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New Jersey close to banning baby mattresses linked to deaths

TRENTON, N.J. — The New Jersey Senate unanimously passed a bill that would ban the sale of supplemental baby mattresses designed for playpens after they were linked to dozens of infant deaths.

“You go into stores with the impression what's on the shelves is safe," said New Jersey Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), a sponsor of the bill (A-1139 substituted for S-2616).

As the final vote was announced, 21-0, Joyce and Rich Davis smiled and embraced in the balcony up above. They lost their 4-month-old son Garrett in 2000 to an add-on mattress that they purchased to make his playpen more comfortable.

"It was very difficult," recalled a tearful Joyce Davis. "At the time there were no warning labels that the two together are a known suffocation hazard."

She said the add-on mattress and the soft mesh of a playpen can create a safety gap where an infant's head can get stuck face-down.

In 2006, Davis founded Keeping Babies Safe. Her non-profit is dedicated to educating parents on best practices and dangers when putting their baby to sleep. They've lobbied some major retailers, including Target, Sears and Babies "R" Us, to stop selling the secondary mattresses.

"These supplemental or after-market mattresses these manufacturers are selling go against industry warnings," she said.

The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission warned parents on social media in December​: "Only use the mattress that comes with your crib/bassinet/play yard. No supplemental mattresses."

The New Jersey Assembly already voted in favor of banning supplemental baby mattresses. The bill awaiting Governor Christie's signature would make New Jersey the first state to outlaw this product.

Joyce Davis plans to turn her attention to New York next, where the mattresses are still being sold by major retailers like Amazon and Walmart, she said.