Crib Bumpers: Are They Safe? Everything You Need To Know

Last Updated On: 

May 1, 2019

If you’re looking into crib bumpers, you’ve come to the right place–but before you start daydreaming of color choices and cutesy designs, it’s important to understand the safety concerns they present, and why doctors now recommend against them.

Don’t feel stupid if you’ve been wondering about whether or not you should get one for your nursery.

Many parents still recommend crib bumpers to each other nowadays, and you might have had someone you know and trust swear by their effectiveness to you.

In times gone by, crib bumpers were a common and popular addition for any infant’s bed. You might have even had one when you were a baby!

Unfortunately, medical research now reveals the risks that crib bumpers pose, and it turns out that they’re really not a good idea after all.

Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about crib bumpers.

What Are Crib Bumpers?

Crib bumpers are the thick padding that you may have previously seen lining the inside of a baby’s crib.

They would attach to the sides of the crib, essentially creating a soft and cozy-looking sleeping shell for your child. The most common way to attach the crib bumper would be to tie it onto the crib’s slats.

Crib bumpers were once an accepted–and often expected–part of the nursery essentials. In fact, this was so much the case, to the extent that infant bedding would often even come with a crib bumper as part of the set.

Why Did People Use Crib Bumpers In The Past?

Despite their current dangers, which we’ll be talking about in just a second, crib bumpers were designed with good intentions in mind.

For example, it was planned for crib bumpers to help:

  • Stop your baby’s arms and legs from falling through the crib slats.
  • Reduce the risk of baby getting their head stuck between the bars.
  • Prevent them from bumping themselves on the hard surface.

The thing is, cribs these days are made to very stringent safety specifications. Therefore, the risks of a baby getting their head stuck or falling through the slats is pretty small.

As for the fear of your little one hurting themselves on the crib by banging their head–many doctors agree that an infant really wouldn’t be strong enough to thump themselves on the crib hard enough to injure themselves anyway.

Why Aren’t Crib Bumpers Safe?

Crib bumpers might look harmless, but research shows that they’re not safe for babies and should be avoided.

According to infant sleeping guidelines provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics, your child’s crib should be bare. They recommend against the use of soft bedding, toys, pillows and yep, you guessed it–crib bumpers.

And no, they’re not just being a Nervous Nellie about the whole thing!

In 2007 The Journal of Pediatrics did a study and found that 27 accidental deaths had been caused by bumper pads, due to things like suffocation and choking.

Their findings included horrible instances of infants being found with their faces pressed against the bumper, wedged between the bumper and other objects like mattresses or bedding, and sometimes discovered with the bumper tie wrapped around the child’s neck.

You can check out the following FOX 4 news story below to learn more about these safety issues.

Ultimately, crib bumpers represent an unnecessary threat to your child, one that can be easily eliminated by not using them.

What About “Breathable” Bumpers (e.g. Mesh Crib Bumpers)?

If you’re determined to get a crib bumper for your child and can’t be influenced otherwise for whatever reason, then mesh crib bumpers are probably one of the better options available.

These crib bumpers are safer than the traditional style of padding because they’re made from thin, lightweight mesh that is designed to be “breathable”.

The idea behind this design is that even if baby is pushed against the lining, there would be less risk of suffocation.

With that being said, it should be made very clear that a mesh crib bumper is still technically a crib bumper, so…they’re probably still not the best of ideas.

How Safe Are Mesh Bumpers Really?

From what we can see, no specific statements have been made around alternative crib bumper designs (such as mesh bumpers) by health authorities.

But if you ask Sheree Young, a Registered Nurse, the warning against crib bumpers also extends to the ‘breathable mesh’ ones, which she believes are still risky.

So, are they a better option than traditional padding? Yes. However, the better question to ask is: are they safe enough to warrant using? Possibly not.

It’s important to remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics do stand by their recommendation of a ‘bare crib’, and this means removing any item from the crib that could cause harm.

They warn against crib bumpers, and mesh bumpers could very well fit into that category.

Despite the clever “breathable” design of things like mesh bumpers, they are still an extra ingredient added into your child’s sleeping environment, and accidents can still happen.

However, some retailers still sell them nowadays, and some parents still use them.

Ultimately, it will be up to you as a parent to assess the risks with products like these, and decide whether any added benefit is worth it.

What Safe Alternatives Are There To Crib Bumpers?

Some parents have found that baby sleeping sacks (also known as baby sleeping bags) are a great alternative to crib bumpers.

They’re essentially a wearable sack, with little holes that baby’s arms can stick through.

Aside from being a great way to keep baby warm and snug, baby sleeping sacks keep the child’s legs safely contained. They can still wriggle to get comfortable, but they won’t get their legs caught in the sides of the crib.

They’re also very useful if you’re worried about blankets or sheets getting caught around your little one’s face. When your baby’s in a sleeping sack, you shouldn’t need extra bedding, and the sack is designed not to cover the face at all.

Most importantly, they’re considered safe by health authorities such as Riley Children’s Health, who recommend them for babies less than one year old.

Wrapping It Up

Next time your grandma asks why she can’t knit you a nice crib bumper just like she had done in the good old days, you now know about all the risks you need to inform her about.

(Not that we’re saying it’s going to be easy convincing her about any of this–good luck with that!).

In fact, also tell your friends and colleagues who are expecting all about the risks associated with using crib bumpers.

It’s not so long ago that crib bumpers were “a thing”, and lots of people still don’t know about the new sleeping guidelines today–so, feel free to shout it from the rooftops.

Oh, and if grandma really wants to be helpful, just ask her to bake you a giant cake instead–you’ll definitely be needing one of those!

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