How to Select a Safe Baby Crib / Baby Bed

By Sarah Holmes, Ph.D.

A baby crib is most likely at the top of your list of things you will need for your new baby. With all of the different styles and features, it can be a daunting task to pick the safest and best baby crib for your new family member. This article on baby crib safety will review the safety features of baby cribs so that you will be able to pick out the safest baby crib for your baby.

Baby Crib Safety Standards

Currently, every new baby crib that is made must meet the industry standards set by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). This means that all new baby cribs, including the least expensive baby cribs, will meet the minimum safety standards.

There are additional voluntary safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Baby cribs which meet these additional safety standards are certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacture's Association (JPMS). Those baby cribs that earn the JPMA certification will be clearly labeled with this information. So, rest assured that the new baby crib that you are looking at has past the basic safety standards and may have passed the additional voluntary standards set by JPMS.

The fact remains that the majority of you may be considering using an hand-me-down or buying a "previously owned" baby crib. While there are 4 million infants born in the U.S. every year, only about 1 million new baby cribs are sold annually. Some people recommended that you never buy a used baby crib or accept a hand-me-down baby crib. If you want to be 100% sure that your baby crib meets all of the current safety standards, then the best beat for you is to buy a new baby crib. Keeping in mind that approximately 26 infants die and another 11,500 are hospitalized every year due to baby crib related injuries, the majority of these tragedies do occur with older baby cribs. This being said, it is possible to test a used baby crib to see it if meets the current minimum safety standards. First, check to see if the baby crib has been recalled (www.recalls.gov). Assuming it has not been recalled, then check to see if your baby crib meets these simple minimum baby crib safety standards to ensure your baby crib is a safe place for your baby.

Minimum Baby Crib Safety Standards

  1. The vertical bars or slates must be no further apart than 2 3/8" wide.

    If the space between the baby crib bars or slates is wider than 2 3/8 inches, then a baby can squeeze its body into that space and get stuck. How to test this standard? You can either measure this space with a tape measure or try to fit a can of soda through the baby crib bars. Since soda cans are about 2 3/8" in diameter, this is an easy test to see if a baby crib meets this baby crib safety standard. If the soda can fits, the baby crib is unsafe and should be destroyed.

  2. The baby crib should have no design cutouts wider than 2 3/8" in the headboard or footboard of the baby crib.

    Again, the danger is when a baby can lodge himself in that cut out area. It is best to avoid baby cribs with cutout areas all together. While they add a decorative flair to the baby crib, they also add a potential hazard to the baby crib.

  3. Corner post should not be higher than 1/16" high.

    While corner posts look great on adult beds, they are a strangulation hazard on a baby crib. A baby's clothing can catch on a corner post that is higher than 1/16". An exception to this are posts 16 inches or higher that are used to support a canopy.

  4. Baby crib mattress should be firm and tight-fitting.

    If you can fit two side-by-side fingers between the side of the mattress and the baby crib wall, then the baby crib mattress is too small and poses a safety hazard. The standard mattress size is 61 5/8" by 27 ¼". Any new standard size baby crib should take a standard size baby crib mattress.

Other Baby Crib Safety Issues to Consider

If you plan on using an older baby crib, make sure that all of the hardware (brackets, bolts, and screws) are present and in good condition. Even one missing screw can make your baby crib unsafe. Make sure that all the hardware is properly installed and is not missing or loose. If any screws are inserted into wood and can not be tightened, then replace them with ones that can be. Keep in mind that hardware failure is the most common danger of hand-me-down cribs.

Make sure that all the slates are in good condition meaning that they are securely attached to the baby crib and are not cracked or splintered. If you plan on painting or refinishing the baby crib, use only high quality household lead-free enamel paint. You will need to let the paint dry thoroughly so there are no residual fumes. Check the paint can to make sure that the manufacturer does not recommend against using the paint on such items as baby cribs.

The dangerous open hook design where the mattress support attaches to the corner posts is a common hazard in older cribs. Maker sure your crib does not have this type of mattress support system.

Please join the effort in getting rid of unsafe baby cribs. If you find a baby crib that does not meet these minimum safety standards, do everything you can to get the baby crib destroyed. I'm sure you would not want the unsafe baby crib to be used by a family who is not as aware of these safety issues.

Sarah Holmes, Ph.D. quit her full-time job in order to stay home with her baby girl. She created www.BabyCribCentral.com as a free resource to other new moms and dads. Her site lists information about hundreds of baby sleep options such as, Moses Basket, bassinet, cradle, round baby crib, convertible baby crib and corner baby cribs.

Copyright © Sarah Holmes. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.