Just Say No to Crib Bumpers
They’re pretty. They’re fun. They enhance the look of your baby’s room. Yet I respectfully request that you refrain from indulging in crib bumpers, also known as “bumper pads” used in infants’ cribs.
True confession: All seven Lightman children luxuriated in cribs festooned with bumpers. The youngest Lightman was born in 2003, two years before the 2005 recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) against bumpers. Cleaning the attic recently, my wife found and destroyed the beloved bumpers and bagged them for their final destination — the dump. There’s no way we would endanger other babies.
Intuitively, crib bumpers feel like a way to protect babies from injuries. In reality, a safe crib without bumpers is the best way to go because bumpers increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS); stay tuned for future posts here as to what to look for when purchasing a crib.
A Brief History
1992: AAP recommends babies sleep on their backs
By way of background, in 1992 the AAP released guidelines that all babies be placed on their backs to sleep. The result: Deaths from SIDS decreased. Such deaths have plateaued in recent years, while sleep-related deaths from other causes including suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia, have increased.
2005: AAP recommends against the use of crib bumpers
The AAP’s updated recommendations expanded the guidelines on safe sleep and SIDS prevention for babies. The guidelines state that crib bumpers carry a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment, because infants lack the motor skills or strength to turn their heads should they roll into something that obstructs their breathing.
Dr. Rachel Moon of the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, and chairperson of the AAP SIDS Task Force explains that, in 2005 there were concerns about crib bumpers but much evidence of a real problem.
“Since then,” Dr. Moon says, “there have been some published studies looking at bumper pads, and we concluded that if there’s no reason for them to be in the crib, it’s better to just have them out of there, particularly in light of the deaths that have been reported, that have been associated with the bumper pads.”
2007: CPSC concludes bumpers can cause death
In the September 2007 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, results from a study of crib and bassinet bumpers were announced. Based on information from a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted from 1985-2005, the study showed reports from medical examiners and coroners of 27 accidental deaths of children ages 1 month to 2 years. These deaths were attributed to suffocation because babies were wedged against a padded bumper or strangled by a bumper tie around the neck. This study stated, “These findings suggest that crib and bassinet bumpers are dangerous…Because bumpers can cause death, we conclude that they should not be used.”
2011: CPSC and FDA warns parents about infant sleep positioners
Numerous reports by news agencies and consumer advocates against bumpers followed, including a January 2011 article in the Chicago Tribune that delineated the dangers of bumpers. The same article also reported that, since 2008 the federally funded National Center for Child Death Review received 14 reports of infant suffocation in which a bumper was relevant in the death.
In response, the Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association (JPMA) asserted that other factors like babies sleeping on their stomachs or a crib filled with pillows might have been a factor in those deaths instead of the bumpers. In reaction to this and other news reports and consumer advocates, the CPSC announced it would take a closer look at crib bumpers. Subsequently, both the CPSC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned parents of the dangers of infant sleep positioners, some of which had been marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS, but had in fact caused up to a dozen suffocation deaths of babies in about as many years.
With these facts, why are many parents still using bumpers?
Bumpers were first designed to cover the space between crib slats so babies couldn’t fall out or get their heads, arms or legs stuck between the bars. Regulations changed in the 1970s and now slats can be no more than 2-3/8 inches apart. Safety-wise, while it is possible for a baby to get an arm or a leg stuck between crib slats, it’s virtually impossible to break a limb by doing so: The experience will be uncomfortable and upsetting until a caregiver arrives, but it will not life-threatening.
Further, parents buy bumpers because they think they’re supposed to. Walk into most baby furniture stores and you’ll see shelves laden with attractive bedding for the crib – and many are sets which come with bumpers. After all, a bumper set lends the crib a finished look and that can be hard to resist.
The best way for a baby to sleep is on his/her back, alone in a crib that has a fitted sheet on the mattress.
There should be no soft objects or loose bedding, as they pose hazards.
Further reading on SIDS can be found on Healthy Children the news feed of American Academy of Pediatrics.
I urge you put the bumpers in the garbage or leave them on the stores’ shelves. Knowing that your baby sleeps on his/her back in a crib with a fitted sheet only should give you the peace of mind to sleep well at night.
As always, reach out with questions to Dr. Lightman’s Team here.
As always, Daven