For many of us, where we lay our heads down to sleep is considered a sanctuary, a place where we can recover from the continual stream of challenges that we confront every day. Nowhere is this more true than for babies, who are constantly learning and whose view of the world must be a daunting one. So it comes as nothing less than astonishing that these places of respite can at times be a possible source of suffocation and death for a baby.

This shocking revelation was presented in a recent article on MSNBC.com that reported on how lawmakers are working on an outright ban on what are known as drop-side cribs, the ones whose side rail can be lowered in order to make it easier to lift a baby out of it. Scores of infants have suffocated or were strangled over the past ten years as a result of these cribs.

Since 2005, over 7 million drop-side cribs have been recalled, and the industry has already begun phasing them out. The body that regulates the crib industry, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has been warning the public of the problem and has pledged to ban the manufacture and sale of them by the year’s end, thereby making fixed-side cribs mandatory. Even big retailers are joining suit, with many of them no longer selling drop-side cribs in their stores, though the items can obtained online and are still used extensively in homes and daycare facilities.

Makers of drop-side cribs defend their products and stress that they are safe as long as they are assembled and used properly. Consumer advocates, however, indicate that drop-side cribs are simply not as sturdy as they used to be, especially when their production is outsourced overseas. In the continual effort to increase output and reduce costs, quality, durability, and performance inevitably seem to suffer. This can, in turn, compromise the safety of a product.

According to some experts, older models of drop-side cribs used metal components that guided the side of the crib as it slid down. Today, plastics have replaced metal, and as a result, are more vulnerable to breakage. When this happens, it increases the risk of the rail detaching from the crib. This creates a dangerous gap between the mattress and the side of the crib that a baby can easily fall into and become wedged, leading to suffocation.

Many problems can be attributed to errors on the part of the person assembling the product. Manufacturers have reported that some parents install the sliding rail incorrectly, or they have reused a crib and are missing screws or hardware. These situations can unfortunately have tragic consequences.

The news is all the more reason for parents to be vigilant about their baby’s sleeping environment. If possible, purchase a fixed-side crib. Whatever crib you end up using, make sure to follow the manufacturers guidelines regarding how to assemble and use the product properly.

If you have questions or concerns, speak with your pediatrician and visit the website for the Consumer Product Safety Commission. For more information about sleep safety for your baby, visit the websites for Kid’s Health and the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).