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What Happens If Baby Hits Head In Crib?

Experts say the study, which collected reports of injuries to children from hospital emergency rooms over 19 years, represents the first national look at this problem.

The study comes during a flurry of regulatory activity over cribs and crib products, culminating in the recalls of millions of items and the first new government-mandated safety standards in cribs issued in nearly two decades.

The study was published online in the journal Pediatrics.

The research was praised by government regulators and industry representatives for helping to increase awareness of the dangers to children posed by unsafe sleep environments.

Researchers who were not involved in the study also praised its scope.

About 15% of injuries resulted from falling inside the crib or hitting or being cut on the inside of the crib. About 6% resulted from becoming caught or wedged in the crib.

The vast majority of injuries were not life-threatening.

Soft-tissue injuries, including bruises and scrapes, were the most common, representing about one-third of reported injuries. But in about one in five cases, a child was rushed to the emergency room with a concussion. Fractures represented 12% of injuries; lacerations, or cuts, made up 14%.

Children will roll over for the first time or sit up for the first time or stand for the first time when you're not expecting it. Suddenly, they're doing it one day, and I think parents are just simply caught off-guard.

About 1% of children died, sometimes after becoming caught or wedged in the crib. Most of these deaths involved a diagnosis of suffocation or sudden infant death syndrome. Two-thirds of the deaths occurred in babies younger than six months.

Part of the problem, experts say, is that parents think that it's safe to put soft products like pillows, blankets, and crib bumpers in cribs when those products can be dangerous in two ways.

Infants may roll over into soft material and suffocate while they are sleeping. Babies who are older and stronger, on the other hand, may use materials like bumpers to pull themselves out.

What we've looked at before have been deaths associated with sleep areas, and one of the big issues is that in trying to prevent injuries, many parents will put pillows and bumper pads in cribs to prevent injuries. When in reality, these kinds of materials are often the problem.

The only thing that should be in the crib is the baby.

The study authors say a big part of the problem has been crib manufacturing and design flaws that have led in recent years to the recalls of more than 11 million cribs, many of them drop-side models.

This is all because cribs have just had a terrible track record. The design hasn't changed for over two decades, so we're seeing a big shift in our understanding of how to make them safer.

This article will discuss the common causes, signs and symptoms of mild to moderate or severe baby or toddler head injuries, what to do at home, when to call your doctor, and how to prevent these injuries.

Baby Nursery FAQs

After a knock on the head, young children are often sleepy, especially if they have cried a lot of it is getting near to a nap time. If the child seems well after the bump to the head, it is OK to let them go to sleep.

Changes to watch for include inconsolable crying or fussiness, vomiting more than once, balancing difficulties when sitting or walking, and being unresponsive. If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms or has any significant swelling over the injury site, you should take them to the doctor right away.

The Baby's soft spots may look very delicate. But the baby has a thick membrane under their scalp that keeps their brain protected. So as long as you touch the baby's soft spots gently, you won't hurt the baby. So don't be afraid to touch the baby's soft spot gently.

Babies' heads are easily damaged, and their neck muscles are not strong enough to control the movement of the head. As a result, shaking or throwing a baby can cause the head to jerk back and forth. This can make the skull hit the brain with force, causing brain damage, serious vision problems, or death.

Children and adolescents with a concussion can take up to four weeks to recover, but most concussions will get better on their own over several days. Following a mild head injury, your child will need plenty of rest and sleep, particularly in the first 24 to 48 hours.

How Babies Get Bumps on Their Heads

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Most babies will get a bump on their heads at least once in their first year. This is partly because babies can't control their head movements as adults. After all, their neck muscles are less developed. Also, unlike grown-ups, their centre of gravity is closer to their heads than their torsos.

Add to all that, babies learn new skills, like grabbing, rolling, walking, and sitting. Of course, they are bound to have mishaps with all of this new and exciting exploration.

There are many scenarios where a baby might end up bumping its head. However, the most common causes of these bumps are usually the least concerning injury.

Most Common Causes of Bumps

  • Falls from beds and changing tables
  • Injuries from rolling, crawling, scooting, and walking

Less Common Causes of Bumps

  • Vehicle and bike accidents
  • Injuries from malfunctioning baby equipment, such as a baby seat or stroller that topples over
  • Child abuse (parental inflicted bumps or "shaken baby syndrome")

External head injuries involve the scalp. Internal head injuries involve the blood vessels, skull, or brain.

Babies get bumps on their heads for a variety of reasons. Most are due to minor falls and spills that occur every day in even well-supervised households. But others are the result of more serious incidents.


Babies and toddlers are naturally curious—and quick. But unfortunately, they also don't have the physical coordination or neck development that older kids have. All these factors can make them prone to falling. 

There's no shortage of ways babies can fall, and the height from which they fall doesn't always correlate to the seriousness of the head injury. But research shows that kids younger than 12 months are apt to fall from a bed, their caretaker's arms, or a child carrier. 

Regardless of how they tumble, falls are the leading cause of injury in kids. They make up 50% of nonfatal injuries in babies under 1. 

The good news? Falls rarely lead to major head trauma. In one study, fewer than 3% of young children who had fallen from things like furniture or a stroller experienced a traumatic brain injury (an injury that causes damage to the brain).

Accidental Impacts

Your baby toddles into a wall, whacks their head on the side of a crib, or gets beaned in the head by a wooden block their sibling threw (you know, innocently). It's all part of growing up.

These accidental bumps rarely cause major head injuries, such as concussions, injuries to the brain caused by a forceful knock on the head.


Car accidents—where the child is a passenger or struck as a pedestrian—and bike accidents are other causes of head injuries in children. Some of these injuries may be severe, some not.

Child Abuse

There are roughly 1,300 reported cases of abusive head trauma (AHT) in babies every year in the United States.5 AHT occurs when a child is violently shaken, for example, or when their head is beaten against a hard object, like a wall. One-quarter of babies with AHT will die.

Signs and Symptoms

Your baby rolls off the changing table or tumbles from a counter where you have them perched. How will you know if any knock to the head is minor or major?

Mild Head Injuries

Your baby or toddler can't tell you if they have a headache or feel dizzy, common symptoms of a minor head injury, such as a mild concussion. 

A concussion is a brain injury that occurs when a forceful blow to the head causes soft brain tissue to bounce against the hard skull. That shakeup can damage brain cells, usually for just a short time.

Be on the lookout for the following:

  • A bump or bruise (contusion) on their head: This may appear oval and is sometimes referred to as a "goose egg." Some bumps can be very large, but they don't necessarily indicate a major injury.
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Sensitivity to light and noise

Moderate to Severe Head Injuries

Most head injuries to babies will not be severe, but it pays to be vigilant. Watch for:

  • Loss of consciousness, even for a second
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Large cut to the head (may require stitches)
  • Seizures
  • Paleness
  • A dilated pupil (dark circle in the centre of the eye appears larger in one eye than the other)
  • Drainage from the ears or nose (usually blood or clear fluid)
  • Inability to suck or nurse
  • A blank stare
  • Excessive crying
  • Problems with balance
  • Changes in their sleeping and waking patterns (for example, the baby is hard to wake up)
  • Bruises under the eyes and behind the ears (can signal a serious skull fracture)

When to Call 911

Call 911 immediately if your child:

  • Has a seizure
  • Loses consciousness
  • Vomits
  • Has profuse bleeding that can't be stopped after applying firm pressure for several minutes
  • Has discharge from the ears or nose
  • Has swelling/bruising along the head (this could indicate a skull fracture)
  • Has a swollen soft spot (the soft spot, or fontanelle, is the space between the plates in your baby's skull that fuse as they get older)
  • It is hard to wake up.
  • Does not move neck normally
  • Appears to act oddly or seems seriously hurt
  • Has a broken bone
  • Has breathing difficulties

Warning Signs of Serious Injury

Of course, a baby can't tell you that they have a headache or where it is (other than crying about it). So can you tell if your baby's head bump is something more serious?

Excessive Bleeding

If you cannot stop the bleeding from the bump by applying a few minutes of pressure, or if the injury is causing bleeding from other parts of the body, you are likely dealing with a more serious injury. If you see a large or wide break in the skin, your child might need stitches.

High-Impact Falls or Accidents

If your child took a very high-impact fall or was injured in a serious accident, they will likely need medical attention right away.

More Than Just a Head Bump

If other parts of your child's body are affected, especially the neck or spine, you are likely dealing with a more serious injury. Never move a child with a suspected spinal injury.

Change in Behavior

If your baby remains more fussy than usual, refusing food, vomiting excessively, seeming less coordinated, or continuing to seem lazy or just not themselves hours after the bump, these are causes for concern.

Unresponsive or Passed Out

Anytime your baby passes out or loses consciousness, it is an emergency. Seek immediate medical attention.

When to See a Doctor

what happens if baby hits head in crib

Most experts recommend calling your child's healthcare provider to check if your baby bumps their head, even with less serious bumps. It will be unnecessary to be seen by your doctor in most cases. For minor bumps, your doctor will explain what at-home care measures to take and when you might need to bring your baby in for evaluation.

The scenarios where your doctor might want to see your baby for an evaluation include changes in your baby's behaviour following a head bump or signs of infection at the site of the bump.

If you do bring your baby in to see your doctor, they will start by asking you a series of questions, including:

  • How did your baby bump their head, and when did the bump occur
  • What did the bump look like at the time it happened, and what other symptoms your baby had
  • If your baby has shown signs of extra fussiness, loss of consciousness, memory issues, vomiting, seizures, or extra sleepiness

Your doctor will also do a thorough examination of your baby. If your answers to any of these questions concern your doctor, or if the examination turns up any red flags, your doctor might recommend going to the hospital for further evaluation and imaging studies to assess for a more serious head injury.

Otherwise, your doctor will probably recommend a day or two of extra vigilance and discuss concerning signs to look out for.

Preventing Falls

Preventing falls involves using supervision and safety measures:

  • Never leave your child unattended in a bathtub or on an elevated surface such as a bed, changing table, or sofa.
  • Properly strap your baby into infant products like swings, strollers, high chairs, bouncy seats, etc.
  • Block off stairs with baby gates.
  • Don't place a baby in a child carrier or bouncy seat on a tabletop. When your baby is in them, keep them on the floor. 
  • Keep doors to decks and balconies locked. When the door is open, use a baby gate and make sure deck/balcony furniture is not up against a railing.
  • Lock windows or use window guards. Keep furniture away from windows so kids can't climb up to the window's edge.
  • Use a non-slip mat in the bathtub and ensure your child remains seated while being washed. 
  • Don't try to multitask, for example, carrying your baby and the laundry, groceries, etc., at the same time.
  • Always be mindful of your footing when you're carrying your baby. Many head injuries occur when babies are accidentally dropped from their caretakers' arms.
  • Anchor items like bookcases or dressers to the wall to prevent them from toppling should your baby try to climb on them.

To some extent, a bump to the head is a rite of passage for a baby, especially as they begin to explore their surroundings and try new things with their bodies. But, at the same time, there are some precautions all parents can take to minimise the risk of minor and major bumps to the head.

  • Always attend to your baby when they are on the changing table, bed, or any elevated surface.
  • Always use properly installed car seats and safety helmets.
  • Avoid baby walkers, which are known safety hazards and can cause falls.
  • Baby-proof your home before your baby even starts crawling. Put padding on sharp corners and remove any slippery items from the floor.
  • Never place your child's car seat on a shopping cart, and never place baby seats or car seats on elevated surfaces with your baby in them.


As your baby starts to roll, crawl, walk, and explore their environment, bumps on the head will come with the territory. But while head bumps in babies may be common, that doesn't mean they're not alarming. The vast majority (90%) of head injuries in children are minor.

But what about the 10% that aren't? Will you be able to recognise if your baby or toddler has a serious head injury and respond appropriately?

You're carrying your baby around the house, doing this and that. Then, as you turn a corner, your baby knocks its head against a swinging door. Or your four-month-old infant has just started to roll, and before you know it, they've rolled right into the leg of your coffee table, bumping their head. Or your newly-crawling little one takes off one morning and crawls head-first right into a wall.

These scenarios are all very common—we've all been there! Yet anytime a wee one bumps their head, it's common for parents to panic, at least a little. After all, sometimes these bumps and bruises can look rather alarming, and it's easy to worry that someone as small and fragile as a baby would be more susceptible to serious injury.


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