Chicago's Crib Bumper Ban -- and What to Do with Your Bumpers

September 16,2011
Erin Dower( )

Let's be honest: Crib bumpers are the cutest part of baby bedding sets. An adorable bumper -- blue ticking stripes with embroidered monkeys -- came with the crib bedding I bought for my sister's baby just over a year ago.

But bumpers may soon become a thing of the past. Last week, Chicago became the first city to ban crib bumpers due to safety concerns -- mainly the possibility of a baby's suffocation in the plush but pretty crib liners. The city council's unanimous move to ban bumpers followed a Chicago Tribune investigation that found that dozens of U.S. infant deaths (some under federal investigation, others apparently swept under the rug) seem to be linked to them.

SIDS prevention organizations have warned parents for years against using crib bumpers, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, or anything like that on or in cribs because of the suffocation risk. But crib bumpers are commonly sold, and put on baby shower gift registries, to this day. Chicago's ban on selling them will take effect in about seven months. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission is currently conducting a bumper safety review.

Time will tell if other municipalities or the federal government will follow suit behind Chicago. It will also be interesting to see how retailers will respond. The Land of Nod, a higher-end baby retailer, is a Crate & Barrel company based in the Chicago suburbs that sells an array of BPA-free and other safety-minded products -- but they still sell crib bumpers (along with everyone else). It wouldn't surprise me if they're the first retailer to pull them altogether.

Interestingly, September is Baby Safety Month, sponsored annually by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) -- an organization that is still insisting that crib bumpers are safe and essential to prevent limb entrapment and head injuries.

So, what's a mom to do? It's probably better to be safe than sorry and ditch the bumpers. Since 1991, crib slats have been spaced closer together to prevent head entrapment that crib bumpers were originally invented to prevent. Bumpers basically obsolete and more decorative than necessary now. You could purchase breathable mesh crib bumpers (unless those are banned at some point, too).

And what can you do with those crib bumpers you own or buy with a baby bedding set? If you have basic sewing skills, you could craft a bumper into a bench cover or pillows (not to be used in the crib) in your nursery. You could also turn it into a window valance. Or you could cut the fabric to fit in frames and use it as wall decor for your baby's room -- my pick since I'm no seamstress!