Effective June 21, 2013, the sale of baby crib bumper pads will be prohibited in Maryland, making it the first state to issue such a ban. The ban comes amid heightened concern about bumpers, which have purportedly been found to suffocate and strangle babies, and follows an 18-month investigation into the safety of these products by Maryland health officials. According to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), baby crib bumper pads “offer no meaningful benefit and pose a potentially serious risk to infant health.” The department apparently concluded that current industry standards did not provide sufficient protection.

DHMH Secretary Joshua Sharfstein said the department’s message is that “babies sleep best alone, on their back, and in a crib, … [and that b]aby bumper pads are not part of this picture.” The Maryland chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Med Chi and numerous safety experts reportedly agreed with this conclusion. The regulation banning the sale of baby bumper pads is a component of a larger effort to promote safe sleep in infants.

Meanwhile, manufacturers argue that if used correctly, crib bumpers are safe. In a recent news article, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) said that “when used properly, crib bumper pads can help prevent limb entrapment and head injuries.” The group said it was disappointed in the state’s decision and thinks a ban is unnecessary. “At JPMA, child safety is paramount. Our members work every day to provide parents innovation, quality and choices in the products they use to care for their baby,” the association said in a statement.

Under the state ban, retailers, including Internet sellers, will receive a warning for a first violation and a $500 fine for each baby bumper sold after that. The ban applies to baby bumper pads that are made of a non-mesh type material resting directly above the mattress, running along the length of the each of the interior sides of the crib, and are intended to be used until the age that an infant pulls to stand. It does not apply to vertical bumpers that wrap tightly around each individual crib rail or to mesh crib liners. See The Baltimore Sun, November 16, 2012.