Crib Safety

Even for parents who choose co-sleeping (having their child or children sleep in bed with them), having a safe location in which to place an infant and be able to walk away, knowing the child is safe even though alone and unattended is crucial. For many, a crib serves this function, as well as being the primary bed for the child.

Identifying a Safe Crib

Crib standards changed in 1991, and cribs made prior to that date may have an unsafe design. Most new cribs meet voluntary standards for safety set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

There are several factors involved in crib safety. Selling a crib that does not meet the following standards is illegal in 12 states (Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington State):

The following are factors considered in crib safety:

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  • Hardware—No screws, bolts, or hardware may be missing.

  • Slats—Slats cannot be more than 2 3/8” (6.03 cm) apart.

  • Headboard and Footboard—There cannot be cutouts in the bed ends.

  • Corner Posts—The corner posts cannot extend more than 1/16” (1.58 millimeters) above the head- and footboards.

  • Mattress Support—The mattress support must not release easily from the posts.

  • Mesh/Fabric—Any mesh or fabric must be whole, free of tears.

  • Condition—There cannot be any sharp edges or points (such as those on protruding rivets, nuts or bolts, or knobs), or any wood surfaces that have splinters, splits, or cracks.

In addition, you should look for:

Safety Certification Seal—The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) certification label should appear on the crib you choose.

Nevertheless, check for recalls for the latest information about crib safety. You can check for recalls at

Crib Sleeping Recommendations

Here are the latest recommendations from CPSC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development:

Position—The latest recommendations of placing a child less than 12 months of age to sleep on his or her back as a method to reduce the possibility of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) should be followed.

Mattress—The mattress should fit tightly in the crib, with less than two adult-finger-widths between the mattress and the crib sides. This prevents having a space large enough for the baby’s head or body to get lodged in, which creates a suffocation risk.

Crib Sheets—To avoid the possibility that a baby could become entangled in a crib sheet, the bottom sheet should fit tightly over the mattress, fitting well over the corner, so that the child’s pulling cannot dislodge it. A sheet made specifically for the crib-sized mattress should be used, not a folded sheet for a larger bed.

Soft Bedding—Remove all soft bedding from the crib in order to avoid suffocation hazards. Soft bedding includes pillows, comforters, quilts, pillowy stuffed animals, and sheepskins. As a corollary, do not place a baby on a soft surface outside his or her crib, such as a waterbed, sofa, or pillow.

Blankets—It is recommended to put the baby to sleep in a sleeper as opposed to using a blanket. If you choose to use a thin blanket, tuck it around the foot of the crib mattress, so that it extends only up to the baby’s chest. This will help ensure that the baby’s head remains uncovered while he/she is asleep.

Child Bed Systems

If you are choosing a system in which a bed for a small infant (say, a bassinet) later evolves into a crib, and then into a youth bed, here are some tips:

    1. Check all hardware when you buy the product and store it with the manufacturer’s instructions.

    2. When you rebuild the set, do it during the day, so that if anything doesn’t work you have options available (for example, a trip to the hardware store to obtain an extra part; a call to the manufacturer to explain an unclear instruction), and if the new version is not safely completed, do not place the child to sleep in it.

    3. Test the rebuilt item for sturdiness and functionality (for example, raising and lowering a crib side) in its new form before placing a child in it.

Written by Mary Elizabeth

Related Home Institute Articles

  • Introduction to Baby Bottles
  • Portable Bed Rails
  • Baby Bath Seat Safety Tips
  • Introduction to Mattresses
  • Stair Safety