Bill to Ban Crib Bumpers Introduced in Congress

Bipartisan legislation called the Safe Cribs Act seeks to reduce infant deaths due to soft padding in cribs

baby in bare crib iStock-860423358

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in Congress to ban the sale of crib bumpers, which pediatricians have long said are unnecessary and pose a deadly risk to sleeping babies.

The bill, called the Safe Cribs Act, would also make it illegal in the U.S. to manufacture, distribute, or import crib bumpers. The padding is considered dangerous because babies can roll over and press their faces against the material, leading to suffocation.

Bumpers are sold widely in stores and online despite not aligning with safe sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The group says babies should be put to bed in a bare environment, free of soft bedding, alone, and on their backs.

The bill was introduced by Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

More on Product Safety

“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,” Duckworth said in a statement, referring to crib bumpers.

But as Consumer Reports has previously reported, the existence of a product on the market does not necessarily mean that it is safe. In fact, studies show that padded crib bumpers and other soft bedding in a baby’s sleep environment increase the risk of sleep-related infant death.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics has told caregivers for years that padded crib bumpers are unsafe because we know that they have been tied to dozens of infant fatalities,” says Ben Hoffman, M.D., chairman of the AAP’s Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention.

“And while the products are advertised as a way to protect infants from getting their arms and legs stuck between crib slats,” he adds, “research shows babies do not need protection from this problem, which is more of an inconvenience rather than a threat to their safety.”

Oriene Shin, policy counsel for CR, says that crib bumpers “muddle the message that parents should keep cribs free of any extra bedding, and could lead parents to unwittingly put their baby at risk.”

That’s why, she adds, “CR applauds this essential bipartisan legislation aimed at keeping babies safe from these unnecessary and hazardous products.”

The Safe Cribs Act—which is backed by CR; the AAP; the nonprofit consumer advocacy groups Kids In Danger, the Consumer Federation of America, and Public Citizen; and the mesh crib liner maker Breathable Baby—is a long time coming. Safety advocates have fought for years to get padded crib bumpers off the market, though currently only a few states have banned their sale.

Most recently, in March 2020, the Consumer Product Safety Commission—the government agency with oversight of approximately 15,000 types of consumer products—voted unanimously to move forward with a proposed federal safety rule that would prohibit the sale of padded crib bumpers.

The proposal also stated that crib liners, which are thin pieces of fabric attached to the crib slats, must meet specific requirements that would be part of a new mandatory safety standard.

Safe Sleep Tips

While consumers wait for either the legislation to pass or the CPSC’s proposed rule to become finalized, caregivers should follow this safe sleep advice:

  • Put your baby to bed alone on her back, on a firm, flat surface that is free of any restraints and soft bedding.
  • Room-share with your baby for the first six to 12 months: Put her in a freestanding bassinet or a sidecar bassinet next to your bed that allows you to touch and soothe her when needed.
  • Don’t swaddle for too many months. Wrapping your baby in a swaddle before placing him on his back on a firm, flat surface can help replicate the soothing environment of the womb so that he sleeps better. But it’s important to stop swaddling when your baby shows any signs of trying to roll over, which may happen around 2 months of age, so the swaddling doesn’t impede their development or become an entanglement hazard when your baby starts to move more.
  • Offer your baby a pacifier. Many babies have a strong sucking reflex and find sucking on a pacifier to be soothing. Research also shows that pacifiers are safe for infants and may reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Know that spitting up (aka reflux) is normal and not necessarily a cause for concern. All babies reflux to some degree, and it’s usually more of a laundry problem than a medical issue. Do not prop your baby up on a padded wedge or an inclined product for sleep because this can increase the risk of suffocation. If, however, you think your baby is having problems due to reflux (such as pain or poor weight gain), talk with your pediatrician.

Rachel Rabkin Peachman

I'm a science journalist turned investigative reporter on CR's Special Projects team. My job is to shed light on issues affecting people's health, safety, and well-being. I've dug deep into problems such as dangerous doctors, deadly children's products, and contamination in our food supply. Got a tip? Follow me on Twitter (@RachelPeachman).