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Bunk Bed Boo-Boos

With two boys ages 6 and 4, the idea of buying bunk beds has crossed our minds more than a few times. Friends have them and love the camaraderie the children feel sleeping top to bottom in the same room. At one house, the bunk bed has been more like a high playroom, with kids jumping from the top bunk to the floor.

And that's just the behavior that makes some of us cringe. Because inevitably, someone's going to get hurt. From 1990 to 2005, more than 570,000 bunk-bed injuries sent kids to the hospital, according to a study in this month's journal Pediatrics. Of those, 3- to 5-year-olds were most likely to get injured. More than 70 percent of the injuries were due to falls.

Little ones weren't the only ones sustaining injuries. Falls continued all the way into kids in their early twenties... not surprising, at least a few of those were alcohol-related.

When buying a bunk bed, look closely at the guardrails. The Consumer Product Safety Commission requires guardrails on both sides of the top bunk and spacing tight enough that a small head can't fit through. The CPSC also recommends that children under the age of 6 not sleep on a top bunk and that parents discuss bunk bed rules with their children. For instance, jumping off the top bunk might just not be a good idea.

What kind of bed does your child sleep in? Have your kids gotten cuts, bruises or concussions from falling off or by hazardous play around the bunk bed in your house?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 3, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Health , Teens , Tweens
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I rolled out of a top bunk in my sleep when I was 17.
I am lucky to be alive today.

Posted by: Two thumbs down | June 3, 2008 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Both my brothers had their own set of bunk beds. I think they are very dangerous. As do my adult brothers.

My suggestion is a trundle bed. If you need the space and must have two children share a room, a trundle bed is a good alternative. Also the trundle fits nicely under the principal bed during the day. It gives all the camaraderie as well as being space efficient.

Even if two kids do not need to share a room a trundle bed is a good choice for the occassional over night guest. We plan on getting our son one with drawer storage underneath as well. Our nephew has this type of bed and we think it is great for smaller rooms.

Posted by: foamgnome | June 3, 2008 7:30 AM | Report abuse

But...the trundle bed takes up so much more room than a bunk. We tried that, and it wasn't practical for daily use - ok if a guest sleeps over, but otherwise cumbersome.

We've been fine so far with bunk beds - top bunk has a slide to get to the floor - children love it!

I think some of this may depend on your children - how are their gross motor skills? If the children climb trees, climb on top of play equipment at playgrounds (such as walk across the top of monkey bars), are comfortable on ladders, than I think they will be safe with bunk beds.

But if they aren't good at balancing or are afraid of heights, the bunk beds may be too difficult for them.

Posted by: Amelia | June 3, 2008 7:59 AM | Report abuse

We recently got bunk beds for our daughters, ages 6 and 3. We're pretty strict on the rules such as the 3 year old isn't allowed to go up to the top if we're not right there. The 6-year-old has already fallen out once. Or really, she fell down the ladder because she wasn't using it properly. She bruised herself a bit but that episode actually probably helped her learn from the natural consequences. If she's lying in her bed, not across the opening for the ladder, she's not going to just roll out as the railings are pretty high. We emphasize that the top bunk is for sleeping, not playing. During the day, we usually remove the ladder so that no one can climb up and down, especially the 19 mo old.

We got the bunk bed because of space issues. I'm not sure how a trundle bed would really help that when there's not space for two twin beds in the room. It might be okay for the guest situation but not so much for day to day.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | June 3, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

When my son was little, he yelled "Daddy, I feel sick" from the top of his bunk bed, then just as my husband was approaching the bed, he leaned over and vomitted spaghetti all over my husband's bald head. I, for one, will never get that image out of my head -- nor will my husband. It ranks as his single most disgusting moment as a parent. You might want to bear that in mind if you're considering bunk beds. YMMV.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 3, 2008 8:12 AM | Report abuse

I got stuck in a bunk bed guard rail when I was 6, so I'm reluctant to get them for my kids. Though I'm sure they are much safer now, I vividly remember waking up with my head caught between the bars and my parents panicking about trying to get me out.

Posted by: md | June 3, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Both my kids sleep in trundle beds. Perfect for accomodating guests - or occasionally a sibling. I would never buy bunk beds for my children. I knew too many people who've fallen out of them. We had a bunk bed quarter on a boat we owned about 8 years ago but almost never used them except for overflow. Not for me, thanks!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 3, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

All 4 of my kids have slept in bunks as a matter of space considerations. First the daughters, now the sons. All 4 at some point have got hurt by either playing dangerously, slipping off the ladder, or falling out. Luckily no injuries, just a few bumps, bruises and scratches.

Both sets of daughters and sons fought over the top bunk and within 2 weeks traded with one another. At first, the top bunk seems like fun, but then when they realize the extra effort it takes to climb up and down the ladder, they opt for convenience.

And that vomiting from the top bunk thing, yuck. A few months ago, my son sprayed all. three. walls. Not the grossest thing that has happened since I've been a parent, but it certainly ranks in the top 20.

Posted by: DandyLion | June 3, 2008 8:53 AM | Report abuse

8:12, on "On Balance" we decided YMMV actually sometimes stands for "You make me vomit". How appropos!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 3, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I don't have trundle beds but my parents do. DD when she was 4 crept into the "high" trundle bed to be near me and
she fell out and cut her lip. This time
she stayed on the low bed and I cuddled her about 10 minutes.

If she has a sleepover I think we will do sleeping bags. Her room has fairly new plush carpeting.

Posted by: shdd | June 3, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Had bunk beds growing up, but they were the kind where the bottom bunk came out perpendicular from the top and there was also a dresser underneath the top bunk. 5 out of the 6 of us used the bunk beds at some point. No one was seriously hurt. I did, however, manage to roll out of bed and land on my sister (the 'guard rail' was not installed, it'd been lost some years before). Though I was the one kid who rolled around alot in my sleep. And I did the lean over the side and puke on her once.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 3, 2008 9:30 AM | Report abuse

My kids had bunk beds. They were really sturdy, from one of those places where the furniture was all out of 2X4s. The guard rail had two rails, nobody every got caught up in it.

I had two very rambunctious boys and no problems. The older one slept on top until he was about 10-11.

However, we lived in a small house in Takoma Park where the upstairs bedroom was a dormer and had a low ceiling. There wasn't enough room for a kid to stand on the top bunk. Otherwise I'm sure somebody would have dreamed up the idea of jumping off the bunk.

Eventually we moved to a house where each boy had his own room and the younger one missed sharing with his brother.

Posted by: RoseG | June 3, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

When I got bunk beds for my daughters, a friend gave me a wise piece of advice--never put a bunk bed in a room with a ceiling fan.

My girls have used the bunk beds for three years now. It is a space issue. The one on the top bunk has never fallen out of bed. The younger one falls out occasionally, but she is on the bottom, so has never gotten hurt.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 3, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

My daughter often explains how much better it would be if she had a bunk-bed. As an only child, though, we have decided that her double bed is plenty of space for her.

As for bed related drama...I do have a tale. When my daughter was 2, she was wrestling with my husband on our bed. She crawled away from him to the foot of the bed so he figured the game was over and got up. She got to the foot, stood up, and lept at him for a tackle. Since he wasn't there, she "tackled" the headboard instead. It won. We spent the evening at the emergency room. Wrestling has been an "on the floor" sport ever since.

Posted by: 21117 | June 3, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I saw the title and had to post my bunk-bed stories.

One night my brother and I were playing around (usual for a 7 and 9 YO). My brother, 9, chased me up to the top bunk. The only way I could get away from him was by going off the side. The protective rail was only a single rail compared to the new double-rails. Well, as I was reaching for a footing, the rail spun, I lost my grip, and I broke my elbow.

Another time, I was over at a friends house. His bunk bed had a heavy wood ladder made out of sturdy 2x4s. Well, he was sitting on the top bunk playing with this ladder, while I was laying on the floor watching TV. He lost control of the ladder, and it hit me square on the forehead, splitting it open. Fortunately, nothing serious other than a lot of bleeding.

I went through all of college with a loft bed. No problems.

Posted by: Bethesda | June 3, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I grew up in bunk beds, from the time I was about 6 (and my brother was 4) until sometime in my teens. Neither of us ever got hurt because of them.

(It was a space issue - an Army NCO with three children was entitled to three-bedroom quarters, which meant my brother and I always shared. And most of those rooms were small; plus we wanted room to play in there. No way a trundle bed would have worked.)

If you banned all the activities in which either or both of us got hurt, you'd ban running, jumping, baseball, basketball, skiing, tennis, golf, and a bunch of other stuff besides. Bunk beds? Not a problem.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 3, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Wow! That last post realy cleared the room...

Posted by: Anonymous | June 3, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Who said anything about banning bunkbeds? The suggestion was made to wait until kids are 6 (due to psychomotor skill development) and to make sure they have modern guardrails.

Posted by: RT | June 3, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I slept in a top bunk bed without any railing growing up, and never had any problems. Three sisters in one bedroom, two of us in the bunk beds and the youngest in a twin, and the room was jam-packed. My parents didn't have any other options.

My sons have been sleeping in bunk beds for about four years now, and they alternate who's in the top and bottom bunks. Their beds have a railing and nobody has ever fallen. Although the vomit-on-three-walls story does ring a bell. Before the bunkbeds, they had a trundle, and it was just too crowded in their room.

Posted by: Sue | June 3, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

"Wow! That last post really cleared the room..."

Yeah, I can have that effect on people. :-(

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 3, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I would think making sure the kids are big enough and not rash enough for it and then you'll be fine.

Posted by: Liz D | June 3, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Good point about the age of the child sleeping in the top bunk. I was nine when I started sleeping in one. My boys were 11 and 6.

Posted by: Sue | June 3, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I think my sister and I had bunk beds from the time I was 8 and she was 3. I never fell out, but they were VERY sturdy and didn't so much have guard rails as guard walls.

I also had a trundle bed when I moved into the spare bedroom around age 12, and it was OK for sleepovers, but would not have been good for daily use, largely because of the space it took up, and partly because it messed up the bed ruffle when you pushed it back in, which frustrated my OCD self.

Posted by: Kat | June 4, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

For the past few years I have been on a crusade to get bunk beds banned. Not because they are dangerous, but rather because they are simply too much fun. My foundation is moving forward step by step to remove all the fun from childhood. Banning bunkbeds is step 14B2.

Please go the website if interested in helping me with this important effort.

Posted by: DC | June 4, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Two quick things to check on your bunk beds for safety: 1) If you can fit a soda can between the rails, they're too narrow (a young child's body could slide through and entrap the head, causing strangulation). To fix this, narrow the gaps by adding sturdy boards that are fastened securely. 2) Check the height of the corner posts. If they're higher than 1/16" inch, unscrew/saw the top off. This will prevent strangulation that can occur when kids climb/fall/jump off and get caught by their clothing. Even some newer bunk beds are being sold with these safety flaws because the design standard is voluntary, not mandatory. I grew up with bunk beds and my son has them; they're a lot of fun. Still laughing at the visuals from the puking anecdotes ...

Posted by: amh | June 4, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

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