The bumper was designed with the best of intentions. The padded fabric is supposed to keep babies from falling out of their cribs and protect them from hitting their heads or getting their little limbs stuck in the rails. But something that was meant to keep babies safe is actually causing so many deaths that experts are urging parents to stop using them.
“Crib bumpers are killing kids,” said the author of a study on bumper-related fatalities, pediatrics professor Dr. Bradley T. Thach, according to Live Science. “They are dangerous; don’t use them.”
Trouble is, parents mistakenly assume that because the bumper is standard on every crib sold in stores, that they must be okay, NPR reported. Nothing could be further from the truth, Thach noted. He first warned of this unexpected danger in 2007, but since then, even more babies have died.
“When [parents] go into a baby store to buy a crib, they see all cribs lined with a bumper, and that sends a false signal that if they are selling them, they must be safe.”
So what exactly is so dangerous about this common accessory? In a frightening scenario bound to send chills down parents’ spines, fellow study author N.J. Scheers told CBS News that babies are often caught in the bumper, causing their mouth and nose to be covered with the padded fabric. This can block his airway or force the child to breathe oxygen-deprived air, leading to suffocation. Sometimes, infants become wedged between the bumper and something else in the crib.
Sadly, these causalities were entirely preventable by simply stripping the crib of everything but a bare sheet — no pillows or quilts either. A sleeping sack can keep a child’s limbs safe.
The deaths caused by the padded fabric aren’t astronomical, but the number is high enough to cause concern and call for them to be banned nationwide; two states have already done so.
From 2006 to 2012, 23 babies died from suffocation, according to data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This is three times higher than the average number of deaths in three seven-year time spans before that.
From 1985 to 2012, 48 infants died because of the bumper and 146 more suffered injuries, either by almost choking on the ties or nearly suffocating. The study also examined how many deaths were just caused by bumpers and how many were also caused by other clutter. Of 48 deaths, 13 children were caught between the bumper and the mattress.
In a tragic statistic, the study determined that 32 babies would still be alive if their cribs had been bare. And when the researchers studied other, related data on infant deaths from the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths, the number of fatalities jumped to 77. And it’s possible that such accidents are underreported, and thus the number could be much higher.
Most of the fatalities were the result of poor design. In some, lack of bottom ties or too few allowed the babies’ faces to become wedged. In the cases in which children choked or were strangled, their deaths were caused by detached ties or decorations, ribbons, or loose stuffing.
In response to the risk, the industry standard was recently revised to make the bumpers thinner and perhaps less likely to smother infants. Despite that modification, three more babies died. Maryland also banned their sale, allowing only mesh ones made of thin fabric that let air pass through, and vertical ones that wrap around the rail. The safety of these hasn’t been studied.
There are no federal regulations regarding the safety of the crib bumper, and researchers are calling for an outright nationwide ban. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already warn against using them. Thach is also adamant.
“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.”
[Image via Kylie Walls/Shutterstock]