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Are Crib Bumpers Safe For Your Baby? | What The Experts Say

baby in crib with crib bumbers

As soon as you have a little one, so much of your energy (and money) goes toward keeping them safe. Those instincts kick in quickly! Crib bumpers are one of the baby products on the market that can be confusing.

Are they actually safe for your baby?

If you’re trying to decide if a crib bumper is a necessity in your baby’s nursery, you’re in the right place. We’ll take a look at exactly what crib bumpers are, what they’re meant to accomplish, and whether or not they’re safe for your little one.

What Are Crib Bumpers?

Crib with a crib bumber

It’s a wild world out there when it comes to all of the baby products on the market! It can be hard to know what’s what, if an item is safe, and what to put on your registry.

Crib bumpers are one of those things you’ve probably seen but might not know much about. So what exactly are they?

Crib bumpers are pillow-like walls that sit in or attach to the inside of a baby crib and go around the entirety of the crib.

The idea is that they provide a cushion so your baby won’t hit their head on the slats and a protective wall to keep your baby from getting an arm or leg stuck in-between the slats.

What’s The Difference Between Crib Bumpers And Crib Liners?

If you’re confused about the difference between crib bumpers and crib liners, it’s with good reason. They’re very similar.

Bumpers create a barrier that keeps your baby from touching (or getting stuck in) the slats. They usually sit inside the crib or attach to the slats, and they’re more fluffy and pillow-like than crib liners.

 

baby sleeping in crib with crib liner

Crib liners, on the other hand, are slimmer and made of thin fabric (sometimes mesh) that stands between the mattress and the crib slats. These are usually attached to the outside of the crib with ribbon or string.

Are Crib Bumpers Safe For My Baby?

mom with baby sleeping in crib

These contraptions known as crib bumpers seem like a great idea, right? You can’t bear to think of your little one accidentally hitting their head on the slats of the crib or getting one of their tiny legs stuck in the cracks.

However, your baby bumping their head or getting a limb stuck might not be as much of a concern as you think.

First of all, around 50 years ago, crib regulations changed, making cribs much safer. Now, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends no more than 2 3/8 inches between crib slats.

With that sort of gap, your baby’s head has no chance of getting stuck.

This is one reason it’s a good idea to buy a new crib rather than a used one — you’ll be more certain that it’s up to current safety standards. You can even bring your own measuring tape along when shopping for a crib.

Secondly, even if they’re moving around in their sleep, your little one isn’t likely to hit their head with much force.

And your baby bumping their head on the crib or getting a limb stuck isn’t likely to be life-threatening, but there are some pretty significant cons to a crib bumper.

Crib bumpers seem beneficial in theory, but upon closer look, they can actually do more harm than good. It turns out that the potential cons of bumpers outweigh the pros.

Why? Let’s take a look at the risks.

Risks Of Crib Bumpers

baby asleep in crib

The problem with crib bumpers is there’s not a lot of evidence that they do what they’re supposed to do, and the risks are pretty concerning.

1) Increased Risk Of Suffocation

One serious concern with crib bumpers is that they can make it difficult for your baby to breathe if they turn so that their face is against the bumper or between the bumper and the mattress.

To decrease the risk of suffocation, put your baby to sleep on a breathable mattress. That way, if they roll over in the middle of the night, they can breathe straight through the mattress.

The other way to decrease the risk of suffocation is to skip the crib bumper altogether. However, suffocation isn’t even the greatest risk that crib bumpers pose. That brings us to our next point.

2) Increased Risk Of Strangulation Or Entrapment

Even more than the possibility of your baby having a hard time breathing, crib bumpers are risky because your little one could become trapped or get a piece of the bumper (like a tie) wrapped around their neck.

With a bumper in their crib, your baby could become stuck between it and the mattress or between it and the crib slats. Additionally, the fabric, strings, or ties of the bumper could wrap around your baby’s neck or another part of their body.

Bad news.

3) Increased Chance Of Falling Out Of Bed

Once your little one gets into the climbing phase, having a bumper in their crib is kind of like them having a small stepladder in their crib. If that sounds like a bad idea, it’s because it is!

Your baby might get creative and use the crib bumper to give them a boost as they try to climb out of the crib. And, of course, the risk of them attempting to climb out of the crib is that they could fall and injure themselves.

baby standing in crib with out crib bumpers

What About Breathable Crib Bumpers And Liners?

You might be wondering if a breathable bumper or liner would do the trick, providing benefits without posing a risk for suffocation. The answer? It’s still not worth the risk.

While breathability is important when it comes to your baby’s crib mattress and sheets, a mesh or breathable crib bumper or liner still doesn’t cut it.

Remember, the biggest concern with these products isn’t necessarily suffocation. Instead, it’s entrapment, strangulation, and falling.

Skip the crib bumper (and liner!) and focus on buying a breathable crib mattress for your little one. The Newton Baby Crib Mattress is both 100% breathable and 100% washable, making it safe for your baby and easy to keep clean!

The Newton Baby Crib Mattress

Plus, our mattresses are Greenguard Gold Certified certified for low chemical emissions. Even better when it comes to safe sleep for your baby!

Why Are Crib Bumpers Still Sold?

If at this point in the article you’re wondering why crib bumpers are still being sold, we’re asking the same question.

However, some states in the United States have already banned selling crib bumpers, and there are plenty of warnings about them.

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) specifically recommends not putting a crib bumper or liner in your baby’s bed. In fact, they recommend a bare crib. No toys, no pillows, no blankets, no bumpers.

That brings us to our next, and final, point. If it’s not safe to put your baby to sleep with a crib bumper, what is OK for them to sleep with and how can you decorate the nursery in a safe way?

What Should Go In My Baby’s Crib?

baby sleeping in crib

This is an easy question to answer! For safe sleep, three things should go in your baby’s crib: a breathable crib mattress, a fitted sheet, and your little one. That’s it! Simple, right?

1) A Breathable Crib Mattress

For the first several months, your baby will spend the majority of their time sleeping! For that reason, you’ll want to make sure that their mattress is both safe and comfortable.

Opt for a firm mattress (soft, fluffy mattresses are not safe for little ones!) that allows your baby to breathe straight through it. You’ll also want one that won’t off-gas toxic chemicals into the air your baby breathes.

Made with a Wovenaire® Core (90% air and 10% food-grade polymer), our Crib Mattress is breathable, which means not only safety for your baby and peace of mind for you but also no more sweaty backs. This is one easy baby registry decision!

The Newton Baby Crib Mattress is also certified for low chemical emissions, going beyond the highest industry emissions safety standards to help improve indoor air quality.

We made the natural viscose cover using a chemical-free approach that still meets federal flammability standards. If that’s not enough, this is the only crib mattress out there that’s washable from cover to core!

It’s not only made without foam, glue, latex, or springs, but it’s also simple to wash so you can provide your baby with a clean, hypoallergenic sleep surface.

Learn more about how to wash your Newton Baby mattress here!

2) A Fitted Sheet

Newton baby fitted sheets
Bumpers might look nice, but there are other ways to make the crib cute without putting your baby in danger. Go with adorable crib sheets and nothing more.

Give your baby comfort and breathability with Newton Baby’s Organic Cotton Sheets. Choose from four fun prints to add a special touch to their crib without sacrificing safety.

These sheets aren’t just cute; they’re also 100% breathable, which means they provide superior airflow (just like our mattresses) to keep your baby safe and comfortable while they sleep.

And we’ve outfitted these sheets with all-around elastic to guarantee a secure and snug fit for any crib mattress.

3) Your Baby

Other than a crib mattress and fitted sheet, the only thing left to put in the crib is your precious baby!

If you’re wondering how your little one will stay warm, the best option is using a swaddle (for newborns) or sleep sack. It’s not considered safe sleep to put your baby to bed with a blanket or a top sheet.

Wrap your little newborn in a swaddle to keep them cozy and calm their startle reflex as well. Just be sure to stop swaddling your baby before they start rolling over on their own. At that point, turn to a sleep sack to help your baby stay warm at night.

The good news is that swaddles are multi-purpose and you can continue using them long after your newborn outgrows them. Newton Baby’s Organic Swaddle Blankets are made with breathable cotton that helps keep your baby at the perfect temperature to avoid overheating.

Plus, the 100% organic muslin cotton is certified to the Global Organic Textile Standards and soft on your baby’s delicate skin.

Once your baby outgrows swaddling, put these blankets to use as a changing pad, stroller cover, burp cloth, nursing cover, or light blanket.

 Older siblings looking down at baby in crib with crib bumpers

That’s it! That’s all that should go in your baby’s crib. As far as the rest of the nursery, feel free to decorate to your heart’s content!

Since the discussion on crib bumpers has everything to do with keeping your baby safe while they sleep, before we wrap up, we’d like to share a few other basics for making your baby’s crib a safe place for them to rest.

Other Tips For Safe Sleep

Choose A Safe Crib

We’ve talked about what to put (and not put) inside of your baby’s crib. But it’s worth mentioning a few things to consider when choosing the crib itself.

First, you’ll need to decide if you want to purchase a bassinet, mini crib, or standard-sized crib.

A bassinet is convenient because of its small size, which makes it easier for your baby to sleep in the same room as you. The drawback is that your baby will outgrow it within a few months.

If you decide to skip the bassinet and go straight for the crib, you’ll just need to choose between a mini or standard crib and think about the following.

Crib Slats

Part of the idea behind crib bumpers is that they keep your baby well away from the crib slats and any limb entanglement. As we mentioned, the idea might be good, but crib bumpers aren’t worth it for the extra risks that they pose.

Instead, simply ensure that the crib slats are no wider than two and three-eighths inches apart. If they are any wider than that, there’s a risk of your baby getting a body part stuck in-between the slats.

Bring your measuring tape when you go crib shopping, just to be 100% sure!

New Versus Used

While opting for hand-me-downs is a great idea for clothes and other baby items, a crib is something you may want to consider buying new.

As we mentioned, a new crib helps ensure that it is up to current safety standards. Plus, a used crib might appear to be in good condition but have loose or missing pieces.

When you’re in the market for a new crib, look for one that is Juvenile Products Manufacturers Associated-certified (JPMA).

Assembly

With your chosen crib in hand, all that’s left to do is put it together! If you want, you can get a professional to do the assembly. Or do it yourself. Just be sure that you follow the instructions carefully and inspect the crib thoroughly after.

Be on the lookout for any sharp edges, loose pieces, screws that are sticking out, or any pieces that could catch on your baby’s clothing. And be sure that it’s sturdy. Don’t be afraid to give it a little shake.

Mattress Fit

Once the crib is assembled and ready to go, check the fit of the mattress inside the crib. The mattress should fit snugly without any big gaps between it and the sides of the crib.

You’ll know the gap is too big if you can fit two fingers between the crib frame and the mattress.

For tips on how to choose the right crib mattress size, read our article here.

 Mom setting up crib with crib bumpers

We just talked about a few ways to look out for your baby’s safety before your little one even makes their appearance in the world! Now, we’ll look at four sleep safety tips to help you rest easy when you put your baby in their crib to sleep.

Practice Safe Sleep

Share Your Room

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your baby sleep in your room for at least the first six months of their life and ideally the first year. This is called room-sharing.

That said, keep in mind that how long you room-share is a personal decision for each family, and your lifestyle and family dynamics will affect your decision.

Don’t Share Your Bed

While room-sharing is recommended, sharing your bed with your baby (known as co-sleeping) is not considered safe.

Put your baby’s bassinet or crib in your room near your bed so that they’ll be close enough for you to keep an eye on and feed easily but you won’t run any of the risks associated with co-sleeping.

Put Your Baby On Their Back

While your baby needs tummy time during their waking hours, when you put them down for a nap or bedtime, they should not be on their back, not their side or tummy.

What about when your baby’s tiny muscles grow and they’ve learned how to roll over without help? You should still start them off on their back for bedtime and naptime, but if they roll over while they’re sleeping, there’s no need to fret or go back in to turn them over.

For peace of mind with a rolling baby, be sure you have a breathable mattress, like Newton Baby’s Crib Mattress. That way, they can breathe straight through it if they roll over in the middle of the night.

Or, if you already have your crib mattress, make any mattress breathable with our Greenguard Gold Certified Waterproof Crib Mattress Pad.

 Newton baby waterproof crib mattress pad

Made with two layers of breathe-thru spacer material quilted together, this mattress pad adds ⅜ inch of air circulation to the surface of the mattress to add a layer of breathability and comfort.

And it’s not only breathable, but it’s also waterproof! The waterproof, breathable fabric lining protects the mattress from leaks, moisture, and mold.

It comes in standard crib size as well as twin size, and it has mitered corners that provide stretch for a tight, secure fit!

Give A Pacifier

While it might come as a surprise, giving a pacifier at bedtime is another safe sleep guideline. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends allowing your baby to use a pacifier while they sleep.

Just know that this is not a hard and fast rule. First of all, if you’re breastfeeding your little one, wait to offer a bedtime (or naptime) binky until they are around one month old. This allows them to really get the hang of nursing.

Secondly, your baby might not want a pacifier. It could be as simple as that! There’s no need to force a pacifier if your baby doesn’t feel like taking it.

Lastly, if you put your baby down with a pacifier but notice that it slipped out of their mouth later, you don’t need to worry about putting it back in their mouth.

If your baby likes the idea of a bedtime pacifier, choose one that’s the right size for your baby and has no straps (which can be a safety hazard for snoozing babes). Also, check the pacifier frequently for loose parts.

Skip The Crib Bumper

baby in crib without crib bumpers

The bottom line is that crib bumpers just aren’t the best choice when it comes to crib safety. They pose a significant risk to your baby’s well-being and may not even be effective in doing what they claim to do.

Instead of lining your baby’s bed with a bumper or liner, keep it simple and safe with a breathable mattress, like Newton Baby’s Crib Mattress, and a fitted sheet.

That’s all you need to keep your little one safe while they snooze the night away!

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