Thousands of infants are injured every year -- and more than 100 are killed -- in accidents related to cribs, playpens and bassinets, according to a new study of hospital emergency room records.
Preventing the most common injuries calls for a partnership between parent and crib, say researchers and pediatricians.
Most of the injuries resulted from falls, and most falls resulted when babies rolled or crawled out of the crib, according to Gary Smith, lead researcher in the study, which appears this month in the journal Pediatrics. "That is the major mechanism that we picked up on," Smith said. "It helps us direct our attention to falls."
The Pediatrics study found babies were brought to emergency departments most often for soft tissue damage, such as bruises or scrapes, and two-thirds of injuries were caused by falls.
Cribs accounted for about 83 percent of injuries in the study, conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Preventing falls depends to some degree on manufacturers. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled more than 11 million cribs since 2007. This summer, higher safety standards will take effect, including a ban on the manufacture of traditional drop-side cribs.
Parents, however, share responsibility, pediatricians say. Researchers on the study admonished parents to keep a close eye on their children's development and modify cribs as needed.
Dr. Karl Chun, a pediatrician at Fairview Children's Clinic in Minneapolis, said parents should monitor their baby's age or height in setting the crib mattress to prevent tumbles. "The time to take the child out of the crib is when the baby thinks they can get out," he said.
The researchers also encouraged parents to think about objects a baby could reach -- such as hanging mobiles -- once they are strong enough to stand.
Laurie Frattallone, an educator in Fairview's Birth and Family Education Department, discourages the use of crib bumpers, which parents often install to prevent babies from wedging arms and legs between slats. But problems arise when babies start using the padding as a step to get up and over the edge of the crib, Frattallone said.
That's what her son attempted when he was a baby.
"Don't give them the opportunity as they get older to fling themselves over the side of the crib," she said.