Safety of Crib Bumper Pads
Researchers Question Safety of Crib Bumper Pads: Do they do more harm than good?

By Deirdre Wilson

If you\'re shopping for new bedding for an infant, skip the crib bumper pads. Despite being linked to accidental injury and death in a study released last fall, bumper pads remain on the market.

The pads were originally developed to protect infants from becoming entangled in the slats of a crib. But pediatric researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo., reported serious hazards after reviewing three Consumer Product Safety Commission databases for crib bumper-related deaths and injuries between 1985 and 2005. Of those:

  • 27 involved accidental suffocation or strangulation of babies or toddlers due to bumper pads or pad ties; and
  • 25 involved nonfatal injuries due to bumper pads.
Investigations into some of the deaths revealed that 11 infants likely suffocated when their faces rested against a bumper pad and 13 infants died after becoming wedged between the pad and another object, the researchers said.

"Many infants lack the motor development needed to free themselves" after becoming wedged, lead researcher Bradley Thach, M.D., stated when the study was published in the September 2007 Journal of Pediatrics. "They are likely to suffocate because they are re-breathing expired air or their nose and mouth are compressed."

Thach, a physician at St. Louis Children\'s Hospital and a professor of pediatrics who researches infant apnea and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), said researchers looked at 22 retail crib bumpers and declared all of them hazardous because of the potential for a gap between the pad and mattress where babies can become wedged. Both soft and firm bumper pads pose risks, he said. "If the pads are too soft, the baby\'s nose or face can get pressed up against it, and the baby suffocates. If they are too firm, the baby can climb up the pads and fall out of the crib."

Since the study was released, safety experts have noted that the pads aren\'t really needed anymore because current regulations require crib slats to be no further than 2-3/8 inches apart.

Deirdre Wilson is senior editor at Dominion Parenting Media.