By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
A recent study in The Journal Pediatrics looked at the incidence of crib bumper related deaths from 1985 to 2012. The authors reviewed data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and found that there were three times more bumper deaths reported in the last seven years than the three previous time periods that had been reviewed. Bumper pads caused 48 suffocations, of which “67 percent were due to the bumper alone … and 33 percent of the deaths were due to wedgings between a bumper and another object in the crib.” An additional 146 infants had sustained injuries from the bumpers, which included choking on the bumper ties and near suffocation.
The study also looked at the number of CPSC reported deaths compared with those from the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths, 2008 to 2011. When using that data the total number of deaths increased to 77.
While bumpers have been marketed to prevent a baby from falling out of a crib or to keep a baby’s arms or legs from getting stuck between the crib rails, in reality they cause injury and death. In 2012, a national standard was revised and required that crib bumpers must be two inches in thickness or less. At that time the thought was that “thinner bumpers” would be less likely to cause suffocation. But the recent study found that three of the deaths occurred in cribs that had thinner bumpers.
According to N.J. Scheers, Ph.D., the lead author in the study, “these deaths are entirely preventable” if bumpers are not used and are not widely available. But when flipping through a baby store catalog, or even shopping for cribs, parents (and grandparents) see beautiful cribs adorned with bumper pads. So, if they cause death, why are they being sold? Mixed messages are very hard for parents to understand. Concrete recommendations and guidelines save lives.
Several cities and states have already banned the sale of crib bumpers, and the CPSC is currently in the process of publishing new recommendations on how crib bumpers should be regulated.
I don’t see the need for any more studies to show that bumper pads may cause deaths and injuries. Clear guidelines from the AAP state, “bare cribs are the best” and “all infants should be put to sleep on their backs.” Save your money and your baby’s life … no bumpers.
(Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. “The Kid’s Doctor” TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at kidsdr.com. The Kid’s Doctor e-book, “Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today’s Teen,” is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.)
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