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Safety & Prevention

Playpen Safety

Most parents depend on playpens (sometimes called play yards) as a safe place to put a baby when Mom or Dad isn’t available to watch him every moment. Yet playpens, too, can be dangerous under certain circumstances. To prevent mishaps:

  • Never leave the side of a mesh playpen lowered. An infant who rolls into the pocket created by the slack mesh can become trapped and suffocate.
  • Once your child is able to sit or get up on all fours or when he reaches five months, whichever comes first, remove any toys that have been tied across the top of the playpen, so he cannot become entangled in them.
  • If your playpen has a raised changing table, always remove the changing table when your child is in the playpen so he cannot become entrapped in the space between the changing table and the side rail of the playpen.
  • When your child can pull himself to a standing position, remove all boxes and large toys that he could use to help him climb out.
  • Children who are teething often bite off chunks of the vinyl or plastic that cover the top rails, so you should check them periodically for tears and holes. If the tears are small, repair them with heavy-duty cloth tape; if they are more extensive, you may need to replace the rails.
  • Be sure that a playpen’s mesh is free of tears, holes, or loose threads and that the openings are less than 1⁄4 inch (0.6 cm) across, so that your child cannot get caught in it. The mesh should be securely attached to the top rail and floor plate. If staples are used, they should not be missing, loose, or exposed.
  • Slats on wooden playpens should be no more than 2-3⁄8 inches (6 cm) apart, so your child’s head cannot become trapped between them.
  • Circular enclosures made from accordion-style fences are extremely dangerous, because children can get their heads caught in the diamond-shaped openings and the V-shaped border at the top of the gate. Never use such an enclosure, either indoors or out.
Last Updated
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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