In slow motion, I watched my fifteen-month-old, Henry, pop his leg onto the railing of the crib, raise his body, and ninja roll into his twin brother’s crib immediately beside his. As he maneuvered like a nimble gymnast, I watched with equal parts horror and envy (how are little ones so flexible AND strong?).
Realizing he had the keys to the kingdom, the next day, he decided to do it again – and it didn’t end well. Instead of rolling into his brother’s crib, his head slammed into the hardwood floor below. I was, of course, a millisecond too late to catch him. As we sat there for what felt like an eternity, my heart thumping as I held my screaming toddler, I found myself in quite a predicament: do I buy a crib tent or not?
Ultimately, I weighed my options and decided crib tents were right for our family, but before you rush to buy one, let’s go over the facts so you can make an educated decision.
What is a crib tent?
Crib tents are specially designed covers that prevent a baby from climbing or falling out of the crib. Most models are similar to the popular “pop up” tents you’ve likely used: once taken out of the bag, they immediately spring open. The mattress is removed, and the tent is placed inside the crib. The mattress is placed on top of the base of the tent and secured by several ties to the four corners on the exterior. A zipper closure encloses the see-through mesh, which is held up by flexible struts arching above the baby and crib.
Crib Tent Controversy
Critics note availability is not an indicator of safety and highlight the fact that unlike cribs, which are monitored by the FDA, crib “accessories” like mobiles, positional supports (Doc-a-Tot), and crib bumpers are not.
Between 2010 and 2012, thousands of crib tents and covered play yards from American based company, Tots in Mind, were voluntarily recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and major retailers due to several reports of catastrophic suffocation or strangulation injuries following the inversion or detachment of a crib tent or covered play yard. The company released repair kits but subsequently went out of business. In recent years, however, new companies have started to produce crib tents, leaving exhausted new parents to wonder, “are crib tents safe?”
The Pros and Cons of Crib Tents
Crib tents are designed to prevent children from climbing from their cribs, but it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons before using one.
- Keep lovies, binkies, and limbs inside the crib.
- Prevent falls, head trauma, and neck injury.
- According to an American study examining injuries from cribs, playpens, and bassinets for kids under the age of 2 between 1997 and 2008, the most common injury was due to a fall-a whopping 66.2% of all the injuries reported.
- Critics argue that during an emergency, the zippers make it hard to detach and quickly remove the child from the crib.
- Crib tents become dangerous when they are inverted or become detached from the crib.
Crib Tent Caveats
Keep in mind, you cannot rely solely on any baby product to do the parenting for you. While many can make our daily lives with our littles easier, products are never a substitute for proactive, positive, and informed parenting. That said, enlisting any baby product to help with your parenting duties requires that you regularly check, maintain, and ensure the product is good working condition to function properly and safely within your home.
- Check crib tents regularly for wear and tear. Personally, when I change the sheets, I always inspect each crib tent element for wear, tears (such as zippers and mesh), and re-secure the ties connecting the tent to the crib.
- Never try to repair zippers or holes in the mesh.
- At a minimum, use a simple audio monitor from the crib during all nap times.
Alternatives to a Crib Tent
So what are your options if you have a climber but decide a crib tent isn’t for you?
- Lower the mattress to the lowest possible setting once your baby can sit up independently. If it’s still not low enough, you may need to ditch the crib completely and simply place a mattress on the floor.
- Transition your convertible crib to the toddler bed.
- Have your baby wear a sleep sack.
Crib Tents with Two: The Twin Angle
Switching to a toddler bed may be a great option with just one baby in the room; however, with twins, the situation changes entirely. In our home, even though all of the furniture is anchored to the walls, there are more hazards than the crib tent. On more occasions than I can count, I’ve seen some precarious climbs on the bookshelf, a defiant toddler standing inside (and jumping from) dresser drawers, and have even seen my toddler flip the sizeable rocker on its side like a WWE wrestler. Of course, the other twin watched with delight, sizing up for his chance to do the same.
So short of removing all of the furniture and leaving mattresses on the floor, crib tents were the best option for our family.
Despite the warnings, parents continue to use Doc-a-Tots in the crib (shockingly, as they’re not recommended for crib use), allow extended sleeping in car seats, use fabric padded bumpers in cribs, and allow their babies to sleep on their stomachs. I don’t bring these controversial topics up to judge or point fingers. I simply bring them up to shine a light on the fact that we’re all doing the best we can and are heeding the advice, but ultimately we’re doing what we have to do.
My decision to use a crib tent was based on my own research, weighing the pros and cons and examining our specific twin situation (two very active climbers at a very young age). For me, the potential (and several near-miss) head and neck trauma injuries far outweighed the negative freak accidents. Furthermore, I am diligent about checking the crib tents daily.
Ultimately, when it comes to any baby purchase: do your research and always, always trust your instincts. Whether you decide to use a crib tent or not, let’s agree that a good night’s sleep is what we’re all after. I implore you to refrain from judgment or criticism of another’s parenting style or decisions, because after all, we’re all just doing the best we can.