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Are crib bumpers safe?

What do the public know about the risks of using a crib bumper?

A crib bumper is a layer of soft material placed around the edges of a crib. Ostensibly they are a safety feature designed to protect a baby’s head from coming in contact with harder support structures of the crib, such as timber laths. However, research has shown that they provide no meaningful health benefits. In fact, they have been implicated in the deaths of more than 40 infants in the United States. A new study published in JAMA Network Open explores whether the perceptions of US adults about crib bumpers are reflective of their true risks (1).

The study conducted by researchers at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, surveyed over 2000 adults on crib bumpers, but also on warning labels and the role of government in regulating the sale of potentially dangerous products. Over two thirds of respondents had heard of crib bumpers and 62% of these individuals reported having used them.

Are crib bumpers safe – what do people think?

Respondents overwhelmingly considered crib bumpers to be safe (70.4%). However this figure was slightly lower among respondents who were actually parents (66.2%). Only half of the respondents were aware of the risk of suffocation associated with crib bumpers whilst four out of 10 mistakenly believed that crib bumpers actually helped babies to sleep.

Interestingly, for the sample as a whole, almost 60% felt that you wouldn’t be able to crib bumpers at all if they were dangerous. When asked if the government should ban the sale of crib bumpers if experts determined they posed a health risk to infants, 62% of respondents agreed.  In terms of warning labels, less than 40% of respondents reported reading the safety information when buying an infant product, although the figure was slightly higher among parents (44.2%).

The results of this survey raise some interesting points with implications beyond crib bumpers. The authors assert that expert consensus is clear on the health risks of crib bumpers and yet the public perception seems significantly different. The public in general appears to hold mistaken beliefs about a potentially dangerous product. They also seem to be of the opinion that if a product really were dangerous, it would have been taken off the market by now.

Whilst this study applied to crib bumpers, these beliefs have wider implications. It suggests that the public mistakenly believes that if a product is available for sale then it must be considered safe. It is also interesting to note the responses which suggest a bigger role for government in the regulation of product safety. Most respondents agreed that if experts determined a product to be unsafe, the government should ban its sale.

In terms of crib bumpers, the authors report that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission is advising against the use of crib bumpers but stopping short of an outright ban. The survey responses would suggest public support for a ban but also highlight the need for greater awareness on the risks of crib bumpers.

Written by Michael McCarthy 

1. Gielen AC, Sharfstein JM. Public Opinion on the Sale of Crib Bumpers. JAMA Network Open. 2020;3(6):e208089-e.

Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay 



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