Surrounding a new baby with crib bumpers, cozy blankets, pillows and stuffed animals used to be the norm before researchers discovered that the use of these items raised the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Before the Back to Sleep campaign (now Safe to Sleep®) was implemented by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in 1994, parents regularly used crib bumpers and extra bedding—not just because it was aesthetically pleasing. They assumed it helped keep baby warm, comforted and protected from the hard surface of the crib slats.
But the risk of injury from suffocation is much higher than the risk of injury from the crib itself, especially with the current safety regulations of cribs manufactured today, says Farah Lokey, MD, of Southwestern Pediatrics Gilbert.
“Even the newest babies can be squirmy when sleeping, and can easily pull a blanket over their face,” says Lokey, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Arizona chapter (AzAAP).
Although the use of hazardous bedding for infants has declined and the number of SIDS cases has dropped by more than 50 percent since Safe to Sleep® was implemented, crib bumpers and bedding still pose a problem.
About half of U.S. infants are still placed to sleep with potentially hazardous bedding, according to a new study to be published in the January 2015 issue of Pediatrics. the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Bedding companies continue to woo new parents by marketing crib bumpers and unsafe bedding. A quick search for crib bedding on Pinterest produces pages of examples of cribs decked out with bumpers, pillows, cushions and quilts.
What do new parents need to know about crib bumpers and soft bedding? Lokey recommends the following:
- Clear the bassinet and crib of any bedding, blankets, bumpers or stuffed animals.
- Consider a wrap sleeper to keep baby swaddled and warm.
- Pillows and blankets can be used in a cozy chair during feeding times to provide comfort for mom or dad.
- Blankets and quilts can be used for tummy time. Have an heirloom quilt? Consider displaying it safely on the wall opposite the crib.
- The risk for SIDS sharply decreases after six months, as head and neck strength grows and babies can move around to keep airways clear on their own.
- Do not assume that everyone is up to date about important safe sleep practices. Make sure to share safe sleep rules with all caregivers.
- Keep the temperature of the home between 72-76 degrees. Babies tend to sleep better in cooler rooms.
- Room-share, but don’t bed share. Adult mattresses can carry additional risks for babies.