Almost 600 Baby Deaths Attributed to Baby Placed in Adult Bedding,
September 29, 1999
WASHINGTON, D.C. (SafetyAlerts) - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
(CPSC) is again warning parents and caregivers about the dangers of placing babies to
sleep in adult beds. A CPSC study published in the October issue of the Archives of
Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that placing babies to sleep in adult beds
puts them at risk of suffocation or strangulation. This is a danger of which many parents
and caregivers are unaware. The study revealed an average 64 deaths per year to babies
under the age of 2 years placed to sleep in adult beds, including waterbeds and daybeds.
A review of incident data from January 1990 to December 1997 linked adult beds to at least
515 baby deaths. For 1998 and 1999, the Commission is aware of at least 76 additional
deaths, 35 due to suffocation associated with co-sleeping and 41 due to entrapments.
Analysis of the deaths revealed four major hazard patterns:
- Suffocation associated with the co-sleeping of
adult and baby.
- Suffocation where an infant becomes entrapped or
wedged between the mattress and another object.
- Suffocation due to airway obstruction when the baby
is face down on a waterbed mattress.
- Strangulation in rails or openings on beds that
allow a baby's body to pass through while entrapping the head.
CPSC's study is the first to quantify the number
of fatalities resulting from the practice of co-sleeping with babies. Of the 515 deaths,
121 were reported to be due to a parent, caregiver or sibling rolling on top of or against
the baby while sleeping. More than three-quarters of these deaths occurred to infants
younger than 3 months. The other 394 deaths resulted from suffocation or from
strangulation caused by entrapment of the child's head in various structures of the bed.
Entrapments occurred between the mattress and the wall, bed frame, headboard, footboard,
bed railings or adjacent furniture.
One of the most tragic aspects of these deaths is that they are largely preventable. In
many cases, the adult placing the baby in the adult bed was unaware of or underestimated
the danger posed. The practice of co-sleeping can result in the adult rolling on top of or
next to the baby smothering him or her. Mothers who breastfeed should be alerted to this
hazard and should be encouraged to return the baby to the crib after breast-feeding.
"Don't sleep with your baby or put the baby down to sleep in an adult bed," said
CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "The only safe place for babies is in a crib that meets
current safety standards and has a firm, tight-fitting mattress. Place babies to sleep on
their backs and remove all soft bedding and pillow-like items from the crib."
Of the 394 entrapment deaths, 296 were on adult beds, 79 were on waterbeds and 10 were on
daybeds. Bed rails, which are portable railings that can be installed on toddler and adult
beds to keep toddlers from falling out of beds, accounted for nine baby deaths. CPSC is
working with the bed rail industry on the design of these products to reduce the hazard.
The following chart provides more details on the fatality scenarios from entrapment and
|Wedging between mattress and wall
|Wedging between mattress and bed
frame, headboard or footboard
|Entrapment between mattress and
|Strangulation between bed railings
|Entrapment between portable bed rail
|Suffocation on a waterbed mattress
|Co-sleeping death (rolling on top of
or against baby while sleeping)
|Total (entrapment + co-sleeping)
For 1998 and 1999, the Commission is
aware of at least 76 additional deaths, 35 due to suffocation associated with co-sleeping
and 41 due to entrapments. The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, a
member of the Journal of the American Medical Association family of journals, study
"Adult Beds Are Unsafe Places for Children to Sleep," primarily written by
CPSC's Suad Nakamura, Ph.D., was co-authored by Marilyn Wind, Ph.D., (CPSC) and Mary Ann
Danello, Ph.D., (CPSC). Nakamura gave details about the findings at an AMA briefing in New
The U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission protects the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death
from 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction. To report a
dangerous product or a product-related injury and for information on CPSC's fax-on-demand
service, call CPSC's hotline at (800) 638-2772 or CPSC's teletypewriter at (800) 638-8270.
To order a press release through fax-on-demand, call (301) 504-0051 from the handset of
your fax machine and enter the release number. Consumers can obtain this release and
recall information at CPSC's web site at http://www.cpsc.gov. Consumers can report product
hazards to email@example.com.
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