7 Crib Products to Avoid

Infant sleep positioners and crib bumpers are dangerous for babies

baby sleeping on back in crib

Emma Kim / 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, and infant sleep positioners are at the top of that list.

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 is now recommended that a baby’s sleeping space be clear of all of these. The only thing that should go in your baby's crib is a firm mattress and a tight-fitting crib sheet.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), infants should sleep alone, on their backs, in a crib with no other objects or crib extras. This helps lower the risk of sudden unexplained infant death, or SUID; sudden deaths of infants under the age of 1 often happen during sleep.

SUID and Safe Sleep

SUID, or sudden unexplained infant death, is a term used for any infant death under the age of 12 months that happens suddenly and isn’t immediately explainable. SUID can include sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, which is the death of a baby because of accidental suffocation while sleeping. Tragically, about 3,400 deaths a year are attributed to SUID.

Molly O'Shea, MD, a pediatrician at Birmingham Pediatrics Wellness Center in Michigan, says that experts are not sure the exact cause of SUID and SIDS. But issues with a baby’s breathing system may be part of the problem.

Molly O'Shea, MD

Research points to irregularities in the respiratory region of the brain. It may be that the cues for breathing get mixed up in certain situations and babies seem to 'forget' to breathe.

— Molly O'Shea, MD

"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. It’s also important that babies be put to sleep on their back at all times to reduce SIDS.

“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 the safest sleeping space for a baby is in an empty crib for the first 12 months of life, she says. Babies also are at higher risk for SIDS if they are exposed to tobacco smoke, or if 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.

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

Infant Sleep Positioners and Incliners

An infant sleep positioners is anything that is used to keep babies in a certain position in their crib or to create a “nest” around them. These definitely don’t belong in a baby’s crib, says Po-Chang Hsu, MD, a medical content expert at SleepingOcean.com. “Anything that may cause the baby to experience breathing difficulties is a no-go,” he explains.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns parents not to use sleep positioners, explaining that they increase a baby’s risk of suffocation and death. Most deaths from sleep positioners happen when babies roll 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.

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. 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.

Dr. Hsu says that a baby may become entangled in the strings that are used to tie a crib bumper to the crib. He 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.

Blankets

Many parents associate warm, soft blankets with babies and their sleeping spaces. Some receive beautiful, homemade blankets just for this purpose.

But 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 can cause suffocation or strangulation, and 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 says. “Keeping the ambient temperature around 68 degrees Fahrenheit and then dressing your baby in a onesie and PJs with a foot or a sleep sack will keep them warm.”

Other alternatives to blankets include wearable blankets, says Dr. Hsu. You can also consider dressing your baby in warm pajamas. Swaddling is also a possibility for young babies.

“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 [such as toys and small crib parts],” Dr. Hsu says.

You can use all the baby toys that you received when your baby is ready for playtime. These items also 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 or 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 old, says the AAP. But you should talk to your pediatrician about when your baby is 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 newborn or infant, it is very important to follow safe sleep guidelines.

While it may feel odd at first to put your baby down in a bare crib, you will get used to this practice; and your baby will be able to sleep just fine. Of course, if you have any questions about keeping your baby safe while they sleep, talk to your baby's pediatrician.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the safest sleeping position for babies?

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should follow the ABCs of safe sleep: Babies should sleep alone, on their back, and in their own crib or bassinet that is free of extras like blankets, bumpers, and stuffed animals.

    The AAP also recommends room-sharing with your baby until they are at least six months old, but ideally for the first year of their life. You also should not allow your baby to fall asleep on nursing pillows or place them on a soft surface like a couch or armchair.

  • Can SIDS be prevented?

    Because scientists and researchers still do not know what causes SIDS, there is no definitive way to prevent SIDS from occurring. That said, there are things you can do to reduce your baby's risk. These include using a firm sleep surface, keeping items like blankets and stuffed animals out of the crib, and putting your baby to sleep on their back. You also should avoid overheating your baby and smoking around them. Breastfeeding and sharing a room also can reduce the likelihood of SIDS.

  • What are the risk factors associated with SIDS?

    Although the exact cause is unknown, there are certain factors that can increase a baby's risk of SIDS. These include being between one and four months old, overheating during sleep, sleeping on a soft surface, being born premature, having a low birth weight, and having a sibling that died from SIDS. Additionally, SIDS is more likely to occur in the fall and winter months and in homes where babies are exposed to second-hand smoke.

7 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. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Do not use infant sleep positioners due to the risk of suffocation.

  6. American Academy of Pediatrics. Health alerts: Infant sleep positioners, bouncer seats, and more.

  7. Boston Children's Hospital. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Additional Reading

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.

Originally written by
Heather Corley
Heather Wootton Corley is a mother, freelance writer and certified Child Passenger Safety Technician-Instructor.
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