Crib bumpers were made obsolete a long time ago, once infants could no longer fit their head through the wider gap of the slats on older cribs. They continue to be popular, though, and are used by many new parents, often because they continue to be sold as a part of baby bedding sets.
But should you avoid crib bumpers?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says to avoid "pillow-like bumper pads."
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics used to say that "If bumper pads are used in cribs, they should be thin, firm, well secured, and not 'pillow-like,'" they now say that bumper pads are not recommended.
And even before they had a formal policy against the use of crib bumpers, there was advice on the AAP website that recommended that parents not use them because they are just decorative and may lead to rare, but preventable, deaths.
The AAP also warned that crib bumper pads should be removed once your baby begins to stand.
Dangers of Crib Bumper Pads
While the CPSC continues to investigate crib bumper pads, parents can decide if crib bumper pads are worth the risk. Originally designed to prevent babies from getting their head through the gap between crib slats, crib bumpers lost much of their real purpose when the crib safety regulations reduced the gap between slats in 1974.
Now they are purely decorative and are often sold as a part of crib bedding sets.
An article published in 2011 in Pediatrics, titled "Injuries Associated With Cribs, Playpens, and Bassinets Among Young Children in the US, 1990-2008," stated that "The use of crib bumper pads is strongly discouraged because the possibility for serious injury, including suffocation and strangulation, greatly outweighs any minor injury they may prevent."
Parents should also consider that a recent investigation by the Chicago Tribune suggests that deaths from crib bumper pads are likely under-reported.
Crib Bumper Safety
Why should crib bumpers be thin, firm, well secured, and not "pillow-like?"
If you do use crib bumpers, this can help to avoid the most common ways that crib bumper pads lead to injuries and death:
- strangulation by crib bumper pad ties
- suffocation against the crib bumper pads
- entrapment against the crib bumper pads and another object, such as the crib slats or crib mattress
Even these crib bumper safety tips won't prevent all injuries, as babies can get entrapped with a firm crib bumper, too.
Would a mesh crib bumper be a safer alternative to traditional crib bumpers? Most likely it would, but so would simply removing or never putting crib bumpers in your baby's crib in the first place.
Crib Bumpers - What You Need To Know
Making sure your baby's crib is safe is an important part of baby proofing your home.
Don't make your baby's crib less safe by adding an unsafe crib bumper to your baby's crib.
To recap, important things to know about crib bumpers include:
- The use of crib bumpers is now discouraged by most safety experts.
- If you do choose to use crib bumpers for decorative purposes, make sure that they are not pillow-like and that they are thin, firm, and well secured to your baby's crib.
- Be sure to remove crib bumpers once your baby is able to stand, so that he can't use them to help climb out of his crib.
- Many people think that deaths from crib bumpers are under-reported.
- The Canadian Paediatric Society and Health Canada have had a formal recommendation against using crib bumpers since 2004.
Parents should also keep in mind that crib bumpers are not thought to be needed to prevent serious injury from infants or toddlers getting their arms or legs caught between crib slats, which is one of the main reasons that they use crib bumpers in the first place.
American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. The Changing Concept of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Diagnostic Coding Shifts, Controversies Regarding the Sleeping Environment, and New Variables to Consider in Reducing Risk. Pediatrics 2005 116: 1245-1255.
Canadian Paediatric Society, Community Paediatrics Committee. Recommendations for safe sleeping environments for infants and children. Paediatr Child Health. 2004;9:659-663
Thach BT, Rutherford GW, Harris K. Deaths and injuries attributed to infant crib bumper pads. J Pediatr. 2007;151:271-274
Yeh, Elaine S. Injuries Associated With Cribs, Playpens, and Bassinets Among Young Children in the US, 1990-2008. Pediatrics, Mar 2011; 127: 479 - 486.