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Bye-bye, Bumpers: Should the Government Ban Crib Bumpers?

They’re soft, inviting, and adorable, and many new parents can’t imagine a crib without them—but crib bumpers may soon become a thing of the past. This fall, Chicago became the first US city to ban the sale of crib bumpers. Maryland is the first state to seriously consider a state-wide ban, but it certainly won’t be the last.

In September, the Baltimore Sun called the potential ban “a smart public health policy that's also likely to save lives.” Nationwide, 27 deaths have been attributed to crib bumpers over the past two decades. Health experts say the real number of casualties is probably much higher, because crib bumpers are likely suspects in many more SIDS deaths.

But bumpers pose another potential health risk that I haven’t seen discussed in the media: they can give an intrepid toddler a leg up in climbing out of his or her crib. Back before the days of bumper bans, my oldest daughter used hers as a means of escape. Her thick Pottery Barn bumper gave her just the boost she needed to get out of the crib so she could do a little midnight exploring around the house. Needless to say, we promptly removed the bumper, and moved her to a toddler bed soon afterward.

Though the bans are intended to promote public safety, they're controversial. Get a bunch of parents talking, and you’ll find that bumpers have a quite a few fans, despite their potential safety drawbacks. Many parents don’t see what the fuss is all about--their kids used bumpers and turned out fine. For me, the biggest benefit to crib bumpers was the way that they kept pacifiers in the crib instead of on the floor.

So, I’m wondering: When will everyone give bumpers the heave-ho? Though doctors and health officials are urging parents not to use them, many still are. And major retailers like Pottery Barn are still selling them, so that means people are still buying them. Are parents simply ignoring the warnings, or are they unaware or unconvinced of the risks?

Do you think the government should ban bumpers, or leave the decision up to parents? What do you think?

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Reader Comments (5)

It bothers me tremendously when the government makes laws telling me how to keep my children safe. Here is another example of time wasted passing a law that should be the parents discretion. I don't mind suggestions, but they get ridiculous with how much say they have with how I raise my children. They are MY kids, not the governments.

November 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNikki Speck

1. I like what Nikki has to say and 2. I am a fan of the bumpers! My daughter is such a tosser and turner that if the bumpers weren't there she'd for sure have a bruise or two from the sides of the crib. I know the risks of having them in the crib so I do/have done my best to keep a close eye on her w/ a video baby monitor etc.. I have seen her step on hers now that she is older to try and climb but she is 2 and nearing her transition to a big girl bed. I do think this matter should be left at the discretion of the parent. . .

November 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly Wyckoff

I agree with the previous commenters. This is ridiculous. Ok, how many kids slept with crib bumpers and had no problem? In general, an infant (the ones who are at risk of being smothered) don't move much so unless a care giver is placing the infants face up against the bumper this should not be an issue. People should be aware of the risks and decide for themselves. I for one have always used a thin bumper (there is to climbing advantage on ours) and had no problems. The bumper has been helpful for us once the baby starts moving around in bed to protect heads from minor bangs and bumps (my kids have always liked to wedge themselves on the corner,,,at an age where smothering from a light blanket or bumper is no longer a fear). Additionally, the bumper provides a little privacy or secluded space for a sleeping baby; giving them a more peaceful rest (especially when the baby shares space with siblings who may move about he room). Seriously, the government needs to spend time working on bigger issues.

November 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Thanks for your thoughts, ladies! I think every family should make their decision based on their own child's SIDS risk profile, based on the evidence-based risk factors that exist for SIDS. But such individualized advice is tough to hand out, so it's easier for governments just to make a blanket recommendation. But as long as retailers keep selling them, I predict people will keep buying them. It will be interesting.

November 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMalia Jacobson

It's funny, because I feel ok with the government getting involved with what retailers can sell if it is causing deaths to babies, but I do still use our crib bumper. I guess I've had a hard time seeing what the risks would be since it's pretty thin and breathable, but does keep him from looking all around the room (which I know he'd do) and from all the bumps I'm sure he'd have. When he was under 1, we always used the video monitor, and now that he's older, I don't worry as much even though now he's also got a pillow, blanket, and stuffed animals, too. But yeah, with all the hype, there's a good chance I'll skip the bumper for our next baby and not take the chance. Because, probably, if I don't start out with it, neither of us will feel as dependent on it. S/he probably won't make the habit of sleeping right against the slats if there's nothing soft there, and looking around the room won't be a distraction because it's the same thing every day. And yes, it's cute, but certainly that shouldn't be a reason for keeping it.

November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoy

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