Why Many Parents Are Still Using Bumpers
Why are bumpers still so popular despite building evidence that they aren’t safe? For starters, many parents believe bumpers prevent injury from a baby’s head hitting the sides of a crib, or from limbs getting stuck in the slats. And indeed, bumpers were first conceived to cover the space between crib slats so babies couldn’t fall out or get their heads, arms or legs stuck between the bars. But regulations changed in the 1970s and now mandate less space (just 2 3/8 inches—about the width of a soda can) between slats, making bumpers more of an aesthetic choice than a safety necessity.
As to the question of safety, Dr. Moon explains that young babies (for whom bumpers are designed, given that many carry a warning suggesting that they be removed from the crib once a baby can pull himself to standing) don’t have the muscle strength or coordination to fling themselves across the crib hard enough to really injure themselves. Additionally, she adds, while it is possible for a baby to get an arm or a leg stuck between crib slats, it’s virtually impossible to break a limb by doing so—which means that at most, the experience will be uncomfortable and upsetting, but not life-threatening, until a caregiver arrives to help.
Parents also buy bumpers because they think they’re supposed to, given that they’re sold in crib bedding sets, and because they just plain look good, explains Dr. Moon. And there’s little question that modern nurseries tend to look cozier or more “finished” with bumpers, but Dr. Moon added that if parents stop buying bumpers and manufacturers stop making them, perhaps attention will ultimately be focused on other ways of making a nursery look cute.
Although the general counsel for the JPMA warned that should sales of bumpers be banned, parents might start to jerry-rig their own bumpers, Dr. Moon said, “There’s always concern that parents are going to create things and make things when they see the need to do that. Our responsibility is to let parents know that some of these products are not safe, and we need to understand that this may be an issue and proactivelytalk to parents about these concerns so that perhaps they’ll be less likely to do things like that. My hope is that parents learn about these things in prenatal classes, through their obstetrician’s offices, through other places like that before the baby is born and before they’ve actually gone out and purchased these products.”
Bumper Alternatives: Are They Safe?
As an alternative to traditional crib bumpers, some parents have turned to breathable, mesh bumpers or other bumper alternatives, but Dr. Moon said that the AAP does not suggest that parents buy them. “We’re, right now, recommending nothing in the crib, because again, we don’t see the point of it. So, why have something in the crib if it’s not there for a reason?”
Next: Will manufacturers stop making bumpers?