warninglabelFact: Garret died by the simple act of adding a supplemental mattress to his play yard – a mattress advertised as suitable and safe. Today, mandatory warning labels exist to avoid this tragedy.

Myths and Facts about Supplemental Mattresses

Myth: The play yard mattress pad is uncomfortable. Babies need a more comfortable surface.

Fact: Babies sleep safely and easily on standard mattresses. Think how easily a baby falls asleep in a car seat, stroller or even on the floor while playing – all surfaces much firmer that a play yard mattress. While we might want to surround our babies with softness and padding, it is the opposite of what has been proven safe. Babies don’t have the muscle strength to lift their heads to avoid suffocation and other dangerous sleeping conditions. Every play yard contains a mandatory warning label to avoid soft bedding because of the known suffocation hazard.

Myth: Without the availability of supplemental mattresses, caregivers will likely make the sleeping environment more dangerous with soft bedding and pillows.

Fact: The myth assumes parents won’t practice safe sleep methods for their babies. The CPSC, KBS and various other infant safety organizations have successful informational campaigns that remind parents that “bare is best” for all baby sleep spaces. It is often seeing the supplemental mattress in the store or unsafe sleep conditions in the media that create the desire for the product. Creating confusion in the marketplace by allowing supplemental mattresses that contradict warning labels only undermines warning labels and ongoing educational campaigns.

Myth: The voluntary standard is flawed for play yards because it was drafted for play yards and never updated when play yards became products for sleep.

Fact: The play yard standard was written for both the purpose of sleep and play. The very same standard covers traditional non full-size cribs. Early versions of the standard included considerations of the product as a sleep environment. The intention was to create a standard that would assure a product safe for unsupervised sleep. The CPSC codified and strengthened this standard when it was promulgated as a mandatory standard in 2012. The CPSC and the consumer advocates who filed comments during this rulemaking did not believe that a thicker softer mattress was necessary nor that the standard inadequately protected a child’s sleep environment.

Myth: The 15 incidents that the Keeping Babies Safe petition includes are incorrectly characterized as being linked to supplemental mattresses.

Fact: Every one of the 15 incidents described in the Keeping Babies Safe petition involved a supplemental mattress, the gap it created, and an infant death. Raising doubt about these incidents is an effort to undermine the severity of the consequences of ill-fitting supplemental mattresses in play yards.  Because of the unexpected and abrupt nature of an infant death in a crib and the resultant panic and stress that caregivers endure when finding a nonresponsive baby in his/her crib, it’s also reasonable to conclude that there are baby deaths connected to supplemental mattresses that are never reported.

Myth: The safety consequences of supplemental mattresses are insignificant.

Fact: There is no doubt that the gaps created from thicker or additional mattresses pose risks to babies. Because of mesh – the non-rigid sides of a play yard – a baby can push against the mesh and get trapped between it and the mattress. This risk does not exist with the thinner mattress pad supplied with play yards. Keeping Babies Safe knows firsthand that these mattresses pose suffocation risks to children. Second, the risk of this hazard is so widely known, that the ASTM Voluntary Standard for Play Yards includes a mandatory warning label: Suffocation Hazard – Use ONLY mattress/pad provided by manufacturer. NEVER add a mattress, pillow, comforter or padding.

Myth: Supplemental mattresses are sold with specific measurements and labeling that states which play yard they are intended for.

Fact: Warning labels clearly state that only the mattress that comes with the product should be used with the play yard.  Specific measurements are irrelevant because supplemental mattresses are often thrown on top of the original mattress contained with the play yard or are much thicker, thereby creating a dangerous sleeping condition. 

Some mattresses do have specific measurements, which often conflict with the ASTM standards for thickness. Other supplemental mattresses do not state which mattress is made for which play yard. Parents are often unaware of the model and size of their play yard.

Myth: Some manufacturers claim that supplemental mattresses are only sold online, to an educated consumer base.

Fact: The fact that a consumer can purchase this product online undermines the warning label, reinforces the false perception that babies need a softer sleeping environment and creates confusion for parents and caregivers about what is the safest sleep environment for infants in a play yard. Many noncompliant infant products are sold online when responsible retailers refuse to carry them in stores. Online or in stores, a product should never directly contradict a safety standard.