Bedtime can be stressful enough without worrying about whether or not your child is actually safe in their own bed. Sleeping in a crib is less worrisome. There, your child is safely trapped in their little baby jails. But once they graduate from their crib and move on up to a toddler bed, things get a little bit less black and white. With all the different types of toddler bed out there, falling out of bed at night can be a real concern for parents. Do rails actually keep your child in the bed? That is their one and only purpose, after all. But, like most products you buy for your children, not all toddler bed rails are on the same level.
According to the FDA's regulations, portable or removable bed rails should only be used with children who are old enough to get out of bed unassisted. Furthermore, making sure that your product is sound and correctly installed will ensure that they're actually as safe as they claim to be.
Additionally, Parent Guide noted that there are primarily three different kinds of bed rails made specifically for toddler beds, and which kind you use will depend on what kind of bed you buy for your child.
The first kind of rail is called a swing down rail (like the one above from Toys R Us). It locks into place when your child is sleeping, and allows you to swing it down when you don't need it. While this method can raise concerns about the rail somehow coming unlocked if your child rolls up against it during the night, most models are durable enough that only the parent can operate the latch, making it impossible for your child to move it. They generally attach underneath the mattress, making them best for toddler beds with standard sized mattresses.
Another kind of rail is the "fixed rail" (like this one from Amazon.) Similar to the swing down rail, they slide under the mattress, but unlike the swing down, they don't move. They're generally a bit shorter too, so depending on how much your child moves around, a fixed rail may not cover enough of the bed. However, they usually fit most toddler bed sizes, even convertible cribs like the one pictured.
The third kind of rail is called a "bumper," however, unlike a speed bump, they don't just slow your child down. Foam bed bumpers (you can get the ones pictured from Amazon for $40) are designed to be difficult to roll over and much more comfortable than metal or wooden rails. Bumper are great for twin size beds or larger, or if your child's bed is against a wall, just one bumper will suffice.
No matter where or how your kid sleeps, making sure they're safe and not at risk of rolling out of their bed, is up to you. Choosing the best type of bumper for your toddler's bed will keep them safe, even when you're not with them.