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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Firm mattress (read more Crib Mattress Safety Tips)
- Keep them away from windows and window covering cords
- No drop sides (read 5 Safety Tips for Parents with Drop Side Cribs)
- Ensure good airflow and cool sleeping temperature
- No toys, blankets or pillows
Isis Parenting Safety Instructor