Bumper Pads and Crib Safety

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It looks innocent enough, right? But the bumper pad is the locus of plenty of controversy - so let's talk about the bugaboo of bumper pad use in cribs.

We must admit that this is not a post we looked forward to as we know it’s a sensitive topic for many readers. First off, we want you to know that Ohdeedoh respects your parenting choices and we hope our posting reflects that. But since we declared it Safety Month here, we’d be remiss to ignore the topic.

It's a fact that most crib bedding is sold as a set - sheets, bedskirt, comforter and bumper pads. Bumper pads were first created to prevent infants' heads from getting lodged between crib slats (a concern put to bed, as it were, by modern regulation of slat widths). Now their appeal is primarily aesthetic - they can make cribs appear softer and less jail-like and they often compliment other textiles or color schemes in a nursery.

It's also a fact that the use of crib bumpers, or any soft bedding (quilts, pillows) is not endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics or the Consumer Product Safety Commission and they warn that "Soft bedding may be a major contributor to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS." Soft bedding may pose a suffocation risk as well as cause rebreathing of carbon dioxide (by diminishing air circulation around infants) which may be linked to SIDS. The ties on bumper pads are considered a choking risk. Additionally, as children get older bumper pads can be used as steps by infants trying to get out of the crib and, therefore, pose a risk of falls.

In the past there were few actual studies to point to regarding soft bedding, but a recent study, published in September 2007 in The Journal of Pediatrics adds more fuel to the fire (see a summary here). An analysis of U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission databases between 1985 and 2005 attributed 27 accidental deaths to bumper pad use in cribs (strangulation or suffocation). There were also 25 similar, but non-fatal injuries recorded. Those numbers may seem small, but surely not if your own child is involved.

For your information, below are the current crib recommendations for babies under a year old, issued jointly by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Safe Bedding Practices For Infants


  • Place baby on his/her back on a firm tight-fitting mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards.

  • Remove pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, pillow-like stuffed toys, and other soft products from the crib.

  • Consider using a sleeper or other sleep clothing as an alternative to blankets, with no other covering.

  • If using a blanket, put baby with feet at the foot of the crib. Tuck a thin blanket around the crib mattress, reaching only as far as the baby's chest.

  • Make sure your baby's head remains uncovered during sleep.

  • Do not place baby on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress, pillow, or other soft surface to sleep.

So this leaves two big questions: why are bumper pads on store shelves and why is their use so popular? We're not sure, but we'd love to hear your (respectful) thoughts in the comments.

Does this mean you'll never see a bumper pad on Ohdeedoh? No. We'll continue to post about new crib bedding designs whether they include bumper pads or not. We hope parents have educated themselves about safe bedding and will make choices they are comfortable with in their own homes. We do, however, hope designers and manufacturers will discontinue packaging crib bedding as sets and switch to an à la carte method.

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Family, Beds, Cribs, Safety & Security

As Apartment Therapy's Family Editor, Carrie covers design and modern homelife with children. A lapsed librarian, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids and is in contention to break the record for most hours spent at the playground.

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