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Product safety researchers call for ban on crib bumpers

An example of a safe sleeping practice for infants, without a crib bumper.
An example of a safe sleeping practice for infants, without a crib bumper.

For babies who move around a lot at night, some new parents may purchase a padded bumper that goes around the edge of the crib to keep their little ones from hurting themselves. But according to a new review of product safety data, the products pose a serious suffocation hazard.  

“Parents walk into a store to buy a crib and they see the cribs with bumpers in them and they say,  'Well, if they weren’t safe, they wouldn’t be selling them.' But that’s not correct,” said Dr. Bradley Thach, professor emeritus of Washington University and a longtime researcher for infant safety.  

The latest data review by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Washington University found a total of 77 deaths attributable to crib bumpers between 1985 and 2012. In most cases, babies were found suffocated with their faces pressed into the bumper, or with their heads wedged between the bumper and crib’s mattress. Studies over the last seven years show a threefold increase in bumper-related deaths, which suggests earlier cases were underreported, Thach said.

The study’s authors did not mince words with their recommendation to the CPSC:  

A crib bumper set sold online.
Credit boujiandnouna
A crib bumper set sold online.

“Ban traditional crib bumpers for sale in the US quickly,” they wrote. “Preventing bumper deaths and injuries will only be possible if traditional bumpers are removed from the marketplace at the national level.”  

Since Washington University’s researchers published their first set of findings in 2007, Chicago and Maryland banned the sale of bumper pads. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended against their use since 2008. But the CPSC has not made moves to establish a federal rule regarding padded bumpers since 2013. 

“The ball is now in the court of the CPSC,” said Thach.

Advocates for reducing infant deaths hope that a new study demonstrating the danger of crib bumpers will take them off the shelves for good.

Lori Behrens of SIDS Resources’ Missouri chapter said the findings will help back up what she always tells new parents:

“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. No bumper pads, no pillows, no stuffed animals,” Behrens said.

Follow Durrie on Twitter: @durrieB

Copyright 2015 St. Louis Public Radio

Durrie Bouscaren was a general assignment reporter with Iowa Public Radio from March 2013 through July 2014.
Durrie Bouscaren
Durrie Bouscaren covers healthcare and medical research throughout the St. Louis metro area. She comes most recently from Iowa Public Radio’s newsroom in Des Moines, where she reported on floods, a propane shortage, and small-town defense contractors. Since catching the radio bug in college, Bouscaren has freelanced and interned at NPR member stations WRVO, WAER and KQED. Her work has aired on All Things Considered, KQED’s The California Report, and Harvest Public Media, a regional reporting collaborative.
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