The U.S. Senate voted March 23, 2022, to approve the Safe Cribs Act, a bill that makes it unlawful to manufacture, sell or distribute crib bumpers.
Crib bumpers are a popular soft padding item that lines the inside of cribs and are often sold as part of infant bedding sets. Though the product is marketed to protect a baby from the hard bars of the crib, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have deemed these barriers unsafe.
"Parents worry their infant will get their arms or legs caught between the crib slats," said Jeffrey Tan, M.D., a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health in the San Francisco Bay area, in a recent interview with Giddy. "Crib bumpers are supposed to prevent that from happening. However, even with the breathable crib bumpers, there is a risk of entanglement of the baby's limbs in the bumper itself."
The risks associated with crib bumpers
Studies indicate that crib bumpers increase the risk of suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Between Jan. 1, 1990, and March 31, 2016, 107 fatal and 282 nonfatal incidents in which crib bumpers were present were reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Of the fatalities, the CPSC concluded that in 41 cases, entrapment or wedging occurred between the bumper and another object inside the crib.
As a result, the CPSC stated there is a clear risk of injury or death associated with padded crib bumpers and strongly warned all parents and caregivers not to use padded crib bumpers.
However, many parents remain unaware of this risk. Sixty-six percent of parents believe crib bumpers are safe and 42 percent believe they help a baby sleep, according to a 2020 survey conducted by Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The authors of the JAMA article concluded that though there is consensus among pediatric and public health authorities that crib bumper pads have been linked to infant deaths and do not offer a meaningful health benefit, the findings of the national survey suggest that many parents may still purchase these products because they perceive them to increase the attractiveness of the crib, falsely perceive them to be safe, or mistakenly believe that they would have been removed from the market if they were dangerous.
This is a problem the Safe Cribs Act seeks to address at the source by outlawing the manufacture and sale of crib bumpers.
"The fact that these deadly products can still be found on shelves across the country is extremely confusing to new parents who don't believe stores would be selling them if they were truly dangerous to babies," said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., in a press release.
Support for the Safe Cribs Act
Duckworth introduced the bill in April 2021, along with co-sponsors Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, also signed on as a co-sponsor in February 2022.
The sale of crib bumpers has already been banned in some states, including Maryland in 2013, New York in 2019 and Ohio in 2017—the state Portman and Brown represent—as well as the city of Chicago in 2012, which is located in Duckworth's state of Illinois.
The Safe Cribs Act has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kids in Danger, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Public Citizen and Breathable Baby, according to the press release from Duckworth's office.
The bill still needs to pass a vote in the House of Representatives before being sent to President Biden to be signed into law. This is likely to happen, as the House has already passed a similar bill, the Safe Sleep for Babies Act, which seeks to ban the sale of crib bumpers and inclined sleepers for infants.