Crib Safety: Expert Advice for Keeping Baby Safe

In the first few years of life, your baby will probably spend more time in his or her crib than any other single place. Naturally, you want your crib and nursery to be welcoming, comfortable, and most of all, safe.

There are a number of steps you can take to safety-proof your baby's crib, according to experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the National Safety Council, and First Candle.

First and foremost, ALWAYS place your baby to sleep on his or her back. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) rates have dropped by more than 50% since the America's "Back to Sleep" Campaign was introduced in 1994. (For more on this, see our companion article, "What Every Parent Should Know about SIDS".

In addition, experts recommend the following crib safety guidelines:

  • Make sure that the spaces between the crib slats are no wider than 2 ⅜" apart.
  • Choose a firm crib mattress, not a soft one. (Never place baby on a water bed, sofa, or other soft surface.)
  • The mattress should fit tight against the crib walls. Try the "two fingers" test: if you can fit two fingers between the mattress and crib, it's not safe to use.
  • Ensure the corner posts are level with the height of the end panels (or much higher, as on canopy-style beds). Otherwise clothing can get caught on the post.
  • Don't choose a crib with decorative cutouts—a trapping hazard—on its end panels.
  • Examine your crib frequently for hazards: loose parts, off-kilter joints, splinters, chipped paint. If you spot a problem, fix it immediately.
  • When buying a new crib, look for Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (JPMA) certification.
  • As charming as they are, don't be tempted to use an antique crib that doesn't meet current safety standards.
  • Avoid wrapping the mattress in plastic materials to protect it.
  • Never place baby's crib next to a window. Blind cords, drapery cords, and window screens all pose hazards to kids.

And of course, parents are urged to avoid using drop-side cribs entirely. The CPSC has banned the sale of traditional drop-side cribs effective June, 2011, while toughening other crib safety standards. The drop-sides are at risk of detaching, which poses an entrapment danger. (For an up-to-date list of recalled cribs, visit http://www.cpsc.gov.)

Finally, be ready to modify baby's crib as he matures. The AAP recommends removing mobiles and hanging toys when baby begins to push up on his hands and knees or at five months, whichever occurs first. In addition, as soon as baby begins standing up, set the mattress at its lowest position.

For guidelines on what to put in—and leave out—of the crib, see "What Every Parent Should Know about SIDS." And see our Nursery Safety collection for safety-proofing ideas and helpers.

To learn more about crib safety, visit:

American Academy of Pediatrics - www.aap.org
National Safety Council - www.nsc.org
First Candle/SIDS Alliance - www.sidsalliance.org
Consumer Product Safety Commission - www.cpsc.gov

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