How to Evaluate a Crib for Safety

by Lee Grayson
Cribs present a minefield of potential risks for suffocation and strangulation for children.

Cribs present a minefield of potential risks for suffocation and strangulation for children.

Cribs offer a place to confine babies and toddlers to sleep, but not all cribs are safe. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2010 announced voluntary crib recalls from seven different manufacturers -- covering more than two million cribs -- due to the risk of falls, entrapment and suffocation. Some cribs require repair kits made by manufacturers to correct problems, while the CPSC recommends discarding other cribs as unsafe. Any homemade repairs present problems and should be avoided. When selecting a new or used crib for your child, look closely at the structure and design for potential safety problems.

Examine the crib for proper assembly. Look for any loose or damaged parts and loose screws and bolts. These create safety problems, including fall risks and the potential for children to choke on removable hardware.

Avoid cribs with cutouts or attachments on the headboards or footboards, since a child's head or hands can become trapped in these open crib decorations. Removable decorative crib attachments also present a choking risk.

Measure the height of the corner posts and side rails using a measuring tape. Safe corner posts either fit flat against the crib structure or tower a minimum of 16 inches over the headboard and footboard. Side rails must also measure a minimum of 16 inches to keep the child safely inside the crib. Also measure the width between the crib slats. The space must be no more than 2 3/8 inches to meet safety standards. Larger slat openings risk trapping the child's head between the slats or allowing the child to slide through the slat openings, risking strangulation.

Examine the crib design to see how the mattress fits inside the sleeping area. Any space between the rails and the mattress risks injury from trapped fingers, hands, feet or toes lodged between the crib and the mattress. There's also a suffocation risk if the child's face becomes wedged in that opening.

Look at the crib side rails. Select a crib with fixed, not adjustable, sides. The CPSC found drop-side rail designs offer less structure for the crib, even when new. Older cribs with adjustable sides frequently fail, creating a risk of strangulation when the child becomes trapped between the rails.

Locate the crib manufacturer and model number and research this information online using the CPSC's product safety alert and recall search feature. You'll be sure to avoid selecting a crib listed under federal recall for safety problems.


  • Select a firm mattress and avoid filling the crib with toys, blankets and pillows. These create a suffocation risk.


  • Test the crib mattress yourself. Don't rely on mattress labeling or product descriptions to select a firm crib mattress. The harder the mattress, the better. Fluffy filling and loose mattress covers also create a risk of suffocation.
  • Examine crib attachments, including mesh tents, to avoid entrapment and strangulation dangers, and check recall announcements using the CPSC's web page for recalls and product-safety alerts for these products.

About the Author

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.

Photo Credits

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