Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Should Maryland Be The First State To Ban Crib Bumper Pads?


Yesterday morning I was pleased to join Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein and other key public health leaders as he announced a proposal to ban the sale of crib bumper pads starting in January 2013. If approved following a public comment period, Maryland would become the first state to ban the sale of crib bumper pads.

A 2010 report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission found 28 baby deaths involving bumper pads. These are highly preventable deaths.

As the Secretary noted, this action is not happening in a vacuum. The proposed ban is part of a broader effort to promote safe sleep for infants by encouraging the ABCs: Babies should sleep Alone, on their Backs, and in a Crib.

The proposal is the end result of a thoughtful study by an expert advisory panel.  After conducting several public meetings, hearing from product manufacturers and reviewing the available safety evidence, the panel concluded “infant bumper pads posed a rare, real risk to infants.”

I applaud Dr. Sharfstein for his leadership on this issue, which establishes Maryland as a trailblazer for infant health and safety. In the last year, Maryland and Baltimore City have made tremendous gains in reducing the rate of infant mortality. We don’t yet fully understand the reason for the improvements we are seeing. But I believe the systems and policy changes we’ve supported through the B’more for Healthy Babies campaign are having a significant impact.

This public awareness campaign has educated countless individuals about how to put babies to sleep safely – Alone, on their Backs, in a Crib, no exceptions. The first component – Alone – means just that. We discourage parents from sleeping with their babies. And cribs should be free of all pillows, toys or blankets and bumper padding.

As part of our basic message to parents and caretakers, our home visiting nurses look for _ and routinely discourage _ the use of crib bumpers. We’ve reinforced this message in our print materials and in our educational video, where babies are pictured sleeping Alone, on their Backs and in Cribs with no extra padding.

Baltimore City's current and last two health commissioners.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is conducting a similar review. The manufacturing of infant cribs is highly regulated to prevent children from strangling. Because their bodies can slip through openings but their heads cannot, parts such as slats, spindles, corner posts and rods cannot be more than 2 and 3/8 inches apart at any point, according to its Website.

The risk of putting babies to sleep in a crib where they could potentially suffocate against or get entrapped in a bumper far outweighs the purported safety benefits. For these reasons, I support Maryland’s efforts to ban crib bumper pads, and I encourage you to educate others about the potential dangers these products can pose.

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