In the United States, it’s estimated 6.5 out of every 1,000 children will not make it past the age of 5-years-old. While there are a number of different causes of these deaths, a large number of them happen in what should be the most peaceful place in every home: the crib. It’s shocking just how many sleep products that have caused child fatalities are still available to purchase, online or even in stores, despite recalls and government warnings. We’ve collected a short list of some of the most dangerous sleep products — from bumpers to blankets — that parents should never ever buy.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Sleep
Why You Shouldn’t Use It: Thick crib bumpers made of comforter material have been known to cause suffocation in children should they roll into it at a young age. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends against using bumpers in the crib and there have been 27 reported deaths between 1985 and 2005 due to baby bumpers. Some states like Ohio have even banned the sale of certain bumpers entirely because of the fatal risks.
Potentially Dangerous Examples: Any of the thick, cutesy bumpers sold with crib bedding kits like this. You know the ones. Believe it or not, these are often still sold at big chain stores and online.
What To Use Instead: If you absolutely have to use a bumper, despite it still not being recommended, then using a breathable mesh version is the only option. Make sure it’s one with velcro and not ties, since those run a risk of entanglement and even strangulation.
Why You Shouldn’t Use It: Sleep positioners, sometimes called “bolsters” or “wedges”, are widely recommended against by the FDA and other organizations. While parents use them in an effort to prevent SIDS, they instead become a suffocation hazard themselves.
What To Use Instead: Nothing. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHHD) recommends an empty crib free of positioners, pillows, stuffed animals or other items that might pose a suffocation hazard.
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Why You Shouldn’t Use It: Crib tents were created to prevent children from being injured from climbing out of their cribs, but the CPSC has recalled crib tents due to a fatality and another serious injury resulting from the use of these hazardous products.
Potentially Dangerous Examples: The recall was specifically targeted towards the Tots In Mind crib tent but others are still on the market and just as dangerous. All crib tents should be avoided.
What To Use Instead: Basically if your child is old enough to be climbing completely out of their crib then it’s time to switch to a convertible crib they can get out easily or a small bed.
Why You Shouldn’t Use It: While it might be tempting to pile on some blankets to keep your child warm at night, all you’re really doing is introducing a possible suffocation hazard into their crib. The AAP recommends not having any blankets whatsoever in the crib.
Potentially Dangerous Examples: The thicker the blanket, the more dangerous. So heavier blankets found in bedding kits are the worst offenders. This also applies to parents that co-sleep and have their bedding near their child.
What To Use Instead: If it’s cold then you should be dressing your child more warmly at night. Arm them with a long sleeve onesie and fleece pajamas and they should be fine. You can turn up the heat a bit more if you’re worried, because a higher heating bill is a small price to pay.
Why You Shouldn’t Use It: Bedside sleepers are tempting for new parents that want to easily check on their baby and have them close for feedings in the middle of the night, however, there have been several recalls of these products due to fall hazards for the infant.
Potentially Dangerous Examples: The Arm’s Reach and Bednest bedside sleepers have both been subject to recalls due to risk of the infants falling. There have been no reported injuries in the United States, however, the Arm’s Reach co-sleeper has had at least one reported fatality in Canada.
What To Use Instead: The recommended sleeping option by the AAP and CPSC is a traditional four sided crib. If it helps with your routine, move it into your bedroom and have it close, but don’t use a bedside sleeper.
Aside from being hazardous, all of the above sleep items have something else in common: their use comes from a good place. Parents want to prevent SIDS, make their child comfortable, or keep them warm. However sometimes in the process of trying to care for their child, parents instead introduce risk into their sleep environment. What’s worse is they often buy these products straight from store who sell them as ‘safety’ products.
The best way to make sure your child is safe in their cribs is by consulting a safety guide from CPSC or other organizations every few months. The basic idea though is to keep foreign objects such as positioners, pillows, stuffed animals, blankets and other objects out of the crib and do not use bumpers or tents around or on top of the crib. While many of these products should be removed entirely from shelves, for now it’s our job as parents to be aware of potential risks by removing them.