New bipartisan Senate bill seeks to remove crib bumpers: ‘The key is to keep our babies safe’

For years, cribs have been made with a large distance between each slat. Parents feared that their child’s head or limbs would get caught in the slats or that the baby would fall. Cradle bumpers were marketed as a way to alleviate these concerns. But research shows an increase in the number of infant deaths linked to crib bumpers. (boujiandnouna / Flickr)

For parents preparing to bring home a new little one, there can be a long checklist of considerations and products to get. One of the most important items on this checklist is the crib where the baby will sleep.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a mother of two, remembers the experience vividly. She remembers being given gifted bedding sets for her two daughters’ cribs. These sets included crib bumpers, a product that lines, and often pads, the perimeter of the crib. Initially, crib bumpers were created and sold for safety purposes, but research has shown that they are actually harmful and can cause suffocation.

“The one my daughter got had beautiful butterflies all over it, and you know, you want to put it up,” Duckworth said. Mrs. “You think it must be safe because it says ‘tested for safety’ on the outside… But it’s flame retardant tested, it’s not choking hazard tested.”

Research published in 2015 showed an increase in the number of infant deaths related to bed bumpers. The study analyzed data from 1985 to 2012 and found a three-fold increase in the number of exceptional deaths from 2005 to 2012. The study noted that higher reporting rates may be a factor.

For years, cribs were often made with a large distance between each slat. Parents worried that their child’s head or limbs would get caught in the slats or the baby would fall. Cradle bumpers were marketed as a way to alleviate these concerns.

In 2011, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that 200 babies per year were dying because of poor cradle design. Federal regulations put in place the same year required manufacturers and distributors to comply with a new set of rules, including a standard slat distance and mattress size for nurseries.

Pediatrician Dr Poj Lysouvakon said these regulations reduce the need for crib bumpers. And yet, even today, the products are still widely sold.

“With the ease of online shopping and the fact that we are so isolated from COVID and have fewer in-person meetings with your pediatrician, it can be confusing there,” Lysouvakon said. “I always tell parents, ‘Half the things you don’t need for your child.'”

You think it must be safe because it says ‘safety tested’ on the outside… But it’s flame retardant tested, it’s not choking hazard tested.

Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

A survey conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2020 showed that a majority of parents in the study had heard of crib bumpers and nearly 65% ​​had used the product for their children.

Lysouvakon, who is the director of the University of Chicago Medical Center’s Pediatric Injury Prevention Program, says the best option for infant safety is to keep what’s in the crib to a minimum. If in doubt, he recommends asking your doctor.

“We don’t say anything soft or squishy. So definitely no blankets, quilts, stuffed animals,” Lysouvakon said. “Nothing should be in the sleeping area with the baby; it should just be a flat, firm, level surface with a fitted sheet.

Another factor as to why parents are still buying these products is well-meaning, but outdated advice.

“A lot of parents get information from family members, grandparents of newborns, where things are very different then than they are now, especially with this news federal regulations mandating safety in the manufacture of cribs,” Lysouvakon said. “I think it’s really important for parents to contact their baby’s caregiver, pediatrician, or other caregiver just to get the clear facts that are based on evidence.”

This sentiment was echoed by Duckworth.

“My mother-in-law was very excited; my eldest daughter is the first grandchild of either family,” Duckworth said. “And when the baby was born, she quickly got out and found a beautiful, portable, collapsible crib at a yard sale. … I had to tell her we couldn’t use it because it’s actually unsafe .

As for Lysouvakon, he’s been practicing medicine long enough to see the issue of bed bumper safety brought to the legislative level, starting in his own city: Chicago.

In 2011, chicago city council decided to ban the sale of crib bumpers, setting a trend that a few states would follow.

Now the action is happening at the federal level.

Duckworth presented bipartisan legislation alongside Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) who would stop the production, distribution and sale of crib bumpers in the United States. This legislation, called the Safe Cribs Act, is similar to a bill that has been passed the United States House of Representatives in 2019. Duckworth predicts that the Safe Cribs Act will soon pass the Senate.

“The regulations, the laws around these things have changed over the years, it’s hard for people to keep up with what they are,” Duckworth said. “But the key to all of this is just keeping our babies safe.”

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Norman D. Briggs