floor enough to allow the child to get out of the play yard. Further, the length and width can vary, preventing a snug fit.
“I believe the message to parents of babies needs to be as simple and as clear as possible: ‘Bare is best’ for all baby sleep spaces – period. With cribs, play yards, and bassinets, only use the mattress sold with the product or recommended by the manufacturer,” says Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC), Chairman Elliot Kaye.
The CPSC staff has reached out to JPMA and sleep safety advocacy organization Keeping Babies Safe to express the agency’s shared concerns.
“The quickest and most effective way to resolution is for ASTM to continue its work on this important safety issue with robust support from industry-funded studies of key remaining technical questions, such as the appropriate thickness of the mattresses,” Kaye adds. “CPSC staff will continue to support these efforts as we all try to address this hazard and protect babies while they sleep.”
The Safety Institute urges ASTM to continue to address the requirements for replacement play yard mattresses. In the meantime, parents should adhere to the warnings on the product: keep a safe sleep space without any added mattresses, padding, pillows and remove all objects during sleep.