Baby’s tragic death spurs NJ mom to campaign for crib safety
WARREN TOWNSHIP — In 2000, Joyce Davis' 4-month-old son, Garret, suffocated when he rolled over in his playpen and his head became wedged between the mesh siding and a supplemental mattress.
She is now at the forefront of a movement to ban these mattresses, starting in New Jersey and expanding nationwide.
Davis' nonprofit, Keeping Babies Safe, launched in 2006 with the goal of being a go-to, free information resource on crib safety and safe sleep environments. Davis said if there had been sufficient warning labels to describe the supplemental mattress as a suffocation hazard — labels that didn't show up until 2003 — she and her husband would never have bought one.
"Keeping Babies Safe was born, really, out of the notion that none of this information was readily available to parents at the time that we put my son in that (Graco) Pack 'n Play with this supplemental mattress," Davis said.
The group's website displays videos that demonstrate the problems with these mattresses and lists information on juvenile product recalls. Keeping Babies Safe has produced materials in English and Spanish, is responsible for a DVD shown to new mothers in 1,200 U.S. hospitals, and is behind Project Safe Crib, which provides proper bedding for needy families.
The organization partnered with the SIDS Center of New Jersey and the American Academy of Pediatrics on the Safe to Sleep campaign.
Davis has gotten involved on the legislative end of things, too. A bill conditionally vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie last July, which may be reintroduced after Gov.-elect Phil Murphy takes office, seeks to ban the sale of supplemental mattresses outright. Many online and brick-and-mortar retailers have already taken this step independently, though Amazon and Walmart have not.
"Everybody feels that we sleep on very thick mattresses, and a baby would sleep better when it is on a thick mattress like this in the playard, and that's a total lie," Davis said. "I mean, babies cry because babies cry, they're not crying because they're uncomfortable or because they can't sleep."
In both New Jersey and New York, thanks in part to the efforts of Keeping Babies Safe, Davis said it is now mandatory for new mothers in hospitals to receive safe sleep education information before being discharged.
To learn more and to donate to Project Safe Crib, visit keepingbabiessafe.org.
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