More Proof That You Should Never Use A Crib Bumper

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They're a part of almost every nursery decor package, along with cute quilts, colorful mobiles, and the perfect wall hangings -- crib bumpers. 

Most of us know that we're not really supposed to use them, as they can be a risk factor in SIDS, but many of us still use them anyways. We want to keep our babies as comfortable as possible and let's face it, those bumpers seem like they could keep the baby from getting hard on the hard slats of a crib.

 

I admit that I've always used crib bumpers because I was terrified that my babies would somehow slip through the slats and get stuck or their arm or leg would slip through and they would try to flip around and not be able to breath and that would be even more dangerous. 

But according to a new study released by The Journal of Pediatrics, crib bumpers are actually even more dangerous, on a very real level, than any of us may realize. In the new study, the researchers looked at bumper-related deaths between January 1, 1985, to October 31, 2012, as well as incidents and injuries along the same timeframe.  

In total, there were 23 deaths over the seven years that the study looked at, which was three times higher than the average of eight deaths that had been reported in the seven-year time spans before that. 

The bumpers are more dangerous, the study concluded than the previously thought culprits to SIDS, such as pillows or blankets in the crib.

In fact, the crib bumpers were determined to be the "sole cause of harm," according to a press release from the Washington School of Medicine. 

Unfortunately, the study also found that the numbers of the bumper deaths and incidents are actually under-reported. They noted that CPS doesn't report all the details in cases of bumper-related deaths and also that caregivers might not always report if the bumper was part of the death.

So, in other words, crib bumpers are probably causing even more infant deaths that we simply don't know about it. 

The results of the study prompted many doctors to simply not beat around the bush when it comes to crib bumpers: they need to go. 

"Crib bumpers are killing kids," said senior author Bradley T. Thach, MD, a professor emeritus of pediatrics at the School of Medicine and the author of a landmark study published in 2007 that first documented crib-bumper deaths in the press release. "Bumpers are more dangerous than we originally thought. The infant deaths we studied could have been prevented if the cribs were empty."

Part of the problem with crib bumpers is that there aren't actually any federal regulations for crib bumpers of any kind. And although manufactures have designed thinner "breathable" versions, like these mesh bumpers, the study concluded that there really wasn't any evidence to say that  bumpers of any kind would be worth the risk, although the mesh bumpers weren't specifically looked at in this study since they are relatively new.

 

​So what, specifically are the risks that can occur with a crib bumper? According to the study, they risks, injuries, and deaths included:

  • A total of 146 infants were involved in some way, meaning they either died or were injured.
  • 48 total infants died.
  • Of the 48 deaths, the researchers concluded that 32 of them could have been prevented if the crib bumper had not been used.
  • Those infants died from suffocation, from either the bumper directly covering their noses and mouths or getting caught between the bumper and the mattress. 
  • The remaining 16 deaths occurred because of the bumper and something else in the crib, like a pillow or a crib "wedge," which experts have also advised against.
  • The highest risk of crib bumpers occurred with thicker, "pillower"-like versions and types without bottom ties or not enough ties to keep them in place, decorations, or loose or frayed ends. 

The average age of the infants that died or were injured was about four and a half months old, with infants ranging from as young as one month old to 22 months old. I have no specific scientific proof for this, of course, but just presuming from my own experience with babies, that 4 and a half month mark makes a lot of sense, because they are old enough to start moving a little in their cribs, but not quite able to roll back if they got stuck. 

​The bottom line, is no matter how cute or cozy those crib bumpers are, it is best to skip them for your baby's safety. New crib guidelines are built to ensure that an infant's head can not get caught in between slats and to prevent your baby's arms or legs from slipping through slats, the study's researchers recommended using an approved sleep sack instead. 

Sources:

Scheers, NJ, Woodward, D.W, Thach, B.T. (2015, November). Crib Bumpers Continue to Cause Infant Deaths: A Need for a New Preventive Approach. Journal of Pediatrics. Retrieved online December 5, 2015: http://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(15)01284-6/abstract.  

Study shows increase in infant deaths attributed to crib bumpers. Washington School of Medicine Press Release. (2015, November 24). Retrieved online December 6, 2015: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-11/wuso-ssi112015.php

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