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Our son is 18 months old and sleeps in a crib. He sleeps well, but he moves around a lot and really "explores" the crib's space during the night! This isn't a problem per se, but it often causes him to hit his head on the crib. We can hear a bang! whenever it happens. Sometimes it's so loud that I seriously worry he might be suffering minor concussions... It happens usually two or three times between between his bedtime at around 19:30 and when my wife and I go to bed at around 22:00.

One option we have heard about is what is often called a "bettnest" in German and I think maybe "bumpers" in English. Here's an example: http://www.waschbaer.de/Bettnest--17559d2a369410.html. We didn't have one at first because the German government advises against them (as do many pediatricians, I think) because of an apparent increase in the risk of SIDS, among other things.

My Questions

  1. Has anyone experienced this kind of head-bonking phenomenon?
  2. If so, what did you do about it, if anything? Or what might you recommend doing to cushion the impact?
  3. Do the health warnings applied to crib bumbers like the one linked to above still apply to an 18 month old?
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About SIDS specifically: By definition, nothing causes SIDS. If you know the cause, it isn't be SIDS. According to the American SIDS Institute, SIDS is the sudden death of an infant under one year of age which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation If it was explainable (for instance, you can say this bumper caused it by smothering) it would not be SIDS. That warning essentially says "A higher than normal rate of unexplained deaths occured with babies using this product". They're legally required to do so, but in reality it only ends up scaring parents. –  corsiKa Nov 9 '12 at 18:31

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

My son did exactly the same thing (and still does, at 25 months).

We did use padded bumpers for a while when my son was an infant, although we also saw warnings against using them. We made sure to keep them tightly secured, with no dangling ties that he could reach, but I still believe we should have done without them altogether. No harm came from it, but we used them to alleviate worries about my son banging his head or getting his arms or legs caught in the openings between the slats on the crib, and I wound up worrying just as much, if not more, about SIDS and smothering instead. So I would recommend against using them; they don't accomplish much, and the risk (and attendant worry) is just not worth it.

The SIDS concerns alleviate significantly once the baby is able to turn over on their own, but there is also a risk of strangulation due to dangling cords and ties, so be sure to keep those well secured (and this is a much more difficult prospect with an inquisitive 18 month old than with a 6 month old who probably will have difficulty reaching even casually secured ties).

The most important step you should follow, though, is simply ensuring that your crib meets all current safety standards. If it is modern and meets the standards, you shouldn't have to worry about your son banging his head against the slats.

If the crib you use is like ours, we've found that the slats are thin and flexible. This results in the sound they make when struck being surprisingly loud, but the amount of give that they have makes direct impact much less forceful than it would appear.

I watched my son bump his head against the sides of our crib many times, and even though the noise made us jump, and was clearly audible several rooms away, my son wouldn't even flinch. I also experimented with banging on the slats with my hand, and it really doesn't take much force at all to make quite a racket.

My advice is that if your bed meets current safety standards, you don't need to worry about your son banging his head on the sides of the crib at night (the railings at the top of the slats are a different story, but that doesn't sound like the issue you're facing), particularly if it doesn't seem to bother him (if it did, no doubt the bang would immediately be followed by loud crying!).

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Thanks for your answer. It's reassuring to know that it happens to other kids! –  smillig Nov 9 '12 at 9:40
    
Yep, my daughter does this too. Not a problem, once you get used to it. –  IanBru Nov 9 '12 at 17:46

Despite the recommendation, you can now add a bumper to the crib if you wish. Crib bumpers are EXTREMELY DANGEROUS before kids can move around on their own, but MOST deaths and injuries occur before they gain motor control. Bumpers have not been demonstrated to actually prevent crib injuries, if it at least softens the blow so you are only waking up if the bump hurts and he needs you to awake, he is largely past the danger of being hurt by the bumper.

The reason the US recommends against bumpers/bettnest is that they become a hazard increasing the chance of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death syndrome) as well as suffocation. This article will give you the details about bumpers and sids. SIDS is sort of a catch-all title for deaths that occur in infants and we aren't sure exactly why. Since bumpers can reduce air flow through the crib environment, this may be a contributing factor. Additionally there is a danger that a child might get too close to the fluffy blanket-like quality of the bumper and suffocate for lack of ability to pull air into his/her lungs with the bumper close to his/her nose and face.

The article I linked above recommends against them entirely but offers reasons and examples that for the most part, apply only to children that lack full motor control. The danger is mostly associated with kids that cannot fully control their motion and therefore cannot move away from the bumper. Assuming all recommendations against their use are given for the same reason, the danger of a SIDS incident for your child because of a crib bumper has passed. He is passed the danger zone of the first year AND since he is moving around so much, we can all be assured he can move away from a bumper if he gets too close which avoids most suffocation hazards (even in his sleep, his brain will make him shift to an easier-to-breathe location).

The remaining hazard they do cause is if they become loosened, the child can become entangled. Make sure the bumper fits properly and is fully secured (we never used one because she didn't sleep in a crib, but I would suggest stitching the ties together so they do not become undone in the night if you should decide to add them to the crib. My sister-in-law used one that didn't have ties and instead velcroed to itself and went completely up over the top rail (I don't believe it was any safer especially since it was made by her mother-in-law and not tested).

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There is no connection between SIDS and using a bumper, the way I read the article. The article discusses the dangers of putting anything in the crib because it's a suffocation hazard, not because of any correlation to SIDS. SIDS still remains unexplained. The article states "Since the AAP released its landmark guidelines in 1992 that all babies be placed on their backs to sleep, deaths from SIDS dramatically decreased initially, but have plateaued in recent years. At the same time, sleep-related deaths from other causes, including suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia, have increased." –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 9 '12 at 8:42
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The article also discusses the reduction of airflow to the crib area in general which some think may increase the chance of a SIDS related death. More importantly though, is the chance of suffocation which I also mentioned. The point of the answer is that most suffocation deaths occurred when kids were still unable to move away from the bumpers and SIDS danger is usually passed at around one. This greatly reduces the dangers outlined for a child. The point is, that now that he can move around they can consider bumpers if they wish. –  balanced mama Nov 9 '12 at 11:12
    
The studies I found, including this one indicate that they were studying children age 1 month through 2 years in studies of suffocation hazards caused by bumpers. Not being able to move away from the bumper is only one hazard; the cords that are used to tie them to the crib are also potentially life-threatening, and are probably more of an issue for children who are able to sit up and untie them. Just because a child can move about does not mean a bumper is 100% safe. –  Beofett Nov 9 '12 at 13:10
    
If you read the entire post, I address that too. –  balanced mama Nov 9 '12 at 13:18
    
I didn't see that you had edited that part in after I read the entire post. –  Beofett Nov 9 '12 at 13:55

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