Chicago's City Council voted unanimously to prohibit the sale of crib pads in stores city-wide. And now in Maryland, health officials are proposing a statewide ban on the sale of crib bumpers, beginning in January 2013.
What's the concern? Sleep safety. Many experts are concerned that bumpers, no matter how they may look, increase suffocation risk, especially if a baby's mouth and nose get too close to the padded crib guards and the baby is unable to move away, or if Baby gets wedged between a bumper and the mattress. At least 2 dozen cases of suffocation related to crib pads have been reported across the United States in recent years. Rather than wait for the federal government to take action, health officials in both Maryland and Chicago say the right time to get rid of bumpers is right now.
"Crib bumpers are not part of the safe sleep ABCs—babies should sleep alone, on their backs in a crib," says Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, secretary of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (via the Baltimore Sun). "And we're adding a fourth letter, 'D' for 'Don't use crib bumpers.'"
If the new rules are adopted, Maryland's ban would apply only to pads designed for infants who can't pull themselves up to stand and would not apply to bumpers for older infants or children who have special needs.
Is everyone on board with the bumper ban? On the other side of this issue, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), the business trade association for children's products manufacturers, holds that crib bumpers, when used properly, are not only safe but protective. "They can keep infants from bruising their heads and entrapping their limbs," a JPMA press release notes.
The group also says that banning pads could have unintended consequences, especially if parents substitute blankets or towels as a way to get around the ban. "It is very risky behavior to use makeshift bumper pads," warns Michael Dwyer, executive director of the JPMA. "Our fear is that the elimination of bumpers from the marketplace will encourage parents to use towels, adult blankets, or pillows as a protective barrier from the hard wooden surface of the crib slats."
Rather than prohibit sales, the JPMA urges lawmakers in Chicago and Maryland to adopt safety standards and educate parents on the safe use of pads, tied securely to the crib.