what are the crib safety tips for babies

How Do I Protect My Baby From Crib Rails?

When you put the baby down to sleep, you want to make sure he's as comfortable and safe as possible. To make the baby's crib safe yet comfy, you'll likely keep blankets, pillows and soft toys out and wrap him in his sleep sack before bedtime.

One concern many parents have regarding crib coziness is the hard material the rails are made of. The thought of your little one bumping his head on wood or hard plastic might keep you up at night.

Additionally, once his teeth start filling in, he'll begin chewing everything in sight. Soon, he'll be chewing through the guard rails faster than a tiny beaver, and you'll start to worry about splinters or paint chips getting into his already-sore gums.

Many parents turn to soft padded materials, like bumpers and rail guards, to ease their worries and theoretically make the crib safer. Don't decide on one of these devices too quickly, though. Do your research to ensure you're making a wise decision for your growing child.

Choose safe crib rail guards for your baby's bed. Crib guard rails can keep your baby's gums protected while teething.

Baby Nursery FAQs

According to the AAP, there is no evidence that crib bumpers protect against injury. Still, they do carry a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation, or entrapment because infants lack the motor skills or strength to turn their heads should they roll into something that obstructs their breathing.

While they're generally deemed safe, it's important to carefully choose your rail guards to make sure the ones you choose don't pose any problems. If you opt for guards that tie into place, make sure the ties never hang low enough for the baby to grab.

Regularly tighten the screws and bolts on his crib because the motion may work them loose. Help your baby find other ways to unwind and comfort himself. Please give him a warm bath before bed, a gentle massage, or spend extra time rocking him before putting him down to sleep.

Sensory input aside, chewing on something, like a crib, actually helps soothe teething discomfort and aids the teeth in breaking through the gum tissue and erupting into the mouth. (Ouch!) Especially when you consider that children are teething for much of their first months and years after birth.

Mesh crib liners are the most common crib bumper alternative that people use. These are safer for your baby than the normal solid crib liners. The mesh design allows air to flow through, which significantly reduces the risk of suffocation.

Crib Bumper Pads: Cozy But Dangerous

Crib bumper pads are soft barriers that line the inside of the crib. They're designed to add a protective lining to prevent your baby from hurting herself if she bumps her head or gets her arms or legs stuck between the slats. Despite this intention, the American Association of Pediatrics strongly recommends against using these devices.

The AAP initially raised concerns about crib bumpers in 2005, noting that certain models could increase the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Six years later, the AAP revised their stance, stating that cribs should not be outfitted with bumper pads at all, regardless of their materials of construction or texture, CNN reported.

Sleep-related infant deaths have decreased since the AAP first recommended that babies sleep on their backs in 1992. Still, fatalities related to suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia increased in that same timeframe. The culprit in many cases was the crib bumper pads.

When a baby's limb gets caught between a crib slat and the secured pad, it's hard for her to get free. Similarly, when an infant rolls too close to the pad, her airway can become blocked.

The AAP also addressed what the bumper pads are intended to do: prevent minor injuries that result from a bump on the head. Bumps and bruises pale compared to the potentially very serious consequences of soft padded walls on the crib.

Crib Rail Guards: Protect Your Baby's Gums

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Unlike bumpers, crib rail guards are secured at the top of the crib, above your child's sleep environment. Because of this, crib rail guards are much safer than bumpers.

They also serve a different purpose. Rather than protecting against bumps and bruises, rail guards protect your teething baby's gums from the paint, wood or other materials the crib is made of. (It also protects the crib from your baby's gnawing nature).

While they're generally deemed safe, it's important to carefully choose your rail guards to make sure the ones you choose don't pose any problems. If you opt for guards that tie into place, make sure the ties never hang low enough for the baby to grab. 

A strong tug could cause the guards to come loose and fall into the crib and become just as dangerous as any other pillow-like object. Seek out ties that are nine inches or shorter.

Steer clear of rail guards with cute buttons; should these come loose and fall into the crib, they'll pose a choking hazard. Snaps are safe, but if your crib has curved or thick rails, they can be tough to keep secure.

Since your baby will likely try to ease her aching gums by chewing on the cover, make sure it's made with durable, washable material, and ideally one with a waterproof backing to protect it from all the drool (you'll be surprised as to how much drool your baby will produce).

Crib Safety

Selecting your baby’s crib is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a new parent. Since your child will spend a great deal of time in her crib, you’ll want to be sure it’s safe. Use the following guidelines when purchasing a crib or testing the safety of a used one.

  • Whether buying a new crib or borrowing a used one, make sure it was made after 1989, which is the year crib safety standards were implemented.
  • New crib requirements from the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2011 prohibits the sale of drop-side rails in cribs. We recommend you do not use this type of crib under any circumstance.
  • The distance between the slats of the crib should be less than two-and-three-eighth inches to prevent your baby from getting her head caught and possibly being strangled. Make sure there are no missing slats.
  • The crib must be free of sharp edges and exposed screws or bolts that could scratch or cut your baby.
  • The crib should have no corner posts that stick out to catch your baby’s clothing and potentially cause strangulation or other serious injuries.
  • The mattress should fit the crib snugly (less than two fingers should fit between the mattress and sides of the crib). The crib’s end panels should extend well below the mattress at its lowest level. This prevents the child from becoming trapped and possibly suffocating in gaps surrounding the mattress.
  • Crib sheets must fit tightly in all corners and sides to prevent your baby from getting tangled.
  • The latches of the crib’s adjustable sides should hold securely. Your child should not be able to adjust or loosen the latches.
  • The crib’s mattress support should be firmly secured.
  • The crib’s end panels should not have cutout designs that your baby could get stuck in.
  • Paint on the crib surfaces should be nontoxic.
  • Set the crib mattress at the lowest position when your baby learns to stand.
  • Move your child to a bed when she is 35 inches tall, or the height of the side rail is less than 75 per cent of her height.
  • Once you’ve selected a crib, follow assembly instructions carefully. These instructions should also contain tips for cleaning and maintenance. Keep the instructions for future reference.

Different Types Of Crib Rail Covers

Below we will examine the three most common crib rail covers and look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Fabric Crib Rail Covers

Advantages:

  • Commonly available
  • Absorbs baby drool
  • Available in a wide range of sizes
  • Fits raised or uneven crib rails and styles.

Disadvantages:

  • You must strictly follow the washing instructions
  • Hides part of the crib from view

The most popular type of crib rail cover is made from fabric. Not only does the fabric protect the crib from your baby’s teeth, but it also provides padding, protecting your baby from falls.

Fabric covers feature straps evenly spaced along the length of the cover. These straps secure it, preventing it from falling or being pulled off by a curious baby.

The straps can be made from numerous soft materials such as ribbon, fabric ties or even Velcro.

Fabric teething rails come in a variety of different textures and patterns. The wide range of available styles makes it easy to choose one that matches your nursery’s decor.

A fabric option will need to be washed fairly frequently. A side effect of your baby chewing on the crib rail cover is an excessive amount of drool.

The drool then gets absorbed into the cover and will smell over time. Like sheets, having a spare on hand will allow you to alternate when cleaning and drying.

Plastic Crib Rail Cover

Advantages:

  • Does not detract from the crib design
  • Quick and simple to install
  • Easy to wipe down and clean

Disadvantages:

  • Easy for your baby to remove
  • Not all babies enjoy chewing on hard plastic
  • Drool will fall to the floor

If you have bought a unique baby crib and want to show it off, there is no point hiding it behind a fabric teething rail.

Plastic crib rail covers are transparent, allowing you to show off all aspects of your new crib while still protecting it from your teething infant.

Plastic crib rail covers clip onto the rail. The downside to the simple install is that a clever baby can quickly figure out how to remove a plastic protector. If your baby is too clever for his good, you can keep the rail secured with clear zip ties.

Unlike their fabric cousins, plastic crib rail covers do not absorb drool. This means that any drool that comes out of your baby’s mouth while chewing will fall straight to the floor or crib mattress, resulting in a mess that will require your attention.

Rubber Crib Rail Cover

Advantages:

  • Does not detract from the crib
  • Quick and simple to install
  • Easy to wipe down and clean

Disadvantages:

  • Does not fasten securely to raised or uneven crib rails
  • If you remove the rail cover, the adhesive also needs to be removed
  • Excess drool will fall to the floor

Rubber rail covers are much softer than the plastic variety. Because the surface compresses, your baby will have a much easier time chewing this kind than the plastic-type.

Rubber crib rail covers attach to the baby crib by an adhesive lined back. This means that when you remove a rubber crib rail protector, you will also need to remove the sticky gunk left behind.

Just like plastic, rubber does not absorb your baby’s dribble. While this makes the rail cover easy to clean, it also means that any excess drool that comes out of your baby’s mouth will rain down the cover and fall towards the ground.

What Are Crib Bumpers?

Crib bumper pads—which are often readily available and included in crib bedding sets—are cotton pads that go around the crib's edge. Originally, they were developed to keep a baby's head from falling through the crib's slats.

Yet, many parents opt to use them anyway because they like how the bumper looks—especially if it matches the crib bedding set and makes for a nice coordinated nursery. 

Other parents opt for bumper pads because they are worried about their baby hitting their head on the side of the crib or extending their arms or legs through the slats and getting injured.

However, a serious injury is not likely to occur even if your baby puts their arms and legs through the crib slats. They will either remove their arm or leg from the slats or make enough noise to alert you for help. Crib bumpers pose a greater risk of injury or even death than they do at preventing a few minor bumps.

Risks Of Crib Bumper Pads

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Using a crib bumper pad may put your baby at greater risk for suffocation, SIDS, strangulation, and even falls. Bumper pads also can reduce airflow, lead to rebreathing stale air, and cause overheating.

Additionally, child safety organisations recommend against crib bumpers because they pose a risk of suffocation. Just like a pillow or thick blanket, crib bumper pads can restrict a baby's breathing if the bumper is up next to the baby's nose or mouth.

SIDS

Suffocation risk is greatest when babies are very young and unable to move themselves away from potential hazards like crib bumper pads. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), some infants are even unable to arouse themselves enough to prevent death when they are overheated or lack sufficient oxygen during sleep.

Although the official AAP policy statement on SIDS suggests that some babies are more prone to SIDS due to biological factors such as brainstem development or serotonin levels, the organisation stresses that we cannot focus on only one potential cause of SIDS.

Because parents can't know ahead of time whether a baby is predisposed to SIDS due to biological reasons or not, they must reduce all of the other environmental risk factors, including the use of crib bumpers.

Strangulation

A secondary risk with crib bumpers is strangulation. Babies can become entangled in the crib bumper or ties or get between the bumper and the crib. What's more, a few crib bumpers have been recalled because the stitching or trim can come loose and cause injury.

A study from Washington University in St. Louis looked at infant deaths attributed to crib bumpers from 1985 to 2005 and found that 27 children under 2 died due to strangulation or suffocation by bumper pads or their ties. The study also found another 25 children injured but not killed by bumper pads.

Falls

Often, parents do not remove the bumper pads once their baby can stand up in the crib. The bumper can provide a foothold that could allow your baby to climb out of the crib and fall. Toddlers also may use bumper pads to assist climbing out of the crib, leading to falls and injury.

Remove Bumper Pads

Some major children's safety organisations have suggested that parents remove crib bumper pads from baby cribs. Moreover, CPSC Commissioner Elliot Kaye called crib bumpers "deadly clutter" in our nation's cribs. This statement was released alongside an analysis of 107 fatal and 282 non-fatal incidents involving bumper pads. These incidents happened between 1990 and 2016.

Then, in March 2020, the CPSC announced that it was proposing a federal ban on crib bumpers. Meanwhile, some states like Maryland and Ohio have already banned the sale of crib bumper pads, while other states have legislation pending that would ban their sale.

Crib Bumper Alternatives

Because many infant safety organisations, as well as the AAP, recommend that nothing be inside the crib at all, the safest route for parents and babies is to remove crib bumper pads altogether. This recommendation also means that even breathable or mesh bumpers and slat covers should not be used either, according to the AAP.

Meanwhile, if you are concerned that your baby might get cold in the middle of the night, don't be tempted to use a blanket or sheepskin. Instead, consider dressing your baby in a onesie and a sleep sack. You also should make sure that your baby's room is at a comfortable temperature.

Safe Sleep Practices

Each year, more than 3,500 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly while sleeping. Most of the time, these deaths result from SIDS, suffocation, or strangulation. Consequently, the AAP offers some recommendations on creating a safe sleep environment. Here's what you need to know about implementing safe sleep practices.

  • Place your baby on their back to sleep. Whether you are putting your baby down for a nap or at night, they should sleep on their back until their first birthday. If they happen to roll over in the middle of the night, though, you don't have to move them.
  • Provide your baby with a firm sleep surface. Whether you're using a crib, bassinet, play yard, or portable crib, the mattress should be firm and tight-fitting with a fitted sheet that is designed specifically for that product.
  • Consider allowing your baby to sleep in your room. If possible, allow your baby to sleep in a crib or bassinet in your room for at least the first six months, but ideally for the first year of their life.
  • Resist the urge to share a bed with your baby. While you can bring your baby into your bed to feed or comfort them, they must sleep in their bed. If you think there's a chance you could fall asleep, make sure there is nothing near you that could cover your baby's head like a sheet, comforter, or pillow.
  • Keep the baby's crib or bassinet free of clutter. There should be nothing in your baby's crib with them. Avoid placing blankets, sheepskins, toys, books, and other objects in the crib with your baby.
  • Refrain from allowing your baby to sleep in a swing or infant carrier. If your baby happens to fall asleep in a car seat, swing, infant carrier, sling, or other product, move your baby to a firm sleep surface on their back as soon as you can.
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