Parents are putting their babies at risk when they place pillows and other soft bedding in their cribs, the Consumer Product Safety Commission warned Thursday.
From 2002 to 2004, 241 children under age 5 died in incidents involving nursery products. About 40 percent of the deaths involved cribs, with soft bedding cited as the leading contributing factor. Many of the children suffocated when lying face down on pillows or other bedding, the agency said.
"Less is more when you're talking about the crib," CPSC spokeswoman Julie Vallese said, adding that cribs should be free of adult pillows and blankets, stuffed animals and baby quilts.
To reduce risk of suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome, parents should place babies on their back in a crib that meets current safety standards, the agency said.
Among other incidents of death in cribs, babies became trapped when the mattress was ill-fitting, CPSC said. Old, broken and modified cribs should not be used, and parents should never allow a gap larger than two fingers at any point between the sides of the crib and mattress, the agency advised.
The agency said there were 36 deaths over the same period relating to baby baths and bath seats. All occurred when caregivers left the baby unattended. In many instances, babies slipped out of bath seats, fell out of baby seats or tipped forward or sideways into the water.
At no time, even for a few seconds, should babies be left unattended in the tub, Vallese said.
Deaths involving playpens also were high, with many resulting from the use of soft bedding.
Although CPSC has in recent years issued many crib product recalls, Vallese said there were no related deaths during 2002 through 2004 that involved a recalled product or a product that eventually was recalled.
In 2006, the most recent year in which injury data was collected, CPSC counted about 66,400 emergency injuries linked with nursery products among children under age 5. Most of these were related to baby carriers and car seats, excluding motor vehicle accidents, followed by incidents involving cribs and mattresses.
The most common injuries in 2006 resulted from falls, and the head was the most frequently injured body part.