Bumper Be Gone: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Update!

Fingers Of Newborn BabyAs I was standing in Pottery Barn Kids innocently looking at crib sheets, I overheard the lady behind me who was purchasing a gift ask the sales clerk, “Are you really supposed to use bumper pads? I thought that they weren’t safe.”  To my dismay, the sales associated responded, “Oh, I think it is really up to you. They should be safe; otherwise, we wouldn’t sell them. And, they keep babies from getting their legs and arms stuck in the cribs.” The family physician and public health specialist in me was fuming! I wanted to correct her. I wanted to set the record straight. I wanted to grab the bumper pad from her hands and say, “Don’t buy it!” I debated with myself for just a little bit too long. I didn’t want to sound rude or all-knowing, but I wanted her to know that bumpers can contribute to Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID). By the time I had built up the courage to add my two cents, the purchase had been made, and the innocent gift giver was out the door.

Every décor savvy mom longs for a beautiful bumper to complete her infant’s crib. Well, keep on longing! I have created a beautiful nursery for our daughter…bumper free. It sounds cliché, but “SAFTEY FIRST” should be every mom’s motto. Let’s review the updated recommendations to reduce the risk of Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths. If you are already following them, give yourself a pat on the back. If not, then now is the time to start.The first steps of the kid

Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths are deaths that occur suddenly, and unexpectedly in infants under one year of age. These deaths do not have an immediately obvious cause. But, after investigation, most of them fall into one of three main categories: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), accidental strangulation and suffocation in bed, and unknown cause. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 4,000 infants die each year in the United States from SUID, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the third leading cause of all deaths for infants.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its recommendations on safe sleep environments for infants in an effort to reduce SIDS and sleep related deaths. Here is a breakdown of the key recommendations, but be sure to look at the hyperlinks in this article for more detailed information.

  1. Infants should be placed on their BACK every time they sleep
  2. Use a firm sleep surface-a firm mattress with a tightly fitted sheet
  3. Keep your infant in your room, but not in your bed (this can reduced SIDS risk by 50%!!!)
  4. Keep soft bedding and loose objects out of the crib (no stuffed animals, pillows, blankets, or BUMPER PADS)-there is no evidence to say that bumper pads prevent injury, they do, however, raise the risk for suffocation, strangulation, and entrapment according to the AAP. Sleep sacks are great to use instead of blankets. They keep the baby warm without the risk of suffocation.
  5. Avoid infant smoke exposure during pregnancy and after the infant is born.
  6. Breastfeed if possible for at least the first 6 months
  7. Offer a pacifier at naps and bedtime. Even if it falls out, its use has been linked with SIDS prevention.
  8. Avoid Overheating-Don’t over-bundle your infant for sleep
  9. Immunize your infant
  10. Avoid devices sold to “prevent” SIDS, including positioners. These are not considered safe.
  11. Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors to prevent SIDS. These have not been found to lower the risk.
  12. Make sure to incorporate supervised awake tummy time for your infant. This helps strengthen neck muscles.Mother Reading  Book Baby In Bed Before Going To Sleep

Although this may seem like a long list, most of you are already complying with many of these recommendations. They aren’t always convenient, or baby décor conscious, but what could be more important than your infant’s safety? Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths are not all that “common”. But, if SUID only stole one infant’s life each year instead of 4,000, and that life was your child’s….? Don’t tempt fate. Protect your child. Reduce their risk of SUID.

From The Mom in Me, MD



11 thoughts on “Bumper Be Gone: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Update!

  1. So how do you prevent the extremely active 5 months old that had his knee/upper thigh trapped in his crib? It was stuck that I could not get it loose and had to pull very hard to free it. He screamed from the pain and had swelling and marks left around his knee? When I took him to the doctor she recommended mesh bumpers because leg injuries can occur from these incidents. I purchased those immediately. Are they not considered safe?

    • Hi Danielle, Thanks for your comment! Although getting a leg or arm stuck in a crib can be a little traumatic, and may cause very minor injury such as a bruise and rarely something more serious such as a hyperextended joint, this is still not considered a reason to use a bumper. Bumpers still pose a greater risk to the child for something much more severe, suffocation/strangulation/asphyxiation! And, current research tells us that bumpers actually don’t protect against crib slat injuries (even though it seems like they would). Mesh bumpers….that is a really good question! I looked into that as well for our daughter. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have the research to say if they are really a safe alternative. It makes sense that they might be safer from the suffocation standpoint because of their breathable material. However, they haven’t been on the market long enough for us to say with certainty that they are actually safe. I am sure after seeing your child stuck, you want to to everything possible to prevent it in the future. Unfortunately, we don’t really have a great option at this point. The severity of the threat from Sudden and Unexpected Infant Death needs to take priority. I frequently had to go in and move my daughter’s arms and legs out of the slats when she was little. Usually, as they get older, this happens much less frequently. Hope that helps. And, sorry that it probably wasn’t what you wanted to hear:(

  2. Kudos to you Dr. Hostetter! I am the director of PR for Cribs for Kids National Infant Safe Sleep initiative. I received an e-mail through Google alert and when I opened your site was immediately drawn into your blog post! Everything you wrote about safe sleeping is everything we promote to new parents and caregivers. I found your style of writing to be uniquely direct, honest and informative without being ‘preachy’. I look forward to following your blog. Thank you!

    • Thanks so much for your kind words! So glad that you found my blog:) I will definitely check out your program. I think that most parents are very good intentioned, but there is so much misinformation out there that it is hard to make the best decision for our children’s safety at times. When looking at nursery catalogs and magazine pictures, I am always shocked by the number of unsafe sleep objects! This gives parents the wrong message. I am incredibly grateful that programs like yours exist. Would love to help in any way I can in the future! Keep me posted. Sincerely,

  3. I saw your article shared by The CJ Foundation for SIDS. I agree with most of your article. However, I do object to the word “prevent.” Instead of prevent, you should be using the words “reduce the risk” of SIDS. I can tell you, that as medical professional, that I followed all of the rules you laid out above, yet I still lost my 3rd daughter to SIDS October 27, 2012. Being in the medical field, I had a higher fear of SIDS knowing of all the possibilities that can happen.. and I did EVERYTHING to “prevent” it, and could not. There were no bumpers in my daughter’s crib. We breastfed. The room was cool, she had a paci, she was placed on her back. We need more SIDS research, because something must be medically wrong. I did everything right, and I still lost her. That’s why SIDS is so scary. You cannot prevent SIDS.

    • Hi Cindy, Thank you so much for your comment. First, I am incredibly sorry for the loss of your daughter. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult that must be as a mother. Your point is well taken regarding the term “prevent” vs. “reduce the risk”. You are correct that we definitely need more research. We are working with limited information and are making recommendations based on what seems to make a difference. Clearly we are missing some of the pieces because many parents follow all of the SIDS recommendations and yet children are dying in these homes. And although current recommendations may be the key to “preventing” certain cases, these recommendations do not “prevent” all cases of SIDS. One of my friends has a child with MCAD (medium chain amino acid disorder). This disease is now being screened for during newborn screening in some states. According to her physician, before this disorder was tested for, many of these children who died in their sleep were lumped into the SIDS category. We now know that it is due to an underlying medical condition. I have a feeling that other underlying medical conditions that we don’t yet test for or know of may be contributing to SIDS numbers. Although SIDS numbers have been on the decline, any child lost is far too many. Again, I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for your comment and your personal insight into this topic. Sincerely, Emma

    • Oh, and I did want to let you know that I am happy to change the wording on the blog to “reduce the risk”. I am always open to suggestions, clarifications, and corrections where necessary:)

      • Thank you! Yes if I ever have another I plan to demand MCAD testing, an EKG etc. I have heard of it happening twice.. Terrifying!

      • No problem! It is pretty terrifying. We followed all of the SIDS recommendations and I was still terrified that something would happen as well. Thanks for helping making the blog better!

  4. Thank you for sharing this.

    As a mom to a baby boy in Heaven and also as an advocate for SIDS/SUDS awareness, this article really hits home for me. Although SIDS may not always be prevented with even the safest provided environment, it is almost always multi-causational — the result of the perfect storm of environmental risk and physiological deficiency. I know in my heart-of-hearts that using a bumper was the culprit that helped create the perfect storm that took our beloved firstborn son from us. I’ll never stop having regrets and five years later, I am still trying to forgive myself.

    For those of you who think that getting a limb stuck here and there is the true risk, I am here to tell you that it is not. I’ve learned from my next two children that babies learn their boundaries in their cribs. The true risk is creating an environmental risk that could contribute to ending their lives and NOTHING is worth that risk. NOTHING.

    Pottery Barn used to have a disclaimer (if you clicked on “safety tips” under “dimension and care”) that stated that crib bedding was for decorative purposes only but have removed the disclaimer – my thoughts on that are for their own marketing purposes. My question to the readers here is this: would you trust a sales person at Pottery Barn or an MD to give you sound advice on the safety of your most precious little one?

    • Sunny, thank you so much for sharing! My heart breaks at hearing your loss. I can’t even imagine. I know that your story is more effective than any article I can write about bumpers. Thank you for sharing so that other moms and dads will know the truth about SIDS!

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