Should Crib Bumpers Be Banned?

These seemingly innocuous sleep accessories can be incredibly dangerous for your child and medical experts are calling for them to be pulled from the market.

Should Crib Bumpers Be Banned? FamVeld/Shutterstock

You'd never willingly expose your child to something that puts her life at risk—but if you use a crib bumper, you might be doing just that.

According to a recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics, there's been a spike in the instances of infants who have died while sleeping with crib bumpers: the numbers tripled between 2006 and 2012 as compared to other seven-year stretches in history. These statistics are alarming and they're prompting a discussion about whether or not crib bumpers should be banned altogether: HealthDay reported that the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics have come forward to warn consumers about the dangers of crib bumpers.

Experts have cited suffocation as the biggest risk associated with crib bumpers, explaining that a baby can be pinned up against the edge of the bumper. "The baby's breathing can get completely blocked, or the baby ends up breathing the same air in and out. This continuous re-breathing means that with every breath the air is increasingly depleted of oxygen, until eventually the baby suffocates," study author Bradley Thach, M.D., a professor emeritus of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis, told HealthDay.

Safer sleeping

Fit Pregnancy spoke with pediatrician Clare Bush, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, to get a bit more insight into how parents can keep their infants safe while sleeping.

"The safest way for infants to sleep is called the ABCs of sleep," Dr. Bush said. "'A' stands for the child should always be sleeping alone—they should never be sleeping with another adult or an older sibling. 'B' stands for back. The babies should always be placed on their backs when they sleep. Most incidences of SIDs happen in the first six months of life and that's because babies usually learn to roll over at around four to six months," she explained. "The 'C' of the ABCs is crib. Babies should only be sleeping in cribs—they shouldn't be sleeping on the sofa; they shouldn't be sleeping in an adult bed. The crib should not have bumpers, quilts, blankets, stuffed animals—just a tight, fitted sheet that goes on the crib mattress."

The problem with crib bumpers

But the thing that makes crib bumpers so dangerous is the fact that they seem so harmless. "There are a lot of reasons [why people still use crib bumpers]," Dr. Bush said. "When you look at magazines ads and catalogs for baby nurseries and decor, a lot of catalogs and whatnot still have the bumpers on the cribs. A lot of people can be fooled into thinking, 'oh, this looks so cute and the advertising is adorable so it must be safe,' which is not the case. I think a lot of it is the marketing."

Dr. Bush also mentioned that mothers might worry about their infants hitting their heads against the edges of the crib or getting caught in the crib's slats. "Actually there's been new guidelines for cribs so the slats of the cribs are actually closer together now than they were in years past. A lot of people think bumpers are for kids' safety but they're just not needed." Dr. Bush also mentioned that people haven't always been aware of how dangerous crib bumpers can be. "Be sure that as a parent you're telling everyone who takes care of your child how to safely sleep—whether they're spending the weekend at grandma's house or they're with a nanny or babysitter—making sure that baby is sleeping safely all the time is really important. A lot of times we forget that family members might not have that safe, empty crib that's safe for the baby. Make sure that every time the baby is sleeping, it's in a safe environment," she added.

"I don't think banning bumpers would hurt at all," Dr. Bush said. "I don't think there's really any need for them."

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