Cribs

Are Crib Bumpers Safe?

Sandra W Bullock

This website is reader-supported. When you click on links, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Are mesh crib bumpers safe? What about other types of crib bumpers? This article provides a comprehensive guide that explains the reasons behind the ban on crib bumpers and offers advice on ensuring your baby’s safety. As a parent, nothing is more distressing than the realization that a safety product intended to protect your little one can cause harm instead.

When I realized the possibility of suffocation risk crib bumper:

Watching my own baby made me truly grasp the risks and dangers associated with padded crib bumpers.

Babies inevitably go through a curious phase where they eagerly explore their surroundings, reaching out for anything they can get their little hands on. When I had my firstborn, I also went through some learning phases as my boy explored things with his little finger. I learned a lot seeing him evolve during his ‘curiosity period’. I often prayed that his tiny arms would get stuck in the crib bars.

As he grew and started exploring his surroundings, his curiosity expanded. With joy, he eagerly reached out to touch and manipulate everything within his grasp. Even the slightest hint of a bumper would captivate his attention, as he tirelessly attempted to dislodge it. I couldn’t help but notice the potential hazards that loose velcro, strings, or knots posed, as he delicately examined them with his tiny hands.

Of course, I was supervising him as I wanted to get some insight with my own observation, but I could watch how he at times struggled to untangle the loose strings of bumpers that are securely attached to the crib rails.

It was then I realized how a baby can easily get their face and neck caught in the strings, resulting in suffocation.

Learning that infants can suffocate when they sleep in a crib with bumper pads, whether they have mesh sides or not, was a nerve-wracking realization. In 2010, both Preston, who was 8 weeks old, and Aiden tragically suffocated due to the presence of bumper pads in their cribs.

What is a crib bumper?

A crib bumper pad is a thin, cotton fabric that lines the inside of a baby’s crib. They are mostly available or included in crib bedding sets. It is intended to act as a barrier between the baby and the hard wooden slats of the crib and keep the baby’s head or head from getting hurt by the wooden slats of the crib. Mesh crib bumpers are made from breathable mesh material and are marketed as a safer alternative to traditional padded crib bumpers.

Older cribs had wider slat spacing, making it easier for a baby’s head to become stuck between them. However, newer cribs have stricter safety standards and now have narrower slats that prevent this from happening. Therefore, crib bumpers are no longer necessary for the safety of infants.

Some parents choose to use bumper pads for aesthetic reasons, coordinating with the crib bedding set. Others use them out of concern for their baby’s safety, preventing head injuries or limb entrapment in the crib slats.

A serious injury is unlikely if a baby puts their arms or legs through the crib slats. They will either remove them or make enough noise to alert for help. Crib bumpers pose a greater risk than preventing minor bumps.

What are crib bumper statistics deaths?

Multiple studies have highlighted the dangers of using padded crib bumpers. Research conducted by Kathleen Harris et al in 2007 found 27 cases of infant death associated with bumper pads or similarly padded bassinets between 1985 and 2005. Another study published in Pediatrics reported 77 deaths possibly linked to bumpers from 1983 to 2012. A comprehensive study by the CPSC revealed a shocking 113 infant deaths connected to padded crib bumpers between 1990 and 2019.

On average, the death rate of infants associated with crib bumpers ranges from 1.4 to 4.1 per year, as indicated by the three research statistics.

The varying statistics are explained by varying periods that the researchers covered. However, all studies agree on one crucial fact – crib bumpers pose a significant risk to infants and can lead to fatalities. Key risks that caused the deaths include suffocation, strangulation and entrapment

Are crib bumpers safe?

According to the AAP, it is strongly advised against using crib bumpers in infants’ cribs, regardless of the type or timing. Whether they are made of mesh, padded, or foam materials, all crib bumpers are considered potential suffocation hazards and must be avoided at all costs. Infants lack the necessary motor skills and strength to reposition their heads if they roll into a bumper, which could obstruct their breathing. Even if the bumper is constructed with “breathable mesh,” it still poses a significant risk. It is crucial to prioritize the safety and well-being of infants by refraining from using crib bumpers altogether.

Bumpers were initially designed to prevent infant limbs from getting caught in the slats of a crib. However, studies show that babies do not have enough strength or coordination to generate enough force to cause harm. The risk of suffocation and entrapment far outweighs the potential benefits of using bumper pads.

How are crib bumpers dangerous?

Using crib bumper pads can increase the risk of suffocation, SIDS, strangulation, falls, reduced air flow, rebreathing stale air, and overheating. These pads are also potential hazards as they can act as ladders in assisting infants to climb out of their cribs, leading to serious falls.

How do crib bumpers affect sleep?

Not only are crib bumpers a safety hazard, but they can also negatively impact an infant’s quality of sleep. Infants require a firm, flat surface for safe and sound sleep. Using padded or soft materials in their cribs can lead to suffocation or rebreathing of stale air, which can disrupt their sleep patterns and potentially lead to SIDS.

Experts’ opinion:

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), bumper pads are not recommended for infant cribs. The AAP states that “the only thing a crib needs is a firm, tight-fitting mattress and a fitted sheet.” They also mention that the use of bumper pads has not shown to prevent injuries in infants. In fact, they can even increase the risk of injury or death. Additionally, the AAP recommends keeping soft objects and loose bedding out of infants’ sleep environments to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Dr. Fern Hauck, a pediatrician and SIDS researcher at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, also agrees with the AAP’s stance on crib bumpers. She states that “there is no scientific evidence to support the use of bumper pads and there is potential for harm.” She also stresses the importance of creating a safe sleep environment for infants by following the AAP’s recommendations.

Risks of Crib Bumpers:

SIDs:

Studies show that crib bumpers can increase the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The extra padding in bumper pads makes it easier for an infant’s face to get pressed against it, reducing air flow and increasing the risk of suffocation.

To ensure the safety of infants and reduce the risk of suffocation and SIDS, it is recommended that they sleep on a firm surface such as a safety-approved crib with a fitted sheet. Soft or loose bedding should be avoided as it can increase the chance of rebreathing or suffocation. A firm surface maintains its shape and reduces the risk of indentations that could pose a suffocation hazard if the infant rolls over onto their stomach.

AAP recommendation on sleep surface to avoid crib bumper deaths

Strangulation:

Bumper pads can have long ties or ribbons that can become entangled with an infant’s neck, leading to strangulation. Soft padding used in bumper pads pose a suffocation risk for infants who are unable to turn their heads away from the material or move if they become wedged between the pad and the crib.

Between 1985 and 2012, there were a total of 48 suffocations caused by bumpers. Interestingly, 67% of these cases were attributed solely to bumpers, rather than clutter, while the remaining 33% occurred due to wedging between a bumper and another object. In 146 instances, infants were nearly choked or suffocated as per the Study here

Falls:

Another risk associated with crib bumpers is the possibility of falls. As infants grow and become more active, they may use bumper pads as a stepping stool to climb out of their cribs. This can lead to serious injuries such as broken bones or head trauma.

GoodHouseKeeping interviewed Amanda Vickers, MS, RN, CPNP, a mom and pediatric nurse practitioner with Hazel Health who revealed that “the most common injury associated with crib are falls,” and that “toddlers can use bumper pads to assist with climbing out of a crib, increasing the risk of head injury or concussion related to a fall.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there have been reported cases where infants have used bumper pads to climb out of their cribs, resulting in falls and injuries. The AAP recommends against using any kind of soft bedding or bumper pads in cribs to prevent these types of accidents.

Crib Bumper Alternatives:

Given the potential risks associated with traditional crib bumpers, many parents are opting for safer alternatives. These include:

  1. Mesh Crib Liners: These are made of breathable mesh fabric and offer the same decorative appeal as traditional bumpers without the risk of suffocation or entrapment.
  2. Vertical Crib Liners: Similar to mesh crib liners, these are made of breathable fabrics but have a vertical design that prevents infants from getting their limbs stuck between crib slats.
  3. Nothing at all: The safest option is to forego any kind of bedding or bumper pads in the crib altogether. A firm, tight-fitting mattress with a fitted sheet is all that is needed for safe sleep.

Read our reviews of our best crib bumper alternatives.

Safe Sleep Guidelines:

  1. Always place infants to sleep on their backs in a crib or bassinet that meets current safety standards.
  2. Use a firm, tight-fitting mattress without any gaps around the edges.
  3. Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib, including pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, and bumper pads.
  4. Consider using a wearable blanket or sleep sack instead of loose blankets to keep the baby warm.
  5. Make sure the crib is free from any potential hazards such as cords, strings, or wires.
  6. Regularly check and tighten crib hardware to ensure it remains stable and secure.
  7. Use a safety-approved crib with slats no more than 2-3/8 inches apart to prevent entrapment and strangulation risks.
  8. Do not put any kind of mattress on top of a play yard, bassinet, or crib for extra cushioning as it increases suffocation and entrapment risks.
  9. Make sure to follow all the manufacturer’s instructions while setting up the crib and using it with your baby.

Crib bumpers are still being sold right until the ban in 2020:

Despite studies from as far back as the early 2000s, there were no Federal guidelines or restrictions on the sales of crib bumpers. As long as no laws are preventing the sale, manufacturers will continue to produce these potentially dangerous products. In 2020, The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) finally ruled that traditional crib bumpers posed an “unreasonable risk” to infants and banned their sales. However, many retailers and online markets continue to sell them, despite the ban.

FAQs

Are crib bumpers necessary?

In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised its safe sleep guidelines to strongly advise against the use of crib bumpers. Citing a 2007 study, the AAP states that there is no evidence to support the notion that bumper pads prevent injuries. On the contrary, there are potential risks of suffocation, strangulation, or entrapment associated with their use.

why are crib bumpers not safe?

Crib bumpers are unsafe because studies including AAP’s 2007 study found that “There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation, or entrapment.”

Are crib bumpers illegal?

The Safe Sleep for Babies Act (SSBA) not only forbids the sale of inclined sleepers for infants and crib bumpers, but also prohibits the manufacturing, distribution, and importation of these products into the United States. These regulations are in accordance with the statute that became effective on November 12, 2022. Read more on CPSC website here.

While SSBA may not go from US home to home enforcing the 2020 ban on crib bumpers, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is encouraging local and state authorities to promote and enforce compliance with crib bumper regulations. Additionally, retailers are urged to remove any remaining inventory from their shelves and discontinue sales of crib bumpers.

If you purchased a crib bumper before the 2022 ban, it is crucial to discontinue its use immediately. To prevent any accidental usage by babies, consider repurposing it as a filling for an adult pillow. This ensures the safety of infants while making efficient use of the bumper. Don’t leave it in your baby’s nursery or close to the crib or bassinet regardless of the age of your baby. It is a risk for infants from a few months in age to 12 months old, to 5 years old.

When were crib bumpers banned?

The SSBA’s statutory ban of crib bumpers went into effect on November 12, 2022. While the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) generally requires that the effective date of a rule be at least 30 days after publication of the final rule, SSBA recommended that the crib bumpers ban take effect after 180 days. President Joe Biden signed the Safe Sleep for Babies Act of 2021 (SSBA) in May 17 and exactly 180 days later, crib bumpers became banned on November 12, 2022. You can find more information on the Federal Register.

Which crib bumpers are safe?

According to the AAP, crib bumpers of any type should never be used. While they may appear to offer protection from drafts and bumps, there is no evidence that they can prevent serious injuries. Instead, bumper pads pose significant risks of suffocation, strangulation, or entrapment. It is crucial to prioritize the safety of babies in their cribs and avoid the use of crib bumpers altogether.

Why are crib bumpers still being sold?

Despite the SSBA law banning the sale and distribution of crib bumpers in the United States, two brands were found being sold on Amazon in 2023. In March, Meiling Hou crib bumpers were recalled by CPSC for being sold and shipped to the U.S. In December, CPSC warned parents to immediately stop using Karriw crib bumpers, sold exclusively on Amazon by Lucky_00, due to the suffocation hazard they pose to infants.

You can read CPSC warning for Karriw Crib Bumpers and can read the CPSC recall of the Meiling Hou brand here.

It’s important to be aware that certain unscrupulous retailers may employ terminology like “Mesh Liners” with the intention of misleading consumers.

What's the difference between crib bumpers and mesh liners?

Image of mesh liner

Unlike crib bumpers, mesh liners are a safe alternative. They consist of a single layer of mesh(non-padded), making them thin and highly permeable. On the other hand, padded crib bumpers are composed of multiple layers of different fabrics, which are thick and pose a suffocation risk.

Below is an image of a mesh liner available on Amazon;

Are crib bumpers breathable?

No, crib bumpers are not breathable. This is due to their thick padding, which restricts air flow and poses a suffocation risk to infants. On the other hand, mesh liners are highly breathable due to their thin and permeable material.
The suffocation risk from crib bumpers is concerning enough that in 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a recommendation to ban them.

Sources:

  1. Crib Bumpers Study