Portable Bed Rails

The portable bed rail is a device that is intended to keep a young child from inadvertently falling from a bed. It is used both as a safeguard on adult beds, as well as on the beds of young children who have moved out of a crib but are not yet tall enough or secure enough to sleep in a standard bed without protection. Products are typically suggested by the manufacturers for use with children ages two to five, and instructions for safe and appropriate use are included and should be followed.

Hazards of Portable Bed Rails

While portable bed rails are designed to prevent falls, some designs ironically introduced other hazards. These included creating a gap between the vertical portion of the rail and the mattress, if the railing inadvertently became pushed out from the bed or incorrectly installed. In either case, the child could become entrapped.

After recommendations by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), new standards for bed railings were developed in March, 2003 by the American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM). As a result, most bed railings sold today have been redesigned. This means, however, that if you are considering purchasing a second-hand railing, you should find out if it meets current standards. With the portable bed rail installed, there should be no gaps that are between 3 ½” (8.89 cm) and 9 inches (22.86 cm).

Other things to check include:

  • no protuberances that a child’s clothing could get caught on
  • no sharp edges
  • no small, removable parts
  • any slats should create gaps no wider than 2 3/8” (6.03 cm)
  • any fasteners should be inaccessible to children

Portable Bed Rails and Adult Beds

home institute 1 Potential hazards for children sleeping in adult beds leads to recommendations by some experts and organizations that children not be placed to sleep there. Some parents, nevertheless choose to have their children sleep in an adult bed. Awareness of the following hazards of adult beds can prevent hazardous situations for a baby:

  • Entrapment: be sure that the baby cannot become trapped between:
    • the bed and a wall
    • the bed and a piece of furniture or another object
    • in or around the bed frame, headboard, or footboard
  • Falling: be sure that the baby cannot fall from the bed
  • Suffocation: be sure that there is no soft bedding that might hinder a child’s breathing

Although portable bed rails are recommended for both sides of the bed, placing short rails at the head and foot of the bed may—depending on bed design—help alleviate some of the risks mentioned.

Portable Bed Rails—Features

Bed rails come for one side of the bed, or as a joined set that fits on both sides of the bed. They vary in length, and it is possible to find longer railings. Some have sides that raise and lower and some have sides that stay in one position. They are also made of a variety of materials, with mesh sides to allow air flow, or steel or polypropylene plastic frames. Bed rails should be sturdy and resist efforts to displace them.

Bed Rail Recalls

Bed rails have been recalled due to: mountings cracking or breaking so that the rail unlatches; the locking mechanism coming undone when the rail was shaken; breakage of plastic parts resulting in a choking hazard; and other causes. Check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission web site for details about bed rails recalls.

Written by Mary Elizabeth

Related Home Institute Articles

  • Childproofing the Bedroom
  • Introduction to Mattresses
  • Crib Safety
  • Introduction to Booster Seats
  • Things you Need for your Newborn
  • Safety Gates
  • Introduction to Infant's Beds