Whenever a woman is pregnant with her child, one primary concern on her mind is having the nursery ready for when the baby comes home. She walks through the aisles of the local baby store and purchases the most beautiful items: a crib, decorations, and baby bedding. However, little does she know there is a risk involved with the bedding set that she has her heart set on. It includes a crib bumper, something that is thought to protect her little bundle of joy, but yet many safety advocates say could potentially steal the precious life from her.
Parents and safety advocates are now calling on immediate action. Such a parent like Laura Maxwell that, in April 2010, found her 7 week old baby boy dead in his crib after “asphyxiation from the face being wedged between a crib bumper and mattress.”
The Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (JPMA), which has commissioned a new study on bumpers, has warned against the use of pillows, stuffed animals and blankets with infants in cribs for about 15 years because of suffocation risks. Yet, manufacturers and retailers are still selling and promoting these items, without much warning.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says it knows of 690 infant deaths associated with pillows and cushions from 1992 to February 2010. Bumpers are the last in-crib item over which there is disagreement.
CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum is now reconsidering what the agency’s position should be. She’s asked other scientists at the commission to re-examine the deaths and data on bumpers and will take the highly unusual step of having their analysis peer-reviewed by an outside panel.
“We haven’t come to a policy decision, but we are working to be able to give parents the best advice we can,” says CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson. For now, Wolfson says “bare is best” when it comes to what’s in cribs, but if consumers buy bumpers they should be “properly and tightly affixed to the crib.”
“While CPSC staff carries out their review of bumper pads, I urge all parents and caregivers to place their baby to sleep on his or her back and keep all pillows, blankets and comforters out of the crib,” she says.
Bradley Thach, a physician and professor of pediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis, did the 2007 report in the Journal of Pediatrics that JPMA hired the research company Exponent to analyze. Thach’s report concluded that 27 infants died because of crib bumpers. JPMA executive director Mike Dwyer says Thach’s study was chosen because it prompted most of the warnings about bumpers being unsafe.
JPMA says there isn’t enough research yet to develop industry standards for bumpers, but it hopes standards will eventually clarify what the best designs are and help weigh the value of bumpers against safety concerns.
Safety advocates and doctors say they are convinced the risk of bumpers is so serious that it outweighs any possible benefit. “Since bumpers can be a cause of death and they might only prevent very minor injuries, bumpers should not be used,” Thach says.
Laura Maxwell, of Fayetteville, Ark., is now in the process of filing a lawsuit against the company that made the bedding set with the bumpers she blames for her son’s death — and the retailer that sold it.