Chicago becomes first city to ban crib bumpers amid safety concerns

Chicago became the first city in the country to ban the sale of crib bumpers, amid safety concerns that the bumpers contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

In a unanimous vote Thursday, the Chicago city council took the action against bumpers after a series of articles in the Chicago Tribune questioned their safety. The Tribune’s investigation found federal safety regulators failed to investigate several infant deaths in which bumpers were present in a crib. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says it knows of 690 deaths between 1992 and 2010 that were associated with pillows and cushions in the crib, although some of those cases involved adult pillows or bedding.

As readers of our books know, we’ve been following the crib bumper controversy for years. The safety of crib bumpers were first questioned in the 1990′s and that led the CPSC to suggest bumper-free cribs back in 2000. Subsequently, other safety groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics also recommended parents to NOT use crib bumpers.

The history of crib bumpers dates back to the 1940′s, when bumpers first were pitched to parents as a safety device. Post World War II, most cribs had wide spaces between slats that enabled a baby to escape a crib or become entrapped. That changed in the 1970′s, when crib slat safety standards made the gap smaller. After that, crib bumpers became more of a fashion accessory than a safety device, although some parents still use bumpers to prevent baby’s legs from getting stuck in the slats or head injuries.

In fact, that’s the tack the industry is taking in fighting the Chicago ban—baby product makers claim the ban may lead to “unintended consequences,” namely parents using adult pillows to prevent baby’s from getting their limbs entrapped between crib slats. Mike Dwyer, executive director for the largest group of baby product makers in the US, said:

“The City Council’s actions seem misplaced,” said Dwyer. “Banning safe products does not address this problem and may actually encourage unsafe use of products not specifically intended for baby.”

The industry argues the studies showing crib bumpers are to blame for infant deaths are flawed, saying there is no relationship between bumpers and crib deaths.

As for the issue of limb entrapment, our readers have come up with some clever workarounds for this issue. In this thread on our message boards, parents found that using wearable blankets (example: HALO’s SleepSack) solves the problem. Others used breathable mesh bumpers like the BreathableBaby Crib Shield as another solution. Of course, not all babies get their legs stuck in the crib slats, so these aren’t necessary for every new parent. But they are a solution in case you need one.

Besides Chicago, the state of Maryland is also considering a crib bumper ban.

What do you think? Should the sale of crib bumpers be banned nationwide?

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