When you're having a baby, you might be tempted to drag your old crib down from your parent's attic and refinish it for your little bundle of joy. But safety specifications for cribs have changed over the years; older cribs might not meet today's requirements for preventing injury or even death for babies in cribs. Whether you're thinking of using a family heirloom or getting the best crib money can buy, make sure that the crib meets the latest safety standards.
The slats of the crib should be no further apart than 2 3/8 inches, or the width of a soda can. If the slats are further apart, your baby could get his head or limbs trapped between the bars or fall through them. Of the 3,520 fatal and non-fatal crib injuries and non-injury incidents reported to the Consumer Products Safety Commission between November 2007 and April 2010, 12 percent involved infants getting stuck between the bars. Wooden slats on older cribs can break off or detach, creating a larger opening; another 12 percent of injuries and incidents reported to the CPSC involved broken or detached slats.
In 2011, the CPSC implemented new regulations for crib side rails. Manufacturers cannot produce cribs where one or both sides drop down; both sides must be fixed. While this is more difficult for parents, it's much safer for your baby; 22 percent of injuries and incidents, and 12 percent of fatal injuries in cribs were caused by drop rails that either fell or loosened, creating gaps that entrapped an infant's head or neck. More than half the fatalities -- 18 out of 35 -- were caused by drop side failures.
Decorative posts can add to a crib's visual appeal, but they also present a strangulation hazard. Babies who can stand could catch loose clothing on the post. Corner posts should be the same height as the end panels or less than 1/16 of an inch higher, cautions the National Safety Council. If you like the four-poster look, make sure the decorative posts are at least 16 inches tall, the KidsHealth website advises, which is high enough to prevent your baby's clothing from becoming wrapped around the post. Crib ends should never have cutout areas, which could trap your baby's head or limbs.
New cribs produced in the United States shouldn't feature lead paint, but older cribs painted before 1978 and cribs produced outside the United States might. Even if a crib's old lead paint has been painted over, your baby could chew down to the lead paint. Around 2 percent of injuries and incidents reported by the CPSC involving cribs were related to paint. Lead poisoning can cause long-term health issues in children, including developmental delays.