Crib Safety for Babies

There are several factors to consider when selecting a crib. First, the crib should be in good repair with no peeling paint, splintering wood, protruding screws, or missing/malfunctioning hardware. All locking devices should work properly.

To prevent the infant's clothing or bedding from getting caught, corner posts should not be higher than 1/16 of an inch. The posts should either be flush with the headboard and footboard or taller than 16 inches to avoid strangulation.

To keep babies from falling out of the crib or becoming trapped, the slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart and there should be no cutout designs on the headboard or footboard. The side rails should be adjustable so that older babies won't tumble out when they learn to stand.

Keep the crib away from windows or window treatments and make sure that dangling blind or curtain cords, electrical cords, and decorative ribbons are out of the infants reach. Cords on blinds or drapery should be cut to remove any loops.

Choose a firm crib mattress that fits tightly and can be lowered as the infant grows. If two fingers can fit between the edge of the mattress and the side of the crib, the mattress is too small and poses a suffocation risk if the baby rolls into that space. The crib sheet should fit snugly and not come loose.

Infants should be placed on their backs to sleep with their feet touching the foot of the crib. Sleeping on the stomach increases the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that babies wear warmer sleepers so that heavy blankets are not needed. Blankets pose a suffocation danger if they accidentally cover the baby's head. If a blanket is used, it should be tucked under the sides of the mattress and should only cover the infant from the chest down.

To prevent suffocation, soft toys, pillows, and crib bumpers should not be placed in a crib or playpen. Mobiles should be removed once the baby has learned to push him- or herself up, since dangling objects are a strangulation risk. Once the baby learns to stand, everything should be removed from the crib to prevent items from serving as "steps" if the baby tries to climb out.

Infants should never be placed on an adult-sized bed to sleep. Babies can suffocate on blankets or may roll into a space between the bed and wall, headboard or piece of furniture, and become trapped. Infants should not sleep in a bed with adults. During sleep, an adult may inadvertently roll on top of the baby.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 01 Dec 2015