Does Maryland Want To Ban Crib Bumpers?

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From a business standpoint, one of the most important things being sold to parents these days is “fear.” A lot of products make it to the marketplace mostly because they assauge fears. Baby monitors, baby video monitors, safety gates, outlet covers, cabinet locks, play yards, bath tubs, pool monitors, breastmilk alcohol detection strips. Parents will buy most anything to keep their child safe. It works the other way, too — they’ll avoid anything with even a hint of harm. When Bisphenol-A was shown to leach out of bottles and potentially cause harm, there was a mad rush for BPA-free products. You can’t walk into a store without a BPA-free sticker on seemingly everything (nevermind this New York Times piece showing that the replacements for BPA are just as bad if not worse.)

Anyway, we all want our children to be safe and we’re willing to spend good money to ensure just that. But sometimes we can get more than carried away. Right now the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is debating whether to ban the sale of crib bumpers in Maryland. The Washington Post story on the “threat” of crib bumpers has no good data to help parents decide whether they will choose whether or not to have a bumper, just an allegation that they are “increasingly considered suffocation hazards.” But the story is only able to identify two such situations.

I used a crib bumper for my oldest and at the time, we weren’t warned about suffocation but, rather, SIDS. I asked two doctors at our pediatricians’ office and got two different answers. One basically explained that bumpers can help kids who bash their heads against the crib railing or it can keep them from getting limbs caught in the crib and getting broken. Another said that it might cause restricted air flow and it might lead to SIDS, but that no one knows what causes SIDS so it’s all conjecture.

When I used a bumper, I did make sure my daughter was well positioned when she was too young to move if she got caught and when she was a bit older, it certainly didn’t matter as she could move herself.

Yes, you have to install bumpers correctly. Yes, you have to monitor. And yes, sometimes tragic accidents happen to very conscientious parents. But risk is part of life. We don’t ban cars or ovens, even though these kill dramatically more people than crib bumpers.

Besides, a ban on Maryland sales would only help Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware sales. If crib bumpers are really more dangerous than, say, alcohol, cars or kitchen knives — let’s act like it and put some tooth behind this. If we instead want to accept certain risks the cost of living in a free society, lay off the crib bumper ban.