Crib bumpers, the padding attached to the interior perimeter of a baby crib, are to blame for 48 infant deaths between 1985 and 2012, according to a study published today in The Journal of Pediatrics. This figure includes 23 deaths between 2006 and 2012, which is three-times the number of infant deaths attributed to crib bumpers over the preceding 21 years. The average age of death is 4.6-years, with victims’ ages ranging from one to 22 months.
The analysis of data by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis also found that an additional 146 babies nearly suffocated, choked or were strangled by crib-bumpers. Study authors believe the number of fatalities may be much greater as data gathered on crib-bumper deaths and injuries is lacking. “Bumper involvement is often not specified on death certificates,” says N.J. Scheers, lead author and former manager of CPSC’s Infant Suffocation Project.
Senior author Bradley T. Thach, MD first documented the problem of crib-bumper deaths in 2007. This new study is showing that bumpers are more dangerous than originally thought. “Crib bumpers are killing kids,” says Thach. “The infant deaths we studied could have been prevented if the cribs were empty.” Researchers reviewed data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), death certificates, autopsy reports, death scenes and other investigative records.
“A ban on crib bumpers would reinforce the message that no soft bedding of any kind should be placed inside a baby’s crib. “There is one sure-fire way to prevent infant deaths from crib bumpers: Don’t use them, ever.” — Bradley T. Thach, MD
Most of the infants died when their mouths and noses were covered by the bumper or their heads were wedged between the bumper and crib mattress. In some cases, infants became trapped between pillows and bumpers. The federal government does not regulate crib bumpers, but in 2012, the industry voluntarily revised bumper designs to limit their thickness.
Crib bumpers were originally designed to prevent babies from bumping their heads on the hard slats of a crib, although it is unlikely an infant would sustain serious injury from hitting his or her head on the side of a crib, according to Scheers. Since 1973, crib manufacturers are required to make the space between slats narrow enough to prevent a baby’s head from going through, making bumpers unnecessary. Scheers suggests that sleep sacks can safely prevent a baby’s limbs from getting tangled up in the slats.