Little Preston was only seven weeks old when he suffocated between the bumper pad in his crib and the mattress.
Aiden was six months old when he died after he rolled into the corner of his crib and became lodged against its bumper pad.
As terribly sad as these two incidents are, they’re far from the only ones. A study conducted by Dr. Brad Thach, a pediatrician and professor at Washington University in St. Louis and the Consumer Product Safety Commission found 23 more deaths over a seven-year period through 2012.
Crib bumper deaths not being caught
But the researchers believe the actual number of bumper-related deaths has been “dramatically” undercounted.
“Crib bumpers are killing kids,” said Dr. Thach.
And that’s not the first time these items have raised red flags. Three years ago, they were listed by Consumer Reports as being among “13 dangerous baby products to avoid.” And selling them has already been banned by both the state of Maryland and the city of Chicago.
But what about the very reason these soft pads are used in the first place – to keep infants from hitting their heads or slipping through crib slats?
Experts are saying that such encounters are basically harmless. And since 1973 there have been federal rules in place about the width of crib slats, so they are narrow enough that a baby’s head can’t slip through.
“There is no evidence that bumper pads can prevent serious injuries, and they pose a risk of suffocation, strangulation, or entrapment,” the American Academy of Pediatrics warns on its website. “In addition, older babies can use them for climbing out of the crib.”
The death toll continues to climb
As a result, the AAP is telling parents not to buy them and to get rid of ones they may already have. And that even includes the new, “breathable” ones made of mesh.
The industry did make these bumpers thinner following a previous study Dr. Thach took part in back in 2007, which found 27 babies had suffocated on them. But despite that, the death toll has continued to mount.
Of course, without a bumper, as Thach himself acknowledges, a baby can get an arm or leg stuck in the slats. It’s even happened to his own grandchild. But despite that, “there are still no bumpers allowed in the greater Thach family.”
Sadly, knowing the dangers of these innocent-looking crib pads came too late for Aiden’s grandmother.
“I bought the very pad that took my beloved grandson’s life,” she said. “Never once did I consider that they might be lethal.”
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
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