It is entirely possible to use safe crib bumper alternatives to improve your baby’s sleep. You just need these strategies!!
Crib bumper pads are used to line the crib’s railings to protect babies from hitting their head on the crib’s slats or preventing the baby’s arm and legs from getting stuck between rails.
Almost all health organizations warn against crib bumper use because of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome due to suffocation and strangulation risk.
However, what do you do when your baby is a SERIAL HEADBANGER on the crib slats?
Do you just sit there and watch your baby bang head against the crib railing EVERY NIGHT and wake up crying their lung out?
I couldn’t see him hurt every night. On top, we were all losing sleep over it every night.
So, I decided to look for safe crib bumper alternatives to end the “Banging head against the crib railing EVERY NIGHT” saga.
I have read every single warning of crib bumper safety, read peer-reviewed journals, and came to a certain conclusion that I have shared in this article.
Before you go ahead and buy safe crib bumper alternatives (suggested below) for your crib, read this article till the end.
It will help you make an informed decision keeping your baby’s safety a priority.
- Why Crib Bumpers are not Safe, and What can you do to mitigate the Risk?
- Risk of Suffocation
- Risk of Strangulation
- Risk of an Entrapment
- Risk of Falls
- Strategies to AVOID risk associated with the use of Crib Bumpers?
- 4 Safe Crib Bumper Alternatives
- 1. Vertical Crib Bumper
- 2. BreathableBaby Breathable Mesh Crib Liner
- 3. Organic Wearable Sleep Sack
- 4. Crib Rail Cover
- At What Age are Crib Bumpers Safe?
- Are Bed Bumpers Safe for Toddlers?
- Are Cot Bumpers Safe for 1 Year Old or after 12 months?
- What can I use Instead of a Crib Bumper?
- Are Braided Crib Bumpers Safe?
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Why Crib Bumpers are not Safe, and What can you do to mitigate the Risk?
Crib bumper pads were used in the past to prevent babies’ heads from getting stuck between crib salts because of the wider gap between slats than they are today.
There are three main reasons why some major child safety organizations do not recommend using crib bumper pads in the crib.
Risk of Suffocation
The use of crib bumper pad can restrict the airflow, leading to rebreathing stale air (carbon dioxide) and suffocating. This is a serious risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The study published in The Journal of Pediatrics in 2007 found 27 infant deaths related to crib bumper pads. One of the reasons for the death was the baby’s face pressed against the bumper pad, causing suffocation.
Yes, this is a serious consequence of using unsafe crib bumper pads that are thick and “pillow-like.” And it shouldn’t be used in the crib at any cost.
Now, let’s talk about the suffocation risk for your baby.
So, when is your baby at the greatest risk of suffocation?
The answer is – at birth and until she can move their head side to side in response to a stimulus.
You really don’t need any kind of crib rail bumper alternatives when your baby is 0-4 months or until they start rolling over.
Young babies do not roll over or move, so there is no way babies can bump their head to a crib railing or get their limbs between crib slats, in case you are worried about that.
If you are worried about the safety of your newborn in a crib, you shouldn’t.
As long as you follow AAP’s safe sleep practice – nothing in the crib except the firm mattress with a fitted sit and laying baby on their back to sleep – you do not need a crib bumper.
Suffocation risk is greatest for infants as they cannot move their heads if they can’t breathe. So, it is best to avoid any kind of crib bumper alternatives when your baby is young.
Risk of Strangulation
Another serious risk of non-responsibly using traditional crib bumper is death due to strangulation. Another reason for infant death in the 2007 study was the baby getting entangled in the crib ties.
As responsible parents, we are to ensure that crib bumper ties are tied properly with no extra strings hanging.
The risk of strangulation can be easily avoided using a safe crib bumper alternative with Velcro or zipper instead of ties. Or simply tie the strings tightly.
Risk of an Entrapment
Entrapment is another serious risk associated with using crib bumper pads that are “pillow-like.” With “pillow-like” crib bumper pads, the baby’s head might get stuck between the crib bumper and the crib mattress, causing suffocation as the baby can not move her head.
Again, crib bumper design plays a significant role in entrapping babies. It is safer to use crib bumper pads that are thin, firm but not thick as a pillow.
Risk of Falls
The crib bumpers are at risk of fall when your baby can stand up and use the crib bumper as a foothold to climb out of the crib.
This is more of a risk in toddlerhood once babies have a strong gross motor skill and constantly try to get out of the crib by climbing.
The risk of falls can be avoided by taking the crib bumper out of the crib when the baby can stand to avoid falls and injury.
After reading this, you may completely ditch the idea of crib bumper or go for safe crib bumper alternatives listed below.
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Strategies to AVOID risk associated with the use of Crib Bumpers?
The safety of using any kind of crib bumper lies in its responsible and strategic use. Here are the rules of thumb for your baby’s safety when using crib bumpers.
DO NOT use a crib bumper when your baby is a newborn.
USE THE CRIB BUMPER when your baby starts rolling over and move her head-side-side when something bothers her.
You can test it when your baby is awake and on her back by tickling her nose or make her uncomfortable and see if she turns her head.
My baby started rolling over when he was 4 months old. But he started moving in his crib continuously when he was around 6-7 months old.
Almost every night, he would bump his head against the crib railing and wake up crying.
It was then we decided to use vertical crib bumpers. It was a huge help in restoring his good night’s sleep and preventing head bumps and bruises.
TAKE THE CRIB BUMPER OFF when a baby can stand up. As mentioned above, the baby uses crib bumpers as a foothold to climb on the crib’s railing to get out of the crib.
So, the baby’s safety crib bumper has to come out as soon as the baby can stand up in the crib.
If you use safe crib bumper alternatives like vertical crib bumper (like we did), you do not need to take it out as vertical crib bumper covers each crib slat, so practically, your baby can’t use it as a foothold.
4 Safe Crib Bumper Alternatives
Despite all of the controversy associated with using crib bumpers, the Consumer Products and Safety Commission (CPSC) has neither stated that bumper is unsafe nor issued a required safety guideline for crib bumpers.
However, it does recommend not keeping anything inside the crib as a safe infant sleep guideline.
On the other hand, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) states that “Infant death reported was not directly related to the use of the crib bumper at any time.”
These statements may have given you some relief about using a crib bumper.
And you do not need to use a crib bumper if your baby is not getting bumps and bruises or getting their legs and hands stuck in the crib railing.
Safe crib bumper alternatives are for those parents who won’t go without using one.
But don’t just buy any crib bumper. The crib bumper should be thin and firm but not bulky like a pillow. Here are 4 safe crib bumper alternatives.
1. Vertical Crib Bumper
Vertical crib bumpers are individual rail covers and the safest option available in the market.
If you are looking for a padded crib bumper to protect your baby against headbangs, Pure Safety vertical crib bumpers are the way to go!
This rail cover goes individually on each crib railing providing the highest level of airflow by not blocking the rail gap and carbon dioxide dispersion rate compared to any other crib liner or breathable mesh liner.
The individual zip-on design fits round or flat railings.
The zipper of the vertical crib liner on each railing falls below the crib mattress, so there is no suffocation or strangulation risk associated with using a vertical crib bumper.
Pure Safety Vertical crib bumpers are made of high-density foam free from BPA, phthalate, latex, and lead.
It comes as a set of 38 liners. The crib bumpers are available in polyester cover and 100% certified organic cotton covers.
Pure Safety Vertical Crib bumpers are the ONLY safest choice you have that provide airflow, mitigates entrapment, and climb-outs.
2. BreathableBaby Breathable Mesh Crib Liner
Is breathable mesh crib liner safe? We have an answer for you.
These mesh crib liners are highly loved products by parents.
Mesh crib bumpers are considered safe as it does not restrict airflow like padded crib bumper and reduces your baby’s risk to suffocate or re-breath her carbon dioxide if she gets close to the mesh and asphyxiated.
That’s why many parents are switching to mesh pads over regular crib bumper.
But again, mesh crib liners are not completely suffocation-free and shouldn’t be used when your baby is too young to move her head if she accidentally came close to the mesh liner.
You should also take the mesh liner off when the baby can stand up.
The breathable mesh liners are designed to protect the baby’s limbs from getting stuck between crib slats.
They are made of 100% polyester does not contain harmful chemicals, flame retardants, or formaldehyde.
The only downside to the mesh crib bumper is that it can not protect your baby from banging head against the crib.
3. Organic Wearable Sleep Sack
If you are a parent who completely wants to ditch the crib bumper but still want to restrict your baby’s movement in the crib, a wearables sleep sack may do some trick.
Wearable sleep sacks are designed to keep your baby warm and comfortable, eliminating the need for a loose blanket in the crib.
Another benefit of a sleep sack is that it prevents the baby’s legs from getting stuck between crib railing, and they wouldn’t be able to stand up in sleep sacks to climb out of the crib.
A wearable sleep sack does help limit your baby’s movement in the crib, but it wouldn’t work if your baby likes to move a lot in the crib.
With sleep sacks, they will still be able to push themselves and bump their heads against the railings. Check out organic wearable sleep sack options here.
4. Crib Rail Cover
If you want to add a piece of protection without compromising your baby’s safety, a crib rail cover is another option.
While it may protect your baby’s headbanging when they are asleep, they sure do when the baby can stand up in their crib.
This rail cover is great for when your baby starts teething. They won’t be able to chew on crib railing and ingest paint off the crib or hurt them with crib splinters.
This Trend Lab Waterproof CribWrap Rail Cover is available in different colors and modern designs to blend with your nursery décor.
At What Age are Crib Bumpers Safe?
Crib bumpers should be avoided unless your baby is bumping their head into the crib railing and hurting themselves.
You do not need a crib bumper when your baby is 0-4 months old, as they are unlikely to move in the crib and hurt themselves.
When your baby can move her head-to-side when you tickle her nose or when something is bothering her (4-10 months), you can use safe crib bumper alternatives like vertical crib bumpers.
Vertical crib bumpers are the only safest option available that can be used from newborn to toddlerhood.
If you are using a padded crib bumper, mesh crib bumper, or any other kind of crib bumper, you need to take off the crib bumper as soon as your baby can stand up to avoid the fall hazard.
Are Bed Bumpers Safe for Toddlers?
Any kind of padded crib bumpers or mesh crib bumper is not safe for toddlers (when they can stand up in their crib) as they use it as a foothold to climb out of the crib.
However, vertical crib bumpers are safe for toddlers as it individually goes on each railing providing the highest level of airflow and won’t be used as a foothold to climb out of the crib.
Are Cot Bumpers Safe for 1 Year Old or after 12 months?
There is a risk of suffocation, strangulation, entrapment, and fall with any kind of padded cot bumpers.
Depending upon how gross motor dominant your 1-year-old is, he will use a cot bumper as a foothold to climb out of the crib.
So, if you are using a padded crib bumper, you need to take it out of the crib as soon as your baby can stand.
The only safe cot bumper that is safe for a 1-year-old is the vertical crib bumper.
They go individually on each crib railing, so your 1-year-old won’t use it as a foothold to climb out of the crib.
What can I use Instead of a Crib Bumper?
Traditional padded crib bumper use is a serious risk of suffocation, strangulation, entrapment, and fall for your baby, and it should be avoided if your baby does not need it.
If your baby is hurting herself by bumping her head into crib railing or getting their limbs trapped between crib railing and if their sleep is getting seriously affected, you can use safe crib bumper alternatives like vertical crib bumper or mesh crib bumper.
The vertical crib bumpers are the only safest option available in the market, providing the highest air flow and carbon dioxide dispersion rate compared to any other crib bumpers.
Are Braided Crib Bumpers Safe?
Braided Crib bumpers are another cute addition to the crib bumper family that improves the aesthetic of the crib.
But just like traditional crib bumpers, braided crib bumpers are potential suffocation, strangulation, entrapment, and fall hazard for your baby.
While they look cozy and cute, these braids are bulky and can put your young babies at a high risk of SIDS.
Because of its bulkiness, your 1-year-old can use it as a foothold to climb out of the crib and fall.
For your baby’s safety, choose the crib bumper alternatives like vertical crib bumper or breathable mesh crib bumper instead of braided crib bumpers. Check out Braided crib bumper at ETSY here.
So, have you found your safe crib bumper alternatives from this list yet?
Whether you decide to use a crib bumper or dump the idea of using it at all, you know what is best for your baby.
If you decide to use safe crib bumper alternatives, I highly recommend vertical crib bumper over any other crib bumper available in the market. After all, the safety of your baby is your priority.
Good luck, Mamas!!
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- Thach BT, Rutherford GW Jr, Harris K. Deaths and injuries attributed to infant crib bumper pads. J Pediatr. 2007 Sep;151(3):271-4, 274.e1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2007.04.028. Epub 2007 Jul 25. PMID: 17719936.
- Maltese MR, Leshner M. Carbon dioxide rebreathing induced by crib bumpers and mesh liners using an infant manikin. BMJ Paediatr Open. 2019 Apr 26;3(1):e000374. doi: 10.1136/bmjpo-2018-000374. PMID: 31206068; PMCID: PMC6542454.
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