Common Crib Accessory Blamed for Spike in Infant Deaths

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Doctors are calling for a ban on the sale of crib bumpers, padding originally designed to protect babies from other hazards.

Crib bumpers may look cute – their padding covered by soft fabrics decorated in bright colors, patterns and pictures of fluffy animals – but they can be deadly for babies.

That’s the warning in a new study published in The Journal of Pediatrics. According to the study, 23 babies died from suffocation attributed to a crib bumper between 2006 and 2012. That’s triple the number of deaths compared to three previous seven-year time spans.

“Crib bumpers are killing kids,” said Dr. Bradley Thach, a professor emeritus of pediatrics at the Washington University School of Medicine and the author of a landmark study published in 2007 that first documented crib-bumper deaths. “Bumpers are more dangerous than we originally thought. The infant deaths we studied could have been prevented if the cribs were empty.”

According to data researchers reviewed from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 48 infant deaths and 146 injuries from crib bumpers between 1985 and 2012. The babies who died ranged in age from 1 month to 22 months. Experts say 32 of the 48 deaths could have easily been prevented if the padded bumpers weren’t used in the cribs.

“Most of those infants died due to suffocation because their noses and mouths were covered by a bumper or were between a bumper and a crib mattress,” according to a study press release. “No other objects were between the infants’ faces and the bumpers.”

Researchers suggest that the actual number of bumper-related infant deaths is much higher than indicated in the CPSC data.

“This highlights the most important limitation of the study,” said lead author Dr. N.J. Scheers, former manager of CPSC’s Infant Suffocation Project. “CPSC relies on death certificates to identify deaths caused by specific products. Bumper involvement is often not specified on death certificates, so it is highly likely many deaths caused by crib bumpers are missed.”

Although many experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American SIDS Institute, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have recommended against the use of crib bumpers for years, many parents continue to buy them.

Ironically, bumpers were originally designed to protect babies from falling through crib slats, bumping their heads or entangling their limbs in the slats.

“The safest way for babies to sleep is alone, on their backs and in a crib or a pack and play but without anything extra,” Scheers said.

Although there are no federal regulations regarding crib bumpers, Chicago banned the sale of the popular crib bedding in 2011. Maryland banned the sale of most crib bumpers in 2013.

The CPSC is the only agency that can institute a ban on the sale of crib bumpers in the United States.

Ban or no ban, the message from the experts to parents is clear: “There is one sure-fire way to prevent infant deaths from crib bumpers: Don’t use them, ever,” Thach said.

Did you use crib bumpers in your child’s bed? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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