Crib bumpers were invented by ace salesman Leo Koltun because after selling every returning GI's knocked up wife a playpen pad made from WWII surplus padding, he still had a shitload of padding left over. The company he founded, Kolcraft, is now the #1 crib mattress manufacturer in the country.
Because they kept babies from strangling themselves in between the too-far-apart crib slats of the day, grandmothers think they're a safety product with color coordinating benefits. Even decades after federal crib safety standards eliminated this slat risk, many parents, too, assume crib bumpers are safe. This is because the entire Baby Industrial Complex is designed to market and sell products to impressionable, ignorant expectant parents of products that are often completely unnecessary, and occasionally deadly.
Which is all a long way of saying that no one at all, least of all the newly invigorated CPSC, should be surprised that crib bumpers can be the cause of a significant-but-uncalculated number of infant suffocation deaths. When you line a crib with pillows, you introduce the possibility that a kid will get his face stuck against a pillow and die. When you don't line a crib with pillows, this probability is dramatically reduced.
Thanks to a report by our shadow CPSC, the Chicago Tribune, the actual CPSC is launching a new review of crib bumpers. Meanwhile, the ASTM's industry-dominated committee which devises voluntary safety guidelines is not sitting by idle. "The standards group said it is trying to define 'pillowy' then would urge manufacturers to avoid making that type of bumper."
Yeah, you get right on that.
Meanwhile, let me urge this: if you're contemplating buying crib bumpers, don't. If you sell or make them, stop.
Hidden hazard of crib bumpers [chicagotribune.com]