Three senators, two Democrats and one Republican, are set to introduce legislation Tuesday that would ban the sale of crib bumpers, which have been linked to dozens of deaths and more than 100 serious injuries of sleeping infants since 1985.
Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are cosponsoring the Safe Cribs Act, which would require the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban the manufacturing and importation of crib bumpers, which surround an infant’s crib. While bumpers were originally designed to protect an infant, research shows they can do the opposite: Infants risk suffocating in the bumper and suffering sudden infant death syndrome. Despite companies disclosing the risk of SIDS, bumpers are still being sold nationwide.
“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 released to The 19th. “We should be doing everything we can to help new parents and end preventable deaths like these.”
From 1990 to 2016, 113 babies died in incidents in which a bumper was used in the crib, according to data from the CPSC. Another 2016 study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that the deaths were solely caused by the bumper and not by an additional pillow, blanket or toy. The American Academy of Pediatric’s Safe Sleep Guidelines outline “placing babies alone, on their back, and on a flat, firm surface with no loose fabric or soft bedding nearby.”
In response to these studies and the ongoing push to outlaw crib bumpers from health experts, Maryland, Ohio and New York, along with the cities of Watchung, New York, and Chicago have already enacted laws prohibiting the distribution of crib bumpers. Senators are now trying to push this effort nationwide.
“New parents can still unwittingly purchase this perilous padding for their children’s cribs despite dozens of babies suffocating. I’m glad to back this bipartisan effort with Senators Duckworth and Portman to prevent more needless tragedies,” Blumenthal said in a statement.
Many advocacy groups support the legislation, echoing the dangerous risks imposed by using a crib bumper.
“Crib bumpers have no place in a safe sleep environment – they pose a risk of suffocation for infants and should not be on the market,” said Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics in a statement provided to The 19th. “The Safe Cribs Act would protect infant lives and help prevent families from experiencing tragedy by prohibiting the sale of these dangerous products.”
While health professionals agree that crib bumpers are dangerous for children, many parents still purchase them because they believe they will “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,” according to a 2020 survey from JAMA Network.
In 2019, the House passed a similar bill, banning products that incline infant mattresses and crib bumper pads over similar concerns of danger to the infant.
Kids In Danger, an advocacy group fighting for product safety, supports this legislation because parents can blindly trust products on shelves, assuming they have been tested and proven. Removing this item from stores is the only way to ensure parents get the message, said Nancy Cowles, the executive director of Kids In Danger, in a statement.
“The case against permitting padded crib bumpers in a child’s sleep environment is clear. Crib bumper pads will not make cribs any safer – just increase the likelihood of suffocation or entrapment,” Cowles said in the statement. “It is hard to convince parents to follow the ‘bare is best’ safe sleep messaging of removing padded items such as pillows from the crib when they are being sold padding to wrap around the crib at the same time.”