At first glance, crib bumpers seem like a great idea. Our newborns are precious, new, fragile tiny people. For first time parents, the idea of their baby rolling into a hard surface or sliding their tiny hand between crib slats sounds positively awful. Of course we’re drawn to surrounding them with something soft, cushy, and cozy instead!
Our instinct to protect and shelter these little loves is spot on. But unfortunately, crib bumpers have given health professionals plenty of reason to believe they may do more harm than good.
If they aren’t safe, then why do we have crib bumpers in the first place?
Crib bumpers were invented before the spacing of crib slats was regulated. Wide-spaced slats created a hazard for new babies, whose arms, legs, and even heads could become trapped between the wooden or metal bars. At the time, crib bumpers may have provided a necessary service, and provided a slightly safer alternative.
But today, spacing of crib slats is highly regulated. Federal law requires slats to be no more than 2 ⅜ inches apart - far too small for a newborn head to get caught. Which means crib bumpers, cute as they may be, no longer have a problem to solve, and can instead create problems of their own. According to the Journal of Pediatrics, crib bumpers contributed to 77 deaths between 1985 - 2022, either due to suffocation or to baby getting caught between the bumper and other objects or entangled in the strings used to attach the bumper to the crib.
Parents still have plenty of worries about bumperless cribs. What about baby rolling into the hard sides? Or baby’s hands or fingers getting stuck between slats? Health professionals almost universally agree that rolling head bumps or trapped arms are the better risk, as they are very unlikely to result in serious injury to baby. Rolling infants don’t gather much force, and the usual outcome of a trapped limb is a few frustrated tears. Compared to the suffocation risks that bumpers create, these smaller risks are very much worth taking.
Even the federal government has taken action to limit, and hopefully end, the use of padded crib bumpers. In May of 2022, the President signed into law the Safe Sleep for Babies Act of 2021, which names crib bumpers a banned hazardous product under the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA).
What about mesh bumpers?
Mesh bumpers are a popular alternative to padded crib bumpers, and aren’t restricted in the 2022 law. Mesh is marketed for its “breathability” and airflow qualities, keeping baby safe from suffocating while still claiming to solve the problem of trapped limbs. If you must use a bumper, mesh is the safest choice - but even mesh bumpers still create the risk of entanglement or getting caught between the bumper and mattress.
What does dadada Baby recommend?
Around here, we're big fans of bare cribs. Your baby’s safety is our number one priority, so all of our cribs meet and exceed the highest safety standards for spacing, construction and baby-safe finishes. We recommend using your crib with only a well-fitting crib mattress, a fitted sheet, and a sleepsack - nothing more.
We know nothing matters more than keeping your little one safe. That’s why we’ll continue to research, develop, and share the most up-to-date safety tips and practices we can find.
Together, we can provide the safest possible nurseries for the little ones we love the most.