How Safe Is Your Baby’s Crib?

From the moment your baby is born, you have one overriding desire: To keep your little bundle healthy and safe. A safe crib is key.

The most common crib hazards: Babies suffocating on bedding or becoming trapped between the mattress and the slats of the crib. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled over 11 million cribs since 2007. Since the summer of 2011, new strict standards have been in force that include improved slat strength, stronger hardware, and tougher safety tests. In choosing and setting up your baby’s crib, remember to:

  • Avoid traditional drop-side cribs. At least 32 infants have died since 2000 from accidents associated with these types of cribs, according to the CPSC.
  • Make sure the slats are no more than 2 3/8ths inch apart. (If you can fit a soda can between the slats, the spaces are too big.)
  • Check to see that the mattress is a snug fit with a gap between mattress and crib rails no larger than the width of two fingers.
  • Contact the crib manufacturer to see if your crib complies with the latest federal standards.
  • Remember “Bare is Best.” For the safest possible sleep, your baby should be placed on his back in a crib that has a firm mattress that fits snugly, covered with a fitted sheet only and no bumpers, blankets, pillows, toys or other potential suffocation hazards. For warmth, dress your baby in footed pajamas in a fire-resistant fabric.  Save the toys and blankets for “tummy time” when you play with your baby on the floor during the day.
  • Stay on top of recalls. Sign up for free email notices of recalls of nursery equipment, as well as other household products:, click on “recalls” and follow the prompts.
  • Place the crib against a wall that does not have a window. There are reported cases of babies getting tangled and even strangled by blind cords on windows, and as babies get older and are able to stand up and possibly climb out of their cribs, windows present a falling hazard. If you must place a crib near a window, do not use any window treatment that has a cord, and follow the CPSC guidelines for installing guard rails on your windows.
  • Make sure any cribs that your baby sleeps in outside your home – in a daycare center, babysitter’s home, hotel or motel – also meet these standards.

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What About Portable Cribs?
As of February 28, 2013, portable cribs and play yards have to meet strict new standards. Already have one? Make sure it meets the same standards:

  • Side rails that do not form a sharp “V” when the product is folded. In the past, when babies would pull themselves up using the side rails of portable cribs, the sides would sometimes collapse, forming that V in which babies’ heads became stuck, presenting a strangling hazard.
  • Strong corner brackets to prevent sharp-edged cracks and avoid a side-rail collapse.
  • Sturdy mattress attachments to the play yard (such as changing mats) to prevent children from getting trapped or hurt.
  • Remember bare is best for putting your baby to sleep in play yards as well as other cribs.
  • Once your child is more than 35 inches tall and/or able to climb out of the play yard, discontinue using it.
  • Always use only the mattress that is sold with the portable crib or play yard. Do not add any additional soft bedding.

For more information:

Laura Flynn McCarthy is a New Hampshire-based writer who specializes in health and parenting topics

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