By Andrew M. Seaman
(Reuters Health) - Infant deaths attributed to crib bumpers may be increasing despite media coverage of the risks and industry regulation, according to a new analysis.
Three times as many children died in crib bumper-related deaths between 2006 and 2012 as in the three previous seven-year time periods, researchers report in The Journal of Pediatrics.
“I don’t know if it’s that people are more aware and they’re reporting more, but it could be an actual increase,” said senior author Dr. Bradley Thach, of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
Crib bumpers are pillow-like walls installed around the inside of cribs to protect babies from bumping into hard bars or getting limbs caught. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says there is no proof that bumpers work, but they do pose a risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment.
For the new study, Thach and his colleagues analyzed data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on bumper-related deaths, injuries and accidents.
They identified 48 deaths by suffocation related to crib bumpers between 1985 and 2012. On average, infants were about five months old when they died, but ages ranged from one to 22 months.
“They get their face pressed into the bumper and then they don’t get adequate oxygen,” Thach said.
About 67 percent of the deaths were caused by the bumpers. The other deaths were caused by infants being wedged between bumpers and other objects, like pillows and other children.
There were an average of eight deaths for each seven year-period starting in 1985, but that increased to 23 deaths between 2006 and 2012.
The researchers can’t say why deaths increased. It could be that states and doctors are reporting more of the deaths, or more infants are dying, they write.
It’s possible that even more deaths are related to crib bumpers. When the researchers included crib-bumper data from the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths covering 2008-2011, they counted a total of 77 deaths, instead of their original 48.
The researchers also found 146 injuries and accidents related to crib bumpers between 1990 and 2012, including at least 11 that were life-threatening.
Some babies could swallow the ties of the bumper, Thach said. He added that older babies can use bumpers to climb out of the crib and fall, too.
Thach and his colleagues point out that the AAP has been advising against crib bumpers since 2008, and doctors, media articles, publications for parents, and injury lawyers have also recommended against them. “Despite this nationwide publicity. . . deaths have not decreased, likely because bumpers remain widely available in the marketplace, media articles commonly show cribs with bumpers, and parents often believe bumpers are necessary for comfort and safety,” they write.
In a statement to Reuters Health, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) said traditional crib bumpers can help address parents’ concerns about crib-related injuries when used according to instructions.
“In 2013 an independent research firm evaluated all available information, including incident reports and allegations and found that at no time has the crib bumper been cited as the sole cause of an infant’s death,” said the statement.
The JPMA also said consumers who want bumpers for the care of their baby should buy products that comply with the guidelines set by the standards organization ASTM International.
Thach and colleagues warn that self-regulation and following safe sleeping practices won’t stop children from suffocating if their faces get covered by crib bumpers.
“We recommend that CPSC ban traditional crib bumpers for sale in
the U.S. quickly,” they add.
SOURCE: bit.ly/1Ie9v2u The Journal of Pediatrics, online November 24, 2015.