#3. Top 10 things you don’t need for your baby.

Maybe this should be #1. Or maybe this highlights that this list is not necessarily in order. Because I really don’t want you to underestimate how very much I mean it when I say – You do Not need Cot Bumpers.

#3 Baby item you absolutely do not need: cot bumpers. In fact…. Please Do Not buy cot bumpers.

A cot bumper is padding that runs around the inside of a cot, supposedly to protect the baby from banging their head on the hard sides or getting any part of their body caught between the bars. But cot bumpers have been associated with SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), strangulation, and suffocation, and can be very dangerous for your baby.

I can feel myself getting slightly stressed just writing about it. I began this list, this blog, and my consultation service largely because there are so many aspects of babycare that are confusing for parents and families. And no wonder, when there are things marketed to you as helping to keep your baby safe that are widely agreed to potentially lead to their death!! It’s incredible that things like cot bumpers are even allowed to be sold. If I could rip every cot bumper I see off the shelves, I would (maybe I should?). But, since the causes of SIDS are still yet to be fully understood, I suppose it’s not clear enough to ban them – though there are many advisories against them from health bodies around the world*.

However they came to be allowed on the market, cot bumpers are presented as a way to prevent injury in the cot from bumps or caught heads and limbs, and to a lesser degree to assist with longer and better sleeps (presumably since babies aren’t woken after flinging themselves repeatedly at the edges of the cot or trapping all legs, arms, and head between bars simultaneously). Each and every one of these issues can be dealt with by swaddling or wrapping your baby and tucking them in tightly with a sheet and/or blanket at the foot of the cot. Babies love being wrapped tightly to sleep. With the addition of a firmly tucked in blanket holding them in place they will sleep more soundly, and could not possibly bang their heads or trap their arms.

photo courtesy of healthdirect.org.au

Swaddle an infant who cannot roll while wrapped (ie. less than about 6 months)

If your baby is free to move but ‘protected’ by cot bumpers there is an increased risk of strangulation, suffocation and death from SIDS. Babies cool themselves mainly through their heads and if they wriggle up the cot and press their heads against the soft cot bumper they can overheat, which is believed to contribute to SIDS. Many cot bumpers tie to the bars with strings and some have decorative ribbons and bows which can become wrapped around the baby’s neck and cause strangulation. A baby who can roll may end up with their face pressed between the mattress (which also, incidentally should be firm and not too soft and pillowy) and the cot bumper and suffocate. The decreased air flow from the covering of the cot slats is also thought to be a possible contributor to SIDS.

And if all this isn’t enough to convince you, there is very little chance your baby will hurt themselves on the cot’s unpadded bars and sides anyway.  If they are wrapped and tucked in, they can’t get to the bars. But if they are older and can wriggle, roll or crawl, there is no real way they can accidentally bash their heads hard enough against the edge of the cot to truly hurt themselves. Little knocks and bumps are of no real danger to baby, certainly not when compared to the dangers posed by the cot bumpers. Cots made and sold in Australia have to meet safety standards which include slats with a space between them big enough to gets small limbs through without getting dangerously stuck but narrow enough not to get a head through at all. Slats must be flat, not rounded, as it is the rounded bars that are more likely to injure baby’s head.

So, please do not buy a cot bumper. They are more than unnecessary, they are flat out dangerous.

SIDS and Kids
American Acadamy of Pediatrics
Get bumpers out of cribs: Doctors group urges
Women’s and Children’s Health Network
Why I love the concept of swaddling. (motherhoodajourney.wordpress.com)
And now I feel even more blessed… (babymamasblog.wordpress.com)



Filed under Baby Product Advice, Babycare Advice, General, Tips and tricks

17 responses to “#3. Top 10 things you don’t need for your baby.

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  4. Josie Fung

    I have a cot that has slats on all four sides. The midwife suggested putting a piece of cardboard at the foot of the cot as babies like to feel something solid when they kick at night to sleep. I plan to use a sleeping bag although currently I am swaddling the baby in muslin.

    Do you have any thoughts about putting a piece of cardboard at the foot of the bed as suggested by the midwife?


    • While your baby is still being swaddled and tightly tucked in at the bottom of the bed I don’t believe they will be kicking, if they are I’d suggest they are not tucked well.
      And older baby in a sleeping bag is likely to roll around the cot quite a bit and may not always always orientate themselves towards the foot of the cot anyway.
      I’ve never noticed that babies, as a rule, like to ‘kick themselves to sleep’. In fact I’d think that a baby doing this is fighting sleep and that kicking would hinder their ability to relax into sleep.
      However, if you find that your baby does like to rhythmically kick something to fall asleep (and they’re all little individuals with their own quirks, so yours may well be a sleepy kicker!) then I think a piece of well secured cardboard at the foot of the cot would probably be ok, but personally I have to say, I would not put it in with my baby. If you choose to, please ensure the cardboard is secured properly to the cot so it cannot fall off onto the baby, and make sure the swaddled baby is well tucked in at the foot of the cot so they cannot roll into the cardboard.

      The danger you are always trying to keep utmost in your mind is one of suffocation, which can happen easily when a baby’s face is covered or pressed against anything.


  5. Louise Seaton

    Hi I am a new mum at 11 weeks, and I’ve just bought baby’s first cot. I agree re cot bumpers and will not be buying one. I need advice please as i want to buy a “Sleepyhead” from John Lewis (8-36 months). These are supposed to be a revelation for baby’s sleep! I’m concerned as they are 1) made from foam, and 2) have a rim protecting baby. My question is: do these serve as a cot bumper in terms of keeping heat in and near baby? And made from foam – which also keeps the heat in and when I’ve specially spent the extra money on a “pocket sprung mattress”. Is this clearly a waste of my money £149. 99??? Please any advice would be appreciated.I want my baby to feel secure and sleep well. I have a baby sleeping bag, and i plan to use when the cot arrives. Thank you


    • Personally, I do feel this item is a waste of money. At about 8 months most babies start to roll over in the cot and many will prefer to sleep on their stomachs. There are a variety of items on the market that claim to stop this from happening. But the truth is, by this age, that simply isn’t necessary. It is safe and normal for a baby of this age to roll in the cot and to switch to front sleeping. The incidence of SIDS drops dramatically after 6 months, in part because baby is now strong enough to move his body and his head away from hazards that could previously have suffocated him. The safest and best option at 8 months plus is to put baby in a sleeping bag and let him find his own comfortable position in the cot.


  6. Thanks for the information.


  7. Anonymous

    Having sheets and blankets in cot, is this not the same as a cot bumper, the baby could wriggle round and end up under the blankets.
    My son can move around even if blankets are tucked in tight, he kick and kick and the come off. then he turns around and ends up under the covers.
    I removed all blankets and place son in a sleeping bag, he has now taken to rolling over and ends up banging head on cot, he gets stuck here and cannot get back to sleep.


  8. Maggie

    What do you think about the airflow bumpers ???


    • I still do not recommend them, or any style of bumper.
      Mesh bumpers were designed to improve air flow throughout the crib inhibiting rebreathing and avoiding over-heating (a known SIDS risk).But even these seemingly safer bumpers are not recommended by experts. The American Academy of Pediatrics states, “Because there is no evidence that bumper pads or similar products that attach to crib slats or sides prevent injury in young infants and because there is the potential for suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation, these products are not recommended.” Mesh bumpers continue to present entanglement hazards when not installed correctly. More likely, once your baby begins reaching and pulling herself to her hands and knees (as early as age 5 months), bumpers can be used a step ladder for infants to accidentally launch themselves right out of the crib. Yikes!


  9. Nadine Knight

    Tragically my grandson was killed by his cot bumper on 11th September. His parents have started a campaign on facebook to raise awareness. They had no idea how dangerous cot bumpers could be and had not been warned of the risks by any health professionals. This must NEVER happen again. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Justice-for-Preston/229987167157257?fref=ts


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  11. Do you have any thoughts on vaccines being strongly correlated to SIDS?


    • That’s a great question, and Yes I do: There is no scientific link at all between vaccinations and SIDS, other than that they both occur in the same age group. This is also true of SIDS and travelling in a pram, SIDS and wearing cloth nappies, SIDS and using a dummy, SIDS and wearing mittens……etc. Because many vaccines happen in the first 4 months of life (with over 90% of Australian and over 80% of American infants receiving a full course of vaccines), it is not surprising that many children who die of SIDS were also vaccinated, but purely as a coincidence.
      Extensive studies have never shown any rise in the incidence of SIDS in infants who have received vaccines. (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Concerns/sids_faq.html). Though it understandable that parents worry about something as scary as SIDS and want to do anything they can to lower their risk, avoiding vaccines will actually put your baby at more risk rather than keep them safer.
      Have a look at this page about vaccines that goes through many common fears and concerns.


  12. Emily

    Can you address the question of babies no longer being allowed to sleep on their stomachs?


    • The only safe position for a baby under 6 months is on their back.
      Stomach sleeping and side sleeping, where the baby can accidentally roll onto her stomach, has been strongly associated with SIDS. This is thought to be at least partially because of the possibility of baby’s face pressing into mattress and suffocating her.
      At around 9 months of age many babies begin to prefer sleeping on their stomachs. After 6 months of age the incidence of SIDS is rare. It safe to allow a baby who can roll and easily move their body and head from side to side to sleep in a position they find comfortable, including on their stomachs, though they should still be put to sleep on their backs.
      Cot bumpers, pillows and other soft bedding still should not be used, however, as even a baby who can reposition their head to breath may not chose, or be able, to move the top of their head away from the soft padding and could overheat, which increases the risk of SIDS.
      Previous advice for a baby to sleep on their stomach or side was based on a fear of the baby vomiting or spitting up in their sleep and choking. We now know this is actually Less Likely to occur when a baby is sleeping on their back, as the food pipe sits below the wind pipe in this position. It is when these positions are reversed, as happens when the body shifts to lie on the stomach, that food can be potentially breathed in.


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