Crib Bumper Deaths Increasing Despite Regulatory Actions, Warnings: Report

A group of researchers is calling for a nationwide ban on the sale of crib bumpers, as a growing number of infant deaths continue to be linked to the bedding, despite increased efforts to raise awareness about the risk of suffocation, strangulation or other problems. 

In a report published this week in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers note that the number of crib bumper deaths has tripled over the last seven years.

Lead authors of the study, N.J. Scheers, PhD, former manger of CPSC’s Infant Suffocation Project and Dean W. Woodard, former CPSC corrective actions director, reviewed data reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) from 1985 to 2012 and found that there were a total of 48 suffocations due to crib bumpers.

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However, data from 2000 to 2011 the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths, there were an additional 32 infant deaths caused by crib bumpers that the CPSC did not have data on. With the new data, this brings the total infant deaths involving crib bumpers to 77 infants.

Researchers warn that the rate of deaths is rising, with 23 reported between 2006 to 2012, compared to just eight deaths reported in each previous seven year period. The study also found that 67% of those deaths were caused by only a bumper and no other clutter within the crib.

Of the 48 deaths reported to the CPSC, the researchers determined that 32 of them could have been avoided if no bumpers had been in the crib. The remainder involved the infant getting trapped between the bumper and another object.

Sixteen of the infant deaths resulted when the baby was wedged between the bumper and pillow, the bumper and a recliner used to elevate an infant’s head, or in one instance the bumper and a twin sleeping in the same crib.

The average age of the infant was four months, but infants as old as 22 months were also affected.

The majority of the infant crib bumper problems were due to poor design or construction. Near suffocations were often a result of a lack of bottom ties or not enough ties, allowing faces to get trapped in the bumper. Typically, choking or strangulation was the result of detached bumper ties and decoration, or frayed ribbons and loose stuffing.

Despite manufacturers claims that thin bumper pads are safer than thick plush bumpers, researchers found deaths occurred with both types of crib bumper. However, mesh bumpers and vertical bumpers that wrap each crib slat were not included in the study.

Crib Bumpers Unnecessary

Crib bumpers were originally designed to protect a baby from slipping through the large holes in crib slats and entangling the child.

Many parents believe crib bumpers are necessary for infant safety; however, federal regulations changed the size of crib slats in 1993 to be narrow enough to prevent an infant from slipping through.

Now, crib bumpers are completely unnecessary and provide no additional safety factor for infants. In the majority of cases, they were the only cause of harm or death to a child. Researchers also say the number of deaths due to crib bumpers is likely underreported.

There are no federal regulations on crib bumpers, however a voluntary industry standard for improved safety, limiting the thickness was called for in 2012. Researchers urge the CPSC to call for further regulations on the products, much like Maryland and Chicago, which both banned the sale of crib bumpers within the last four years.


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