7 Unsafe Sleep Products To Keep Out of the Crib

You want to create a cozy sleeping environment for your baby, but certain products increase their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Read about seven products to keep out of your baby's crib.

New parents will do just about anything to encourage their babies to sleep soundly. And while you might be tempted to surround them with cozy blankets and stuffed animals, placing any product inside a baby's crib can create an unsafe sleeping condition.

"Babies are safest when they are asleep on their back, in their own safe sleep space (crib or bassinet) without any toys, blankets, or pillows," says Elizabeth Murray, D.O., a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and a pediatrician at Golisano Children's Hospital at the University of Rochester. That's because babies can roll onto or into an object and not be able to roll back off—a serious suffocation risk.

According to experts, you should even avoid products that claim to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). "Honestly, if there was a product out there that could reduce SIDS, pediatricians would be singing its praises," Dr. Murray says. The sad truth is that SIDS deaths don't always have an explanation, and sometimes, they happen when parents do everything correctly. That said, Dr. Murray notes, "Unsafe sleep deaths are almost completely preventable."

The AAP recommends the following to reduce the risk of sleep-related deaths:

  • Placing babies on their backs to sleep
  • Using a firm, flat, non-inclined surface
  • Avoiding seats (like car seats, strollers, and swings) for sleep
  • Breastfeeding
  • Pacifier use
  • Keeping up to date on vaccines
  • Room sharing (but not bed-sharing) for at least the first 6 months
  • Avoiding nicotine, alcohol, and recreational drugs
  • Avoiding products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS
  • Supervised, awake tummy time
  • Discontinuing swaddling when baby attempts to roll over (usually around 3-4 months)
Parent checking on sleeping baby
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Read on for seven unsafe sleep products to keep out of your baby's crib to prevent blocked airflow, which could lead to suffocation and SIDS.

1. Loose Sheets or Blankets

While a clean, tightly fitted sheet is fine to put on a crib or bassinet mattress, you should avoid placing loose sheets or blankets in your baby's crib. "Newborns and young infants can suffocate even with a simple sheet being placed over their face," Dr. Murray says. "Combine this with their lack of head control and consistent ability to control their hands and roll, and you can see why objects in the crib could be dangerous." Instead, choose a wearable blanket or sleep sack to keep them toasty.

2. Pillows

Babies don't need pillows to sleep, and they do nothing more than present a suffocation hazard. "As they become a toddler but are still in a crib, you can add a small pillow or blanket if needed, but honestly, most don't need them until they move into a bed," Dr. Murray says.

3. Stuffed Animals or Toys

Those fluffy stuffed animals may look sweet, but they can be a genuine danger to your baby if kept in their crib. So stash the stuffed animals somewhere else, and don't put them into the crib until your little one has complete control of their head and body.

"As they approach one year old and can fully roll and pull to a stand, a small stuffed animal or lovey is likely safe," Dr. Murray says. Likewise, pacifiers are safe for infants in a crib at any age but skip the ones with stuffed animals attached unless you closely monitor their sleep.

4. Crib Tents

Crib tents can keep your little one secure in their crib while warding off unwanted visitors (like pets or insects). But while they're sometimes promoted as safety devices, they're not helpful or necessary for young babies, who might become dangerously entangled in the product.

Infant deaths and injuries have occurred with crib tents. In 2012, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced five retailers voluntarily recalled crib tents and play yard tents due to strangulation and entrapment hazards.

5. Crib Bumpers

Crib bumpers are fabric pads designed to line the inside of a baby's crib. These widely available products claim to protect your little one from knocking into the hard side of the crib or slipping through the slats.

But the thing is, modern cribs are designed with tighter slats to avoid that very thing. Furthermore, in 2022 the national Safe Sleep for Babies Act of 2021 was signed into law, prohibiting the manufacture or sale of crib bumpers. "We know that babies do not get hurt by the railings of a crib, and so crib bumpers are just not necessary," Dr. Murray says.

6. Sleep Positioners and Wedges

Often promoted as "anti-roll" products that sometimes even claim to reduce the risk of SIDS or reflux, sleep experts have flatly rejected sleep positioners. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) puts it bluntly: "Do not use infant sleep positioners due to the risk of suffocation."

Tragically, babies have died after rolling over while using these products; their heads can become trapped in the soft fabric. The FDA has never approved a sleep positioner claiming to prevent SIDS.

7. Bedside Sleepers

A bedside sleeper is a bassinet with a retractable side designed to sit beside your bed, allowing easy access during nighttime feedings. If they truly represent their own sleep space —meaning adult covers cannot accidentally cover the infant—they may be OK, Dr. Murray says.

However, infants have become entrapped between an adult bed and the bedside sleepers. Some have also suffocated when parents or bedding rolled onto them. So, federal law requires bedside sleepers to comply with specific standards and requirements, including:

  • Meeting American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) requirements for safe sleep environments (including protection against suffocation, stability, small parts, pinching, shearing, folding, loading, side height, and sharp edges)
  • Preventing safety hazards when used in other modes or configurations
  • Having a minimum side height on the lowered side
  • Having a product disengagement to prevent entrapment
  • Having fabric-sided, enclosed openings
  • Having accessories that prevent suffocation and entrapments
  • Include safety warnings

Even so, Dr. Murray notes, "They likely offer little additional benefit in ease of caring for your baby over a bassinet next to the parent's bed. This is important as we know bassinets are safe for young infants."

The Bottom Line

When it comes to your baby's sleep environment, it's always better to be safe than sorry. So heed this advice from the AAP: Keep any items that could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation, or strangulation out of your baby's crib. These include pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, or bumper pads. In addition, remember that the AAP advises flat surfaces for sleep, so avoid wedges, positioners, and specialized sleep surfaces.

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