Are Crib Bumper Pads Safe for Your Baby?

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Crib bumpers are still considered a common baby product, despite years of safety warnings. Parents often use these bumper pads thinking they are increasing the safety of their child's crib.

But, the warnings from safety agencies and advocacy groups are clear—crib bumpers are not safe. They pose risks for suffocation, strangulation, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Here's what you need to know about bumper pads.

What Are Crib Bumpers?

Crib bumper pads—which are often readily available and included in crib bedding sets—are cotton pads that go around the edge of the crib. Originally, they were developed to keep a baby's head from falling through the slats of the crib.

But, cribs today are designed with the slats closer together, so there's really no need for crib bumper pads any longer.

Yet, many parents opt to use them anyway because they like the way the bumper looks—especially if it matches the crib bedding set and makes for a nice coordinated nursery. Other parents opt for bumper pads because they are worried about their baby hitting their head on the side of the crib or extending their arms or legs through the slats and getting injured.

However, a serious injury is not likely to occur even if your baby puts their arms and legs through the crib slats. They will either remove their arm or leg from the slats or make enough noise to alert you for help. In fact, crib bumpers pose a greater risk to injury or even death than they do at preventing a few minor bumps.

Risks of Crib Bumper Pads

Using a crib bumper pad may put your baby at greater risk for suffocation, SIDS, strangulation, and even falls. Bumper pads also can reduce air flow, lead to rebreathing stale air, and cause overheating.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the agency responsible for product safety laws and bans, they "strongly believe that the risk of death from padded crib bumpers far outweighs any purported benefits."

Additionally, child safety organizations recommend against crib bumpers because they pose a risk of suffocation. Just like a pillow or thick blanket, crib bumper pads can restrict a baby's breathing if the bumper is up next to the baby's nose or mouth.

SIDS

Suffocation risk is greatest when babies are very young and unable to move themselves away from potential hazards like crib bumper pads. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) some infants are even unable to arouse themselves enough to prevent death when they are overheated or lack sufficient oxygen during sleep.

What's more, rebreathing stale air when wedged against a bumper pad could be a contributing factor to SIDS.

Although the official AAP policy statement on SIDS suggests that some babies are more prone to SIDS due to biological factors such as brainstem development or serotonin levels, the organization stresses that we cannot focus on only one potential cause of SIDS.

Because parents can't know ahead of time whether a baby is predisposed to SIDS due to biological reasons or not, it's important that they reduce all of the other environmental risk factors, including the use of crib bumpers.

Strangulation

A secondary risk with crib bumpers is strangulation. Babies can become entangled in the crib bumper or its ties, or can get between the bumper and the crib. What's more, a few crib bumpers have been recalled because the stitching or trim can come loose and cause injury.

In fact, a study from Washington University in St. Louis looked at infant deaths attributed to crib bumpers from 1985 to 2005 and found that 27 children under the age of 2 died due to strangulation or suffocation by bumper pads or their ties. The study also found another 25 children who were injured but not killed by bumper pads.

Falls

Often, parents do not remove the bumper pads once their baby can stand up in the crib. The bumper can provide a foothold that could allow your baby to climb out of the crib and fall. Toddlers also may use bumper pads to assist climbing out of crib, leading to falls and injury.

Remove Bumper Pads

Some major children's safety organizations have suggested that parents remove crib bumper pads from baby cribs. What's more, CPSC Commissioner Elliot Kaye called crib bumpers "deadly clutter" in our nation's cribs. This statement was released alongside an analysis of 107 fatal and 282 non-fatal incidents involving bumper pads. These incidents happened between 1990 and 2016.

Then, in March 2020 the CPSC announced that it's a proposing a federal ban on crib bumpers. Meanwhile, some states like Maryland and Ohio have already banned the sale of crib bumper pads while other states have legislation pending that would ban their sale.

Crib Bumper Alternatives

Because many infant safety organizations as well as the AAP recommend that nothing be inside the crib at all, the safest route for parents and babies is to remove crib bumper pads altogether. This recommendation also means that even breathable or mesh bumpers as well as slat covers should not be used either, according to the AAP.

There is no evidence that these various types of bumper pads and slat covers provide any type of benefit.

Meanwhile, if you are concerned that your baby might get cold in the middle of the night, don't be tempted to use a blanket or sheepskin. Instead, consider dressing your baby in a onesie and a sleep sack. You also should make sure that your baby's room is at a comfortable temperature.

Safe Sleep Practices

Each year, more than 3,500 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly while sleeping. Most of the time, these deaths are the result of SIDS, suffocation, or strangulation. Consequently, the AAP offers a number of recommendations on how to create a safe sleep environment. Here's what you need to know about implementing safe sleep practices.

  • Place your baby on their back to sleep. Regardless of whether you are putting your baby down for a nap or at night, they should sleep on their back until their first birthday. If they happen to roll over in the middle of the night, though, you don't have to move them.
  • Provide your baby with a firm sleep surface. Whether you're using a crib, bassinet, play yard, or portable crib, the mattress should be firm and tight-fitting with a fitted sheet that is designed specifically for that product.
  • Consider allowing your baby to sleep in your room. If possible, allow your baby to sleep in a crib or bassinet in your room for at least the first six months, but ideally for the first year of their life.
  • Resist the urge to share a bed with your baby. While you can bring your baby into your bed to feed or to comfort them, it's important that they sleep in their own bed. If you think there's a chance you could fall asleep, make sure there is nothing near you that could cover your baby's head like a sheet, comforter, or pillow.
  • Keep baby's crib or bassinet free of clutter. There should be nothing in your baby's crib with them. Avoid placing blankets, sheepskins, toys, books, and other objects in the crib with your baby.
  • Refrain from allowing your baby to sleep in a swing or infant carrier. If your baby happens to fall asleep in a car seat, swing, infant carrier, sling, or other product, move your baby to a firm sleep surface on their back as soon as you can.

A Word From Verywell

If you are currently using a crib bumper pad, you should remove it right away. These products, while cute, are not safe for your baby. When it comes to your baby's crib, they really don't need any extra stuff.

Your best bet for a safe sleep space is to choose a cute crib sheet, dress your baby in pajamas or a wearable blanket, and leave everything else out of the crib. Doing so will help prevent an accident while sleeping like suffocation, strangulation, or SIDS.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. CPSC fails to ban crib bumpers dangerous to infants.

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment

  3. Washington University in St. Louis. Hazards of using crib bumper pads outweigh their benefits.

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Report presents additional concerns about crib bumpers.

  5. Consumer Product Safety Commission. CPSC advances rulemaking on crib bumpers to protect infants; proposed rule would remove padded, pillow-like bumpers from the market.

  6. Kids in Danger. Ohio crib bumper ban goes into effect.

  7. American Academy of Pediatrics. How to keep your sleeping baby safe: AAP policy explained. Updated December 23, 2020

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