Crib bumpers are meant to protect newborn babies from hitting their head on the sides of the crib and prevent their limbs from becoming trapped in between the slats. However, they actually do more harm than good. In fact, many experts advise against using crib bumpers as a way to protect your child.
While they may seem relatively harmless, crib bumpers actually increase the risk of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome. Between 1990 and 2016, a staggering 107 fatal accidents were directly connected to crib bumpers, with an additional 282 nonfatal incidents. These numbers have nearly doubled, if not tripled, in the years since.
Fortunately, there are safer alternatives to crib bumpers that parents can turn to. If you’re still set on using crib bumpers, the mesh variety should be the only way to go. However, mesh crib bumpers aren’t the only alternatives out there, some other crib bumper alternatives you can choose from include vertical bumper pads, rail covers, baby sleeping bags, and more!
Table of Contents
- What Are Crib Bumpers?
- Why Are Crib Bumpers Unsafe?
- Alternatives to Crib Bumpers
- 1. Mesh Crib Liner
- 2. Vertical Crib Liners
- 3. Braided Crib Bumpers
- 4. Crib Rail Covers
- 5. Baby Sleeping Bags
What Are Crib Bumpers?
The reason that crib bumpers were developed were to prevent baby’s limbs from getting stuck in the crib slats or possibly bumping their head on the hard wooden pieces. However, many health agencies actually claim that there is no evidence that crib bumpers will prevent injuries.
If your baby does happen to get stuck in the crib’s slats, they will either attempt to remove their leg or arm themselves, or make enough noise to get your attention. Therefore, theoretically speaking, there really isn’t a need for crib bumpers.
But, as a parent, I’m sure you’d rather not be awoken multiple times in the middle of the night because your baby rolled over too aggressively, hit their head, and are now screaming. Or, what if you’ve discovered that your baby’s limbs are trapped in the rails, which has left their face firmly planted into the mattress?
These are incredibly valid concerns, and often why some parents still choose to use crib bumpers, despite the dangers. Ultimately, only you, as a parent, can decide what’s best for your child. Though, in order to make an informed decision, you understand exactly why crib bumpers are considered to be unsafe by many health organizations across the world.
Why Are Crib Bumpers Unsafe?
In recent studies, the annual rate of crib bumper-related deaths has nearly tripled the numbers that were collected between 1990 and 2016. These deaths were caused by entrapment, strangulation, or suffocation.
Since the material of crib bumpers is not breathable, babies can suffocate if their face is too close to the pads. Also, it’s possible for their head to get stuck between the mattress and the pad, also leading to suffocation. Finally, the strings that are used to secure the bumper to the crib can untie and lead to strangulation. These examples are enough to keep most parents far away from crib bumpers.
However, if that’s not enough evidence as to why crib bumpers are unsafe, Dr. Edward Kulich from The Baby Sleep Doctor, asserts that crib bumpers must “absolutely not” be available to consumers. He provides three reasons as to why he strongly recommends that parents use an alternative to crib bumpers:
- Babies do not roll until they reach between 3 and 4 months old. Therefore, it’s very unlikely that they’ll even be able to generate enough force to injure themselves on the unprotected crib rails.
- Prior to 4 to 9 months old, infants are at a high risk of rolling face-first into a bumper – a material that is essentially the same as a pillow. During this time, babies are at a major risk of suffocation.
- After babies reach the 9- or 10-month mark, most of them can lift themselves up to a standing position and use the bumper as an extra step. This can cause them to fall out of the crib and injure themselves.
It’s understandable for many parents to worry about their baby’s arm or leg getting trapped in the rails of their crib. However, crib bumpers can lead to severe issues and carry major risks that should not be ignored.
Alternatives to Crib Bumpers
While there are some parents who still choose to use conventional crib bumpers, there are safer options that should be strongly considered. Safe alternatives to traditional crib bumpers have been developed in recent years to address the many concerns associated with crib bumpers. That way, there’s no reason for already sleep-deprived parents to be losing any more sleep over the safety of their child.
Let’s take a look at five alternatives to crib bumpers available on the market for you to choose from.
1. Mesh Crib Liner
When it comes to crib bumper alternatives, mesh crib liners are often the most popular choice. They are considerably safer than their solid counterparts, fulfilling essentially the same purpose as crib bumpers. Like traditional crib bumpers, mesh liners prevent arms and legs from getting trapped between crib slats.
However, unlike crib bumpers, mesh crib liners are made of a breathable fabric that reduces the risk of suffocation. The mesh material they are made of allow for oxygen to pass through.
The design of mesh crib liners allows you to enjoy the benefits of crib bumpers, without many of the associated dangers. You won’t have to worry so much about your baby getting harmed or possibly suffocating with this alternative. While it’s always possible for something to wrong when using a mesh crib liner, it is highly unlikely.
However, it’s important to mention that the mesh material isn’t as thick as conventional crib bumpers. While this diminishes the risk of suffocation, it means that mesh crib liners are not going to serve as a cushion if your child has a habit of hitting the rails of their crib.
Mesh crib liners perform a very simple function – preventing your baby from becoming stuck between the crib’s railing. Therefore, they are not designed to prevent the infant from harming themselves if they are to bump into the rails.
Pros of Mesh Crib Liners
- Safety: Like anything, it’s important to listen to the experts and mesh crib liners are recommended by both the AAP and the CPSC. They assert that placing as few objects as possible in a child’s crib is the safest scenario. Traditional crib bumpers pose a real threat that mesh liners remedy with their breathable material.
- Price: Mesh liners are made up of much simpler materials than crib bumpers. As a result, they are often available for under $25.
- Practicality: Unlike crib bumpers, mesh liners can be adjusted to fit any crib perfectly.
- No loose parts: The way that mesh liners are installed allows for no loose parts or gaps. It creates a cushioning, breathable surface that is entirely safe even if an infant pushes on it.
- Lets light in: In addition to being breathable, mesh fabrics also allow light in. This can be very important if your child tends to spend a lot of time in their crib during the daytime. They create a very warm, calming atmosphere, which can be enhanced based on the color you purchase.
Cons of Mesh Crib Liners
- Won’t soften the blow: Unlike crib bumpers, mesh crib liners are not going to soften the blow if the child bumps their head on the crib. Instead, the primary purpose is to prevent the child from getting stuck in the rails.
2. Vertical Crib Liners
The reason why many parents are still attached to the conventional crib bumpers is to protect their babies from dangling limbs and unexpected head bangs. Vertical crib liners offer a bit of a different approach to the original idea behind crib bumpers. Instead of lining the entire crib in large, unbreathable pads, these vertical crib liners attach to only the rails.
By attaching a bumper to each individual crib rail, the rail gaps are not blocked. This offers breathability that does not come with traditional crib bumpers, while still providing a soft landing for bumps and bangs.
While your baby’s limbs could still become trapped in between the vertical liners, it’s very unlikely. The pads are spaced out to allow some room between each rail, but not enough to pose an issue for your child.
If you’re concerned about your child bumping their head on the crib, but also want to ensure that there’s no risk of suffocating on their crib bumper, vertical crib liners may be the way to go. They allow for plenty of airflow in and out of the crib, while shielding all of the hard surfaces in a soft material.
You can find vertical crib liners in a soft, almost furry material or, if you prefer, they’re also available in 100% cotton varieties.
Pros of Vertical Crib Liners
- Easy to install: Vertical crib liners are very simple to install on each individual rail of your baby’s crib.
- Safety: Like most other options on this list, vertical crib liners serve as a safe alternative to traditional crib bumpers. They will keep your child safe from bumping their head, prevent them from getting their limbs stuck in the rails, and also reduce the risk of suffocation.
- Variety: Vertical crib liners come in a variety of colors and fabrics to complement the rest of your baby’s nursery.
Cons of Vertical Crib Liners
- Space between rails: The main downside to vertical crib liners is that it still leaves some space in between the rails. While it may be relatively unlikely and the space is slim, it is possible for your baby’s arms or legs to become trapped. However, the space is necessary to keep your child safe from the risk of suffocation.
3. Braided Crib Bumpers
A braided, or knotted, crib bumper is another alternative to the conventional design that offers both comfort and safety. This option is designed to place a soft cushion between the rails of the crib and your child. That way, the risk of their hands or feet becoming stuck between the bars is significantly lowered. It also helps to prevent the infant from bumping and bruising their heads on the walls of the crib.
These crib bumpers are very cute, aesthetically pleasing, and plush. Its clever design does not include any ties that could present strangulation risks. The braided crib bumper is simply placed around the perimeter of the crib and can also serve as a pillow, back cushion, or even general nursery décor. The design also allows for more breathability than conventional crib bumpers.
However, braided crib bumpers are not recommended for small babies that are still at a high risk of SIDS. More specifically, you should choose a different alternative for infants that younger than 3 months, as the risk of SIDS usually peaks between two and three months of age.
With that said, braided crib bumpers can be an excellent alternative for babies who are able to stand, rollover, and sit up on their own.
Pros of Braided Crib Bumpers
- Safety: Many parents choose braided crib bumpers for their ability to provide cushioning between the child and the walls of their crib. It essentially serves the same function as traditional bumpers, with the added benefit of being cute to look at.
- Aesthetically pleasing: The major draw to this alternative is the design. Its braided pattern is very pleasing to the eye and can even serve a dual purpose as decoration in your child’s nursery.
- Variety: Braided crib bumpers come in a range of colors and styles, including single braided and double-braided versions.
Cons of Braided Crib Bumpers
- Still unsafe for tiny babies: Though safer than conventional crib bumpers, braided bumpers are still relatively unsafe for small children. Avoid using this alternative for babies that cannot sit up, roll over, or even stand on their own, as they could suffocate in the material.
4. Crib Rail Covers
Crib rail covers offer a great way to keep your infant safe from getting their limbs trapped in the railing of their crib. They are easily attached to the top of the railing, hanging down to reduce the risk of entrapment. It is a relatively simple solution that can serve as a safe alternative to traditional crib bumpers.
Another major benefit of a crib rail cover is that it prevents children from chewing on the railing of their crib. It’s not uncommon for children who are teething to find relief by biting crib rails. Obviously, chewing on wood or plastic is not necessarily safe and can harm their teeth. Installing a crib rail cover will prevent this from happening.
Pros of Crib Rail Covers
- Simple installation: Installing crib rail covers is as easy as sliding them over the railings from the top and tying them to secure them in place.
- Safety: This alternative will significantly reduce the risk of your child getting their arms or legs trapped in between the crib rails. Crib rail covers also prevent bumps, bruises, and biting by shielding the railings.
- Variety: These covers come in a range of colors to match the design of the nursery, and aren’t unsightly when installed.
Cons of Crib Rail Covers
- Exposed rails: Though crib rail covers help protect your little one from bumping their head suddenly and cover a majority of the rails, it still leaves the railings relatively exposed. The child could still get their arms or legs trapped in the spaces.
5. Baby Sleeping Bags
Another alternative to crib bumpers that have been gaining popularity in recent years is baby sleeping bags. When your child is asleep, it’s important that you keep them as safe as possible. By using a baby sleeping bag, the approach to do this is slightly different. Instead of shielding the dangers that the crib itself poses, you place the child into a sleeping bag that protects their body.
In fact, some babies might prefer sleeping in a sleeping bag than without, as many are designed with swaddling in mind. Researchers have shown that swaddling babies helps them sleep better by increasing their total time asleep and also their non-rapid eye movement. These sleeping bags are designed with the idea of swaddling and also for comfortability.
When your child is placed inside one of these convenient sleeping bags not only will they sleep better, but they also won’t be able to reach the railings. This means that there is no risk of their arms or legs becoming trapped in the rails.
While the design doesn’t necessarily protect their head, it does limit their movement so they won’t even have the opportunity to come into contact with the walls of their crib.
Pros of Baby Sleeping Bags
- Better sleep: Using the idea of swaddling, your child will actually sleep better when using a sleeping bag than they would with any other alternative.
- Warm and comfortable: The design is soft, comfortable, and warm, providing a wonderful sleeping environment for your child.
- Limits movement: Baby sleeping bags prevent legs and arms from getting trapped and also heads from being banged by limited movement and protecting limbs.
Cons of Baby Sleeping Bags
- Doesn’t shield railings: Since baby sleeping bags don’t do anything to shield the actual rails of the crib, the child must remain in the bag at all times to be fully protected.