Safety First: Using the Right Crib

crib safetySince 2007, 11 million cribs were recalled in the U.S. and 32 deaths were related specifically to drop-side cribs.

On June 28, 2011, new federal crib safety standards went into effect for manufacturers, retailers, importers and distributors in the United States. On Dec. 28, 2012, these standards went into effect for childcare centers, family childcare homes and places of public accommodation, such as hotels. These are some of the most stringent regulations in the world. The main points in the new standards are:

  • Improved slat and hardware strength
  • Improved mattress support durability
  • Better safety testing
  • Outlawing the manufacture, sale or use of drop-side cribs

What does all of this mean for parents? In order to keep your baby or toddler safe, parents need to understand these new crib standards.

Is Your Crib Certified?

Three of the most important baby equipment items you will use are the crib, the crib mattress and the car seat. It is strongly recommended that you purchase these items new. If you purchased a new crib after June 2011, you can rest assured that your crib meets the new standards. Be sure to fill out the product registration card and send it in, so you will be notified of any future problems with the crib. If you have a safety incident with your crib, or if your child is injured in the crib, be sure to report it to This agency will investigate, if necessary. Your action may prevent other children from being injured. The crib mattress should fit snuggly with no more than a two-finger wide gap on any side. If your crib requires repair, use only parts authorized by the manufacturer.

Used Cribs

If you have a crib that you used for another child, and it was purchased before the June 2011 date, you can have your crib certified for compliance.

  • Contact the store where the crib was purchased or the crib manufacturer.
  • Give the model number and approximate purchase date.
  • If you don’t have the above information, call the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) hotline at 800-638-2772 for advice.

Purchasing a used crib is generally not recommended for a number of reasons, even if the crib has been certified as compliant.

  • The crib may have been repaired with non-compliant hardware.
  • The crib may be missing parts that you would not notice.
  • It’s difficult to know how many times the crib has been disassembled and reassembled. Every time a crib is reassembled, there is a chance that hardware, such as screws, bolts and brackets will no longer fit properly.
  • Wooden joints on cribs can dry out over time and no longer fit properly.

If you do purchase a used crib or if you borrow a crib, make sure

  • It has been checked for compliance and has a compliance sticker.
  • It has the assembly instructions.
  • It has been checked for recalls.
  • It has side slats that are no farther apart than 2 3/8 inches.
  • It has no decorative cut outs that could trap a child’s head.
  • Any corner posts are no more than 1/16 inch high (Corner posts can catch a child’s clothing, causing a strangulation hazard.)

Do NOT Use Drop-Side Cribs

When drop-side cribs first came on the market, consumers loved them because they saved on back strain when the adult lifted a child up out of the crib. Because of the large number of infant deaths associated with these cribs, it is currently illegal to manufacture, import, distribute, sell, or even give away these cribs. If you or Grandma have an old drop-side crib in the basement or attic, DO NOT USE IT!  Take it apart, disable it so no one can try to reassemble it, and discard it. Avoid the temptation to donate it or give it away. These rules apply to antique cribs, too. As beautiful as they might be, it is not worth a child’s life.

What If I Can’t Afford a Crib?

A fold-out mesh play yard can be a less expensive alternative to a crib. Always register your play yard so you will be notified of recalls. If you are buying a used play yard or borrowing an old one, always check the product for recalls. When in doubt, throw it out!

Some things to keep in mind:

  • The mesh should have ¼ inch or smaller holes to avoid catching things like the buttons on a child’s clothing, which would cause a strangulation hazard.
  • There should be no holes, tears or loose threads in the mesh.
  • The mesh should be securely attached to the top rail and the floor plate of the play yard.
  • Use only the mattress that came with the play yard, or a replacement provided by the company.
  • Check for loose or exposed staples or bolts.
  • When the play yard is folded down, the sides should not form a sharp “V” shape—this could trap a baby’s head if the side collapsed accidentally.
  • If you cannot afford a play yard, contact your local social service agency. They may be able to provide you with a new, safe play yard.

Check the Cribs at Your Child’s Daycare

As of Dec. 31, 2012, all childcare centers and family childcare homes were required to discard any non-compliant cribs and replace them, or to have their current cribs certified as safe. Ask your childcare provider when the cribs were purchased. Check cribs for a compliance sticker from the manufacturer. Make sure your childcare provider does not use drop-side cribs! Ask about the age of the mattresses and check for proper fit.

If you use a hotel crib when traveling, ask about the cribs when you make your reservation. The hotel is required to provide proof of compliance for crib safety. You may want to bring your own safe play yard.

For more information on crib safety, visit or You can register to receive free product recall alerts at both of these websites.

By Betty and Doniese

Family Life Instructors at Avera McKennan

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