Crib Bumpers Can Suffocate Babies and Should Never Be Used

N.J. Scheers, PhD Former manager of CPSC's Infant Suffocation Project BDS Data Analytics, Alexandria, VA

Dr. NJ Scheers Interview with:
N.J. Scheers, PhD

Former manager of CPSC’s Infant Suffocation Project
BDS Data Analytics, Alexandria, VA

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Scheers: There are no federal regulations for crib bumpers. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Canadian Pediatric Society, the National Institutes of Health, and others have long recommended against crib bumper use. Crib bumper manufacturers have a long-standing voluntary safety standard aimed at making crib bumpers safe. Neither of these approaches has worked to prevent deaths from bumpers. 

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Scheers: Using data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the research identified 48 deaths from crib bumpers from 1985-2012. Reports of the deaths increased significantly and were three times higher from 2006 through 2012 than in previous years.

In most of the deaths, the crib bumpers were the only source of suffocation, rebutting beliefs that other items in the cribs (comforters, pillows, blankets) caused the deaths. In other deaths, wedging occurred between the bumper and other objects such as pillows and infant recliners. All of these deaths would have been preventable if crib bumpers had not been in the cribs.

The study linked more deaths to crib bumpers than the 48 indicated in the CPSC data. A review of data from the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths reveals reports of 32 bumper-related deaths from 37 states from 2008-2011. That puts the number of fatalities tied to crib bumpers at 77 and suggests the actual number is much higher.

The study identified 146 injuries from 1990-2012. Eleven were “near-misses” in which the babies were rescued before they died. These were near-suffocations, chokings, strangulations, and falls from infants using bumpers to climb out of the cribs. There were reports of poor bumper design, such as a lack of bottom bumper ties, or construction problems, such as bumper ties and decoration that detached.

Parents often buy bumpers to prevent slat entrapments or to prevent infants bumping their heads in the cribs. This is the first study to show that these events occurred even with a bumper present.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Scheers: Crib bumpers are dangerous and serve no purpose – they should never be used. None of the babies in this study should have died.

We recommend CPSC ban the sale of traditional crib bumpers similar to the ban promulgated by the state of Maryland. A ban on crib bumpers would also reinforce the message that no soft bedding of any kind should be placed inside a baby’s crib.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Scheers: Newer, nontraditional bumper designs, such as mesh and vertical bumpers that wrap around crib slats, were exempted from the state of Maryland’s ban on the sale of crib bumpers. To date there is little information about them, but they should be watched.


NJ Scheers, Dean W. Woodard, Bradley T. Thach. Crib Bumpers Continue to Cause Infant Deaths: A Need for a New Preventive Approach. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2015; DOI:10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.10.050

[wysija_form id=”5″]
N.J. Scheers, PhD (2015). Crib Bumpers Can Suffocate Babies and Should Never Be Used

Last Updated on November 24, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD