When you're a parent the topic of "sleep" is all-encompassing. From how long your baby naps, to whether they sleep through the night, and even where they sleep and how to create the perfect sleep environment. I mean, it's pretty overwhelming. When making up a baby's new crib, it's fairly common to wonder as to whether or not you should add a barrier to prevent your baby's limbs from being caught in the rails, too. But is breathable mesh safe? There are definitely a few things all parents need to know before they set up the nursery.
Babies can and do get their arms and legs caught in the rails of cribs. In fact, sometimes recalled or poorly assembled cribs can cause a risk of death if a baby gets caught between the rails. In an attempt to prevent this hazard, it's not uncommon for parents to choose soft bumpers to line the edges and sides of a crib. Many experts express concern with the safety of these bumpers, though, and that concern is worth noting when you consider your baby's crib setup.
A 2007 report in The Journal of Pediatrics found that bumpers could be attributed to a growing number of preventable infant deaths, concluding that crib bumpers are not safe. The journal goes on to state:
"Crib and bassinet bumpers are dangerous. Their use prevents only minor injuries. Because bumpers can cause death, we conclude that they should not be used."
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) disputes any benefits of using bumpers at all, breathable or not, and asserts that, in fact, crib bumpers are dangerous. They advise parents to keep their baby's crib bare, saying:
"Crib bumpers are decorative only; they do not serve any safety purpose whatsoever. In fact, the science is clear that crib bumpers pose a serious suffocation hazard to children"
Due to these concerns, manufacturers have began to make thinner bumpers from breathable mesh that still lines the crib, claiming to decrease the risk of both limb injuries and suffocation. But are those hybrids as safe as companies assert? Unfortunately, the research suggests no. In fact, Consumer Reports lists bumpers, including those made with breathable mesh, on a list of "Dangerous Baby Products to Avoid," and the AAP still advises that a baby's crib should have a fitted sheet and nothing else.
Official recommendations from Healthy Children concur, adding that even the ties that secure the breathable mesh to your child's crib could be dangerous.
"Keep soft objects, loose bedding, or any objects that could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation, or strangulation out of the baby's sleep area. These include pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, blankets, toys, bumper pads or similar products that attach to crib slats or sides."
To keep your baby safe, and to comply with the latest expert recommendations, it's best to keep your baby's crib bare and clear of any bumpers, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, or toys. Consider, instead, dressing your baby in a wearable blanket, sleep sack, or swaddling them in order to keep their arms and legs away from the rails. Not only will your baby sleep safely if you lay them on their back in a bare crib, but they'll (hopefully) sleep soundly, too.