Crib bumper pads danger to babies

March 24, 2008 6:35:07 PM PDT
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently warned about suffocation risk from cribs, pillows, and blankets. But another hazardous baby bedding accessory may be overlooked.

Before Kristina Vanausdoll brought her daughter home from the hospital, she gave a lot of thought to crib safety, right down to the bumper pads.

She says, "You think that they're safe, because they're in every major store whenever you go to pick out a bedding set."

But a recent study at St. Louis Children's Hospital found the crib cushions aren't harmless.

Dr. Bradley Thach, who led the study, says, "There were a few strangulations with long bumper cord ties, most of them were suffocation."

Current guidelines say bumper pads shouldn't be puffy, or pillow-like.

But this study found that all firmness levels were risky.

Dr. Thach says, "What we found is that even the firm cushions, which we graded from soft to firm, were hazardous in that babies became entrapped in them."

Babies as young as one month can wedge their head and neck between the bumper pad and the mattress.

Dr. Thach, "And then it flattens out over the back of their heads, usually, and the babies don't know how to go back."

The pad also creates a breathing hazard when a baby's face gets pressed against it.

Dr. Thach describes it. "They breath into the bedding, uh, they expire into the bedding. High CO2, low oxygen gas, and then they re-breathe it back in, and gradually their oxygen falls."

Kristina passed on the conventional belief that bumper pads prevent injuries, and decided to skip them.

Kristina says, "I'd much rather she get a little bump or bruise or something than, you know, suffocate from the bumper pads."

Dr. Thach says the biggest risk comes between 1 & 8 months, when babies can move around in the crib, but aren't strong enough to move out of harm's way.