Study: Soft Crib Bumpers May Strangle, Suffocate Infants

A new study finds that soft crib bumpers may actually do more harm than good.

In the study, which appears in the September issue of The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers reviewed three U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission databases for deaths related to crib bumpers and crib-related injuries from 1985-2005.

They found 27 accidental deaths reported by authorities of children up to 2-years-old that were attributed to suffocation or strangulation by bumper pads or their ties. They also found 25 non-fatal injuries in infants attributed to bumper pads.

Of the deaths in which there was a formal investigation, 11 infants likely suffocated when their face rested against the bumper pad, 13 infants died from being wedged between the bumper pad and another object and three infants died from strangulation by a bumper tie.

"Many infants lack the motor development needed to free themselves when they become wedged between the bumper pad and another surface," said Dr. Bradley Thach, professor of pediatrics and staff physician at St. Louis Children's Hospital, in a news release. "They are likely to suffocate because they are rebreathing expired air or their nose and mouth are compressed."

Thach, who researches infant apnea and sudden infant death syndrome, said both soft or firm bumper pads pose risks.

"If the pads are too soft, the baby's nose or face can get pressed up against it, and the baby suffocates," he said. "If they are too firm, the baby can climb up on the pads and fall out of the crib."