If crib bumpers pose grave dangers to babies, why can parents still buy them at any baby store?

baby sleeping on back with arms spread
Credit: NChoochat/Shutterstock

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has long recommended that babies sleep in a crib with a firm mattress that's free of soft bedding, bumpers, and pillows or stuffed animals. A recent policy statement released in late October reaffirmed the importance of these guidelines, which are meant to help reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths.

However, according to an AAP press release, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has failed to ban the sale of padded crib bumpers, although the group issued a warning to parents about the products' hazards, including the potential for suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation.

The agency said in a statement: "We strongly warn parents and caregivers not to use padded crib bumpers.... We strongly believe that the risk of death from padded crib bumpers far outweighs any purported benefits. When it comes to any child's safe sleep environment, bare really is best."

It's indeed puzzling given these words that the CPSC chose not to outright ban bumpers; instead, it has placed the onus on parents to keep babies safe. The agency plans to review a performance standard for crib bumpers in 2018—two years from now! The AAP and several other child-advocacy groups strongly condemn this decision.

"Urging parents not to purchase crib bumpers while allowing them to remain on the market is confusing, and inappropriately places the burden of safety on parents while needlessly exposing infants to risk of death," said AAP President Benard Dreyer, MD, FAAP. "Parents tell us that 'if they sell them, they must be safe.' Pediatricians and child health advocates will continue to call on the CPSC to protect infants by banning these dangerous products that serve no child health benefit."

I've always found it interesting that when you go into a baby store, you'll see cribs set up with decorative, thickly-padded bumpers that look beautiful, but you know you can't use them! As Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, said, "The statement released is a step forward, but in the real world, doesn't change much. Expectant or new parents shopping online or in stores will have no knowledge of this statement—only what they see in front of them on store shelves."

Added William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumers Union, "What kind of message does it send to consumers when these dangerous products are still on store shelves? It's time for them to go."

The bottom line: Don't use crib bumpers. They are unsafe. Here are more sleep safety tips from the AAP:

  • Place babies on their back to sleep, every time, until 1 year of age.
  • Place babies to sleep in a crib or bassinet with a firm mattress covered by a fitted sheet, and with no other bedding or soft objects.
  • Only bring baby into your bed for feeding or comfort.
  • Never place baby on a sofa, couch, or cushioned chair to sleep alone, or with you.

What is your reaction to the CPSC's decision not to ban the sale of crib bumpers?

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.