Sleep Safety: What You Should Know About Crib Bumpers

crib bumpersWhy you will want to leave crib bumpers OFF your baby registry.  Yes, even those “breathable” ones.

Crib bumpers are adorable. They make those showroom cribs seem like the most perfect, cushy, safe place to lay your precious child down for a long, bump-free slumber. But the truth is, crib bumpers are not only unnecessary and ineffective, but more importantly pose a serious threat to infants and toddlers. In fact, 27 children age 1 month to 2 years died from injuries related to bumpers between 1985 and 2005 according to one Journal of Pediatrics study. So why do we continue to see these products on showroom floors where they are purchased by well-meaning caregivers – only to be discovered it was not only waste of money, but actually something that should be thrown away (or sewn into a wonderful new Sound of Music-esque wardrobe if you’re very clever)? Let’s take a closer look at the reasons we buy in the first place.

  1. Myth: Crib bumpers prevent my child from bumping up against the crib slats and getting hurt.
    Many families choose crib bumpers actually thinking they are making the crib a safer place for baby. In fact, the exact opposite is true.  Babies of a certain age will roll around the crib, despite our best efforts to keep baby sleeping on her back.  This means she will inevitably encounter the sides of the crib from time to time.  And yes, without bumpers, your child is going to bump a bit harder than when sleeping in a crib with bumpers. But experts maintain it is nearly impossible for a baby to strike the side of the crib hard enough to become injured.  If that doesn’t convince you bumpers are an ineffective waste of money, consider the alternative. With bumpers, your child may bump lightly on the padding of the bumper, but may perhaps not have the power or motor skills to then move away from the padding leaving her hopelessly stuck with perhaps disastrous results. If you ask me, I’d much rather deal with a slightly bruised, crying baby, than even consider the alternative.
  2. Myth: Crib bumpers will keep my child from putting hands, arms, and feet between crib slats and getting injured.
    Bumpers were indeed initially introduced to help avoid this exact scenario. But this was during a time when cribs were built with slats much farther apart allowing arms, legs and even heads to fit between slats. Today, crib slats must be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart, which makes it just about impossible for heads and legs to get stuck. However, sometimes little arms and feet can get wedged between slats of a modern crib. From time to time, you’ll have to liberate tiny arms and feet from those de-bumpered spaces. But again, experts stress it is highly unlikely to cause an injury. Bottom line: choose a modern, up-to-date crib, forgoing heirloom cribs for this reason.
  3. Myth: “Breathable” mesh bumpers are a safe alternative to standard quilted versions.
    So-called “breathable” bumpers were introduced when experts became concerned about “rebreathing” – where the same air is being breathed over and over again depleting it of oxygen.  Mesh bumpers were designed to improve air flow throughout the crib inhibiting rebreathing and avoiding over-heating (a known SIDS risk).But even these seemingly safer bumpers are not recommended by experts. The American Academy of Pediatrics states, “Because there is no evidence that bumper pads or similar products that attach to crib slats or sides prevent injury in young infants and because there is the potential for suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation, these products are not recommended.” Mesh bumpers continue to present entanglement hazards when not installed correctly. More likely, once your baby begins reaching and pulling herself to her hands and knees (as early as age 5 months), bumpers can be used a step ladder for infants to accidentally launch themselves right out of the crib. Yikes!

Ultimately, crib bedding should be simple. Think: crib, mattress and mattress covering (well -fitting mattress pad and cotton sheet). And pretty much nothing else! Save your money and time on more useful and safe products like a great feeding chair and top-notch car seat.

And if all of this doesn’t convince you, I am certain you will change your mind when your child has a great, big messy accident in the middle of the night and you’re stuck detaching all those bumper ties in order to change a single bed sheet. An extra hassle nobody needs!

If you already have a darling set of bumpers, I hear they convert into very sweet window valances without much effort.

Other crib safety considerations:

Holly Smulski
Isis Parenting Safety Instructor


About Isis Parenting

Isis Parenting has a diverse team of staff experts in pregnancy, newborn care, safety, child development, breastfeeding, fitness and nutrition and more.

12 Responses to Sleep Safety: What You Should Know About Crib Bumpers
  1. Happymommyoftwo
    April 1, 2013 | 10:43 am

    I agree, it is not safe for parents to use crib bumpers. They have been banned in the state of Maryland and the city of Chicago. There have been several infant deaths due to suffocation by padded crib bumpers. I use Wonder Bumpers. They are vertical crib bumpers that are totally safe, I have done a lot of research on the this topic. Doctor recommened and scientically proven safe, prevent suffocation and entrapment,provide the only safe, padded protection your child needs, decrease rebreathing of carbon dioxide caused by other bumpers, and inhibit limbs from falling out. Hope this helps!

  2. Carin
    April 9, 2013 | 5:53 pm

    Very good information. Lucky me I ran across your website by chance
    (stumbleupon). I have book marked it for later!

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  5. Molly
    July 18, 2013 | 10:53 pm

    This new breathable crib mattress that is proven safer sleep for babies was featured on Fox News Health Watch:

  6. Alicia Browder
    August 25, 2013 | 8:57 pm

    Excellent pieces of information! It is really very important that parents should know about this. I am just so glad to have read this. I will take note of this information as I can use this when I already have a baby. I will also share this to my friend who just gave birth. Thanks for posting this.

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    September 1, 2013 | 2:00 pm

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    November 7, 2013 | 11:02 am

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    November 20, 2013 | 8:25 am

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  10. Rebecca
    December 3, 2013 | 7:21 am

    Hi, I’m a new parent and not sure what to do. I make sure my 6 1/2 month old is in her crib with just a mattress, mattress cover, and cotton fitted sheet as recommended. However, even though I put her on her back, she turns over like crazy in her sleep. She gets her feet in between the bars and then has trouble turning over. I found her crying face down at one point. I’m terrified she will do that in her sleep at night while we are all sleeping. Even though her crib is in our room, what if she doesn’t cry the next time? I know bumpers aren’t safe and neither are the mesh ones but I don’t know what to do. Any advice? Thank you!

  11. Phoenix
    December 3, 2013 | 10:46 am

    I’m confused… Only 27 deaths in 20 years? That’s really not an impressive statistic considering HOW MANY babies were born between 1985 and 2005. That’s barely over one death a year. If that was even in 10 years it still wouldn’t be compelling enough for me to be against using bumpers. Countless more babies die from disease, drowning, choking, etc. from everyday items and situations so I’ll continue to keep my bumpers on the crib. Nicely built, structured argument but the data does not convince me.

  12. Carol @ It's Baby Time
    January 15, 2014 | 2:36 pm

    Thanks for sharing this information on these crib bumper. So much controversy on bumpers. I don’t understand that if they are so bad why do they still sell them?

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