The Safest Crib Bumper Might Be Deeper Sleep

Most pediatricians will tell you to avoid all crib bumpers.  The American Academy of Pediatrics feels that no bumper is 100% safe. They discourage parents from using even the most breathable mesh fabric, tied onto your child’s crib.  I totally believe parent reports that a baby that isn’t swaddled can get a limb caught over the bumper edge or, worse yet, under a poorly designed bumper.  Babies move in their sleep.  What is the answer?

I wish there was a perfect solution that works for everyone.  Some babies sleep well in a sleep sack, but they can still theoretically get an arm stuck under a bumper.  Most sacks don’t restrict arm movement as much as the legs and feet.  Babies move more when they are in the lighter phases of a sleep cycle, or when they awaken from sleep.  Some “breathable” crib bumpers are not well constructed, with longer or fewer ties, leading to entanglement or the risk of strangulation.  A mesh bumper that crushes might still allow a child to get a limb under or over it.  Bumpers that don’t tuck under the mattress are even more likely to allow a little leg to poke under the bumper.

One potential answer?  Keep them in deeper sleep longer by using the Happiest Baby on the Block techniques.  Going beyond the swaddle delivers far more than just faster calming.  You are using layers of calming input that keep babies from spending too much time awake or in the light sleep phase.  Happiest Baby educators like myself are amazed that parents think Dr. Karp’s program is just about swaddling.  Doing a good swaddle is great, but it is only one of 5 essential tools in The Happiest Baby on the Block.  Knowing how to use all these techniques effectively for safe sleep is a huge reason why parents request personal consultations with me instead of just running out for a swaddle blanket.

White noise, sucking and swaddling are your Happiest Baby moves to help babies to stay in that deep-sleep phase (the one where you really can change a diaper and they don’t move a muscle) and jump back into it faster if they do wake after a diaper change or a feeding.  The longer and more frequently your baby is in deep sleep, the less she will move when in the crib.  Older babies that are rolling can do the step-down swaddle without arms inside, or use the sleep sacks that have velcro trunk compression for cozy deep pressure.  It is this 4 to 18 month-old phase of development when the “shush” of white noise and sucking help so much to send babies back into deep sleep, and prevent them from coming out of sleep with household noises or their own curiosities.

Toddlers can usually get themselves unstuck without your help, so by 24 months your concerns will shift to whether or not he can climb out of the crib by himself!


By Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist, licensed massage therapist, and certified CBT-i sleep coach in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment. It has been a joy to help people of all ages improve their ability to grow and thrive! Occupational therapists are focused on enhancing a client's functioning in everyday life. We are practical healthcare providers, interested in teaching, adapting actions and environments, and building a client's useful skills for living their best life, regardless of their challenges. I am the author of five books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child". I lecture on many subjects, including sleep, trauma, and development. Contact me to learn more about how I can help you achieve YOUR goals!

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