The crib is the one place where babies and young children are regularly left unsupervised. Keep your child safe by using recommended equipment properly and by updating features of the crib as your child grows.
Crib safety standards
The strict guidelines for crib construction help prevent many accidents. If a crib does not meet current safety standards, your baby may be injured. A properly constructed crib has:1
- Less than 2.4 in. (6.1 cm) of space between slats. This prevents a child's head from becoming trapped.
- No cutout designs or spaces if there is an otherwise solid headboard or footboard. A child's head, hands, arms, or legs can get stuck.
- No corner posts. Clothing can attach to these posts and injure or strangle a child.
- Tight and secure screws, bolts, and other construction materials. Check these parts every week. A physically active child can loosen these structures, and the crib can collapse. If replacement parts are needed, do not use the crib until the repairs are made. Use only parts that you order from the manufacturer.
- Lead-free paint. Older cribs may have paint that is lead-based. Babies can get lead poisoning from chewing and gnawing on a crib with lead-based paint.
Crib-related injuries also are caused by unsafe or improperly used accessories. Be aware of the common crib hazards. Make sure you:1
- Use only mattresses designed for the crib. You should not be able to fit more than two fingers in the space between the mattress and crib. Also, remove any plastic covering from the mattress.
- Help prevent your child from falling out of the crib, the leading cause of crib accidents, by adjusting the mattress level as he or she grows. Start lowering the mattress no later than when your child begins to sit with little assistance. Adjust the mattress to its lowest setting by the time your baby can stand. Also, always raise the crib railing and secure it properly when your child is in the crib.
- Remove mobiles and activity gyms from the crib by the time your baby is 5 months of age. These are strangulation hazards for children who can get onto their hands and knees.
- Keep cribs—as well as all other furniture and large objects—away from windows to prevent serious falls.
- Monitor what you put in the crib. Large stuffed animals or bulky blankets are hazards.
Crib bumpers are not necessary for cribs that meet current safety standards. Bumpers were created to accommodate older cribs that have more than 2.4 in. (6.1 cm) between each slat.
If you use crib bumpers, make sure they are:
- Fastened securely all the way around the crib. Each tie should be no longer than 6 in. (15.2 cm)
- Removed when your baby is 2 or 3 months of age. Babies can become wedged between the mattress and bumper, which increases the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Also, an older baby can climb on the bumper and fall out of the crib.
Last Updated: February 26, 2009
Author: Debby Golonka, MPH