Borchardt Consulting

Bumper Pads Safety Alert

Posted on: August 12, 2011

Bumper pads are a baby product found commonly in the infant crib. Parents often use bumper pads thinking they are increasing the safety of their child’s crib.  Borchardt Consulting and many other organizations are recommending that parents skip the crib bumper. There is no longer a need for bumpers in the crib and in fact,  using these products may actually put children at greater risk for suffocation or death.  

Bumpers are Purely Decorative

Why Do We Use Crib Bumper Pads?
For cribs built prior to 1974, the slats were far enough apart that a baby’s head could become trapped between the slats, posing a suffocation risk. Today, all cribs sold in the United States and Canada are required to have slats that are 2 3/8” apart – close enough together that it’s nearly impossible for an infant’s head to fit through.

Most parents today are unaware of the original reason that bumpers were originally designed.  Further, since bumpers no longer have to fulfill the roll of “fence” to keep infants in the crib, the current design of bumpers is much thicker and fluffier than bumpers sold prior to the change in crib regulations. 

Some parents simply like the way the bumper pad looks. The matched crib bedding sets in stores are often cute and the package deal makes for a nice coordinated nursery.   Some think that the crib looks barren and cold without the softness of bumpers. 

Many parents are worried about their child’s arms and legs sticking through the crib sides, and some worry that the baby will hit his or her head on the crib sides and cause injury. It is nearly impossible for an infant to hit his or her head hard enough on the crib to cause bruising or injury. Also, serious injury is not likely when a child puts his or her arms or legs through the crib slats. The baby will either remove their arm or leg from the slats, or make enough noise to alert a parent for help.  If the baby is inclined to put arms or legs through the slats, the baby’s face is perilously close to or smashed into the bumpers causing a significant suffocation risk.

Expert Support Against Bumper Pads
In addition to Borchardt Consulting, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Kids in Danger, the National Center for Health and Safety in Child Care, and Health Canada all recommend against using bumpers in the crib.  In fact, in August 2005, the Canadian Government issued a warning to parents about the use of bumper pads in cribs because they pose an entanglement, entrapment, strangulation and suffocation hazard to infants.

Why Are Bumper Pads Still On the Market?
Simply, they make money.  Don’t assume that all products that are marketed for the infant’s nursery are safe.  One reason child safety organizations recommend against crib bumpers is that they pose a risk of suffocation. Just like a pillow or quilt, crib bumper pads can restrict the flow of fresh air if the bumper is up next to the baby’s nose or mouth. Remember, babies cannot push away or move away from an obstruction. 

Re-breathing of air is a concern with crib bumper pads. Research suggests that some infants when they are overheated or lack sufficient oxygen during sleep, are unable to arouse themselves enough to prevent death. The AAP states that re-breathing of air may in fact be a contributing factor to SIDS.

Childcare Licensing
Because the childcare environment is regulated in Illinois, we have been successful in having Bumper Pads as well as quilts, comforters, pillows, stuffed animals, rolls and wedges removed from the infant sleep environment.  Experts recommend that nothing be inside the crib at except a fitted sheet and baby. Many other states have also mandated the providers no longer use soft bedding such as bumper pads.

What’s a Parent to do?

For parents who are still concerned about their child sticking arms and legs through the crib slats or loosing pacifiers, consider a mesh sided crib or pack and play.   There are new mesh crib bumpers being sold that are much thinner; however, while those may not be as soft and fluffy as traditional bumpers, they are still not recommended. 


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