Crib Safety 101

Bev Feldman
June 24, 2015

You want your baby to sleep! More importantly, you want your baby to sleep safely!! Here are 8 crib safety tips to address your biggest concerns about mattresses, mobiles and more.

Babies spend a fair amount of time sleeping. You want to be sure they're snug and safe when you tuck them in for the night or put them down for a nap. But with crib safety regulations changing all the time, how do you know if your baby's sleep environment is 100 percent safe? Here, safety experts weigh in on everything you need to know about cribs, crib bumper safety, blankies and more.

  1. Check for Loose Screws
    Joyce Davis, who directs Keeping Babies Safe, recommends checking that there are no loose parts or hardware. If a part is missing, make sure to use manufacterer's parts only. As of 2011, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the sale of cribs with drop-down sides.

    Linda Szmulewitz, owner of Sleep Tight Consultants, reminds parents that if you are borrowing or buying an older crib, make sure it meets today's safety standards. If the crib does have drop-down sides, there are kits you can buy to secure it in place.
  2. Be Aware: Bare is Best
    According to Davis, it's best not to have anything in your crib with your baby. "The biggest cause of injury in the crib is due to extra bedding," she notes. This includes comforters, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals and crib bumpers.
  3. Avoid Crib Bumpers
    Although you may fondly recall bumpers from your childhood or back in the day, they are now a thing of the past. There is really no need for them, and crib bumper safety is a huge concern.

    There's no evidence that they prevent injury, and in fact, they're hazardous and "can lead to suffocation," explains Teresa Stewart, an infant/toddler sleep consultant at Teresa Stewart: Family Solutions, the International Maternity and Parenting Institute's parenting education director. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends they not be used at all.

    Stewart adds that as your baby gets older and is able to pull up to stand, bumpers can be used to launch a baby out of the crib! Although there are "breathable" bumpers on the market that address the suffocation issue, it's probably best to skip them altogether.
  4. Take Down Mobiles After the First Few Months
    While mobiles can be delightful and visually stimulating, once the babies are pulling themselves up, the mobiles have to be taken down and put away to avoid injury, say Szmulewitz and Stewart.
  5. Keep Cords and Heavy Items Out of Reach
    Stewart stresses that anything your baby could pull down or that could cause strangulation should be out of your baby's reach, such as baby monitor cords and window blinds.
  6. Swaddle and Use Sleep Sacks
    You may be worried about baby being warm enough or getting legs caught in the bars. Stewart explains that swaddling small babies and using a sleep sack for older babies will help keep their limbs contained. Should a leg get caught in between the slats, the baby will likely awaken and cry in frustration.

    If that happens, show the baby how to move her legs to free herself. This might be frustrating for the both of you, but it is very unlikely she'll get caught to the point of getting hurt.
  7. Check that the Mattress is Tight
    To make sure your mattress properly fits your crib, Stewart says you should not be able to stick more than one finger between the side of the mattress and the crib.
  8. With a Portable Crib, Use only the Manufacturer's Mattress
    Occasionally, you'll be putting your baby down to sleep in a portable crib. When you do, use only the mattress that comes with the crib. "Never use a supplemental mattress because that's one of the greatest causes of death or injury," stresses Davis, adding that although it's thin, the portable crib mattress does offer sufficient padding.

Stewart mentions that you might want to have a conversation with your baby's grandparents and other family members to make sure they also adhere to the crib safety measures when putting your child to sleep in your absence. Because these guidelines change frequently, they'll need to stay informed, as well. If grandparents have questions about a crib, they can check the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website and even sign up for safety recall alerts.

For more on baby sleep, read How to Get a Baby to Sleep.

Bev Feldman is a parent and blogger in the Boston area with experience working with families of young children.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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