Raising the Bar on Crib Safety

Parents have been keeping me up at night with lots of questions about what they need to do to make sure baby’s crib is safe in light of some new national crib regulations.  I don’t want to lose sleep on this one and neither does your baby, so let me provide some information on this topic.

This past June – for the first time in nearly 30 years – new federal safety standards for cribs were announced.  They prohibit the manufacture of drop-side rail cribs, as well as the resale of cribs with drop-sides, which had caused a number of infant suffocation and strangulation deaths.  The new regulations also require stronger slats and mattress supports, and better quality hardware, not to mention more rigorous safety testing of new cribs.  Child care centers, hotels, and other public places with cribs have until December 28, 2012 to insure that the cribs meet CPSC new crib standards.

If your crib has a drop-side, it is likely being recalled.  While the manufacturer may be providing devices called immobilizers to prevent the side from dropping down, be aware that most old cribs don’t meet all the new crib standards– even with immobilizers. 

Cribs that have been certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) will not have drop sides, but some may offer a drop gate where the top portion of one side folds down to permit easier access to the crib.  There are standards for drop gates as well.

Here are some tips for following the new safety standards:

o   If you do have a drop-side rail on your crib, stop using it.

o   The space between crib slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart.

o   There should be no cut-out areas on the headboard or footboard which can also trap baby’s head.  

o   Make sure the mattress is firm and that it fits snugly next to the crib so there is no gap.  If you can fit two fingers between the mattress and the crib, the mattress should be discarded.

o   Any toys that hang across the top of the crib should be removed when the child can begin to push up on hands and knees, usually around five or six months of age.

o   Bumper pads should be removed as soon as the child can pull to stand since your child may use them as a ladder to climb out.

o   Cribs should be free of pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals or toys that can be suffocation hazards.

o   Do not put the crib next to a window.

Hopefully tips like this will raise the bar when it comes to knowing just what it takes to keep your baby’s crib safe.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids