One of the most exciting decisions expectant parents get to make is the decorating scheme for their baby’s nursery. With so many darling bedding sets looking impossibly cute in the floor-display cribs, if pregnancy isn’t already making your head spin, the number of choices will. So is it really fair to force you to say “no” to the most alluring bedding piece of all: the so-adorable-you-could-just-cry crib bumper? And all because of a controversial, not to mention depressing, safety hazard? Well . . . maybe. Unfortunately, there are more questions than answers when it comes to the hotly debated issue of whether or not crib bumpers pose a danger to infants. Advocates for bumpers believe pads increase babies’ safety, while opponents feel they pose a suffocation threat serious enough to ban them outright. The following takes an objective look at the risks and benefits of crib bumpers and provides a set of guidelines for their use, should you decide to use one in your baby’s crib.
The Anti-Bumper-Pad Camp
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it couldn’t be any easier to avoid the hazard of crib bumpers: simply don’t put one in your baby’s crib. Initially, the anti-bumper camp considered only pillow-like bumpers dangerous, but the new recommendations implicate all bumpers, regardless of their design. In fact, the AAP and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urge caregivers to keep cribs entirely empty. Their new slogan, “Bare Is Best”, means no blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, or soft bedding of any kind. The CPSC attributes at least 27 suffocation deaths in a 10-year period to bumper pads, beginning in 1995. The anti-bumper coalition has been so successful with their campaign that in September 2011, Chicago became the first city in the country to ban the sale of crib bumpers, citing their suspected links to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The Pro-Bumper-Pad Camp
Despite the experts’ warnings, many parents worry more about babies injuring themselves by getting an arm or a leg caught in the crib slats and potentially breaking a limb. This camp believes crib bumpers help protect babies. Mommyblogger Kerry, author of Velocicrafter, shares this story about removing her son’s bumpers after reading the AAP’s warnings:
“Not twenty minutes after placing Kol in his crib that night, a blood-curdling scream came from his nursery. We entered to find his leg had been completely wedged between the bars of his crib. He was trapped up to the top of his thigh, and he was unable to move. . . An hour later, the experience repeated itself . . . I have experimented with every position I could think of to keep Kol from getting stuck, to no avail. In those three days, I have had to come and remove an arm or a leg from a pinched, painful position eight times. Last night I put the bumpers back up.”
Baby product makers are fighting Chicago’s bumper ban. As Mike Dwyer, executive director for the largest group of baby product makers in the US, says: “Banning safe products . . . may actually encourage the unsafe use of products not specifically intended for baby,” namely parents using adult pillows to prevent babies getting their limbs trapped between the crib slats. The industry as a whole agrees, believing studies showing bumpers are to blame for infant deaths are flawed. The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association commissioned its own study and found it was often unclear what led to a baby’s death, as there were often other things crowded in cribs like pillows or soft toys.
Colleen Diskin of NorthJersey.com offers the following bedding advice from consumer-, safety-, physician-, and industry-organizations:
- Consider going completely bare, with nothing but a tight-fitting bottom sheet.
- Don’t put soft, fluffy pillows, stuffed toys, or loose bedding into baby’s crib.
- If a light blanket is needed, tuck it tightly underneath one end of the mattress, then tightly under each side. Place babies beneath the tucked blanket only up to their armpits.
- In colder weather, do not use a heavy crib blanket or comforter. Consider a wearable sleep sack, such as HALO’s SleepSack.
- If you do buy bumpers, avoid pillow-like ones. Instead choose one made of firmer, thinner material, like the BreathableBaby Crib Shield.
- Check if the bumper manufacturer follows the voluntary industry standard for Infant Bedding and Related Accessories.
- Carefully follow directions for securing bumpers to crib.
- If bumpers are not purchased new, log onto saferproducts.gov to see if they’ve been recalled. Make sure ties and padding material aren’t worn or damaged.
- Remove bumpers as soon as baby is able to sit or pull up on bars to prevent him from using it as a boost out of the crib.
USA Baby believes following these commonsense guidelines will keep your baby safe if you choose to buy and use a crib bumper. On the other hand, we respect parents’ rights to decide for themselves whether to follow the advice of the AAP, the CPSC, their pediatrician, and most of all their own gut instincts. With a controversy this confusing, feel free to contact your local USA Baby to ask questions to any of our helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable staff.