7 Crib Products to Avoid

Portrait of a newborn baby boy sleeping peacefully in his crib

AleksandarNakic / Getty Images  

As you plan your baby registry, you’ll probably notice that there are many products that promise to make your life with a baby a little easier. The problem is, not all of them are safe for your little one.

For example, while your parents may have padded your own baby crib with a cute bumper and filled it with stuffed animals and toys, it’s now recommended that a baby’s sleeping space be cleared of anything extraneous. Likewise, that sleep positioner that your BFF told you will guarantee a perfect night’s sleep? It isn’t recommended either.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), to protect against SUIDs and SIDS, infants should sleep on a firm surface with no other objects or crib “extras.” SUIDs and SIDS describe the sudden deaths of infants under the age of one, and most of these deaths happen during sleep, which is why these recommendations have emerged.

What Is SUIDs?

SUIDs, or sudden unexplained infant death, is a term used for any infant death under the age of 12 months that happens all of a sudden and isn’t immediately explainable. SIDS (sudden infant death) is characterized by the death of a baby because of accidental suffocation while sleeping, or from an unknown cause. Tragically, about 3400 babies a year die under these circumstances, according to the CDC.

Molly O'Shea, MD, a pediatrician at Birmingham Pediatrics Wellness Center, says that experts aren’t sure the exact cause of SUIDs and SIDS, but issues with a baby’s breathing system may be part of the problem.

“Research points to irregularities in the respiratory region of the brain,” says Dr. O’Shea. “It may be that the cues for breathing get mixed up in certain situations and babies seem to 'forget' to breathe.” She points out that this is all the more reason why a baby should not have anything in their sleeping space that could prevent their ability to breathe freely.

“Babies need free-flowing air to keep the respiratory center of the brain awake,” Dr. O’Shea says. Anything that may impede that will increase SIDS risk.” This is why doctors recommend that the safest sleeping space for a baby is in an empty crib for the first 12 months of life, she notes.

Besides sleeping in less safe sleeping spaces, babies are at higher risk for SIDS if they live in an environment where smoking is taking place, or their parents are drug or alcohol users. Babies who were premature or born at a low birth weight are also at higher risk of SIDS. It’s also important that babies be put to sleep on their back at all times to reduce SIDS.

Although the AAP recommends against sleeping with your baby in your bed, they do recommend keeping your baby in your room for the first 6 to 12 months of life so that you are aware of your baby’s movements and breathing.

Let’s take a look at how to make sure your baby’s sleeping space is as safe as possible, while also making sure your baby is cozy and sleeps well.

Crib Bumpers

The AAP advises against using crib bumpers, or any kind of padding over the bars of your baby’s crib, including vertical crib liners or mesh bumpers. Sadly, crib bumpers have led to the death of about 83 babies over the span of the past 30 years, according to the AAP.

A baby can become entrapped or suffocated by a crib bumper. Older babies may use a crib bumper as a means to try to climb out of the crib, which can result in injury, the AAP notes.

Additionally, says Po-Chang Hsu, MD, a medical content expert at SleepingOcean.com, a baby may become entangled in the strings that are used to tie a crib bumper to the crib. Dr. Hsu also recommends against using any clothing with drawstrings for your baby. Really, anything corded or strung should be kept out of the crib, he says.

Going without a crib bumper doesn’t mean that your baby will be harmed by the slats of the crib, says Rachel Mitchell, certified sleep specialist and founder of My Sweet Sleeper. But if your child has a tendency to bump their head against the crib slats, you have options.

“There are alternatives to traditional cribs, such as bassinets with mesh lining for younger infants, and pack n' plays for older infants,” says Mitchell.

Sleep Positioners and Incliners

Sleep positioners are anything that is used to keep babies in a certain position in their crib or to create a “nest” around them. These devices are one of the items that definitely don’t belong in a baby’s crib, says Dr. Hsu. “Anything that may cause the baby to experience breathing difficulties is a no-go,” he explains.

There have been several warnings put out about sleep positioners. The FDA has warned against these, explaining that these devices increase a baby’s risk of suffocation and death. The AAP explained that most of the deaths from sleep positioners happened when babies ended up rolling onto their bellies from a side position.

Sleep incliners or sleep wedges—which prop your baby’s head up—are also dangerous and should be avoided. According to the AAP, using a sleep incliner can cause a baby to sleep with their chin positioned toward their chest, and this can make breathing difficult. About 94 babies have died while using one of these devices.

Blankets

Many of us associate warm, soft blankets with babies and their sleeping spaces. Some of us are gifted with beautiful, homemade blankets just for this purpose. Unfortunately, while you can use a baby blanket to keep your baby warm while they are awake, you shouldn’t use one while they sleep.

Blankets not only cause suffocation or strangulation, but they can overheat your baby, which is also a risk factor for SIDS.

“Babies need to be cool rather than warm to minimize SIDS risk,” Dr. O’Shea notes. “Keeping the ambient temperature around 68 and then dressing your baby in a onesie and PJs with a foot or a sleep sack will keep them warm.”

In addition to sleep sacks, other alternatives to blankets include wearable blankets, says Dr. Hsu. You can also consider dressing your baby in warm pajamas, he offers. Swaddling is also a possibility.

“Some parents prefer swaddling, which can help keep the baby warm and help the little one sleep better,” says Dr. Hsu.

Pillows, Stuffed Animals, and Toys

Your baby’s crib should have one prized possession only: your baby. Nothing else should be placed inside the crib. “One of the ways to promote a safe sleep space is to keep the infant's sleep space bare and free of any types of loose objects or products,” says Mitchell.

This includes pillows, stuffed animals, baby dolls, or any other type of object or toy. Placing them in the corner of the crib isn’t good enough, either. “Parents should also watch small objects that may cause suffocation, even if those objects seem to be out of the baby’s reach (toys, small crib parts, etc.),” Dr. Hsu says.

You can use all the baby toys that you were gifted for when your baby is ready for playtime, and they can be placed in your child’s bed when they are a little older. The same is true of a pillow. It might seem strange for your baby not to sleep with a pillow, but they will be fine without one for now, and it’s a safer choice.

“As your baby grows and matures and the risk of SIDS decreases, you can start to introduce things like blankets, pillows, and loveys/stuffed animals, but until then all of these objects should remain out of the child's sleep space,” says Mitchell.

Usually, you can introduce toys, stuffed animals, and pillows in your baby’s sleeping space after your baby is about 12 months, says the AAP. You should talk to your pediatrician about when your baby will be developmentally able to handle pillows and objects in their sleeping space.

A Word From Verywell

If you grew up imagining your baby’s crib as a space filled with fluffy pillows, a soft crib bumper, and a handmade blanket, you may feel disappointed when you learn that none of these are safe for your baby. But when you are caring for a baby, it’s very important to follow the safety guidelines, no matter how odd they sound to you at first.

Don’t fret: you will get used to this, and your baby will be able to sleep just fine without all the extra whistles and bells. Of course, if you are unsure about these guidelines, or if you have any questions about keeping your baby safe while they sleep, please reach out to your pediatrician.

Originally written by
Heather Corley
Heather Wootton Corley is a mother, freelance writer and certified Child Passenger Safety Technician-Instructor.
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6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Inclined sleepers and other baby registry items to avoid.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About SUID and SIDS.

  3. Cedars Sinai Hospital. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. How to keep your sleeping baby safe: AAP policy explained.

  5. United States Food and Drug Administration. Do not use infant sleep positioners due to the risk of suffocation.

  6. Korioth T. Health Alerts: Infant sleep positioners, bouncer seats, and more. AAP News.

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