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Is Your Antique Crib Safe?

Check Modern Safety Standards to Prevent Injuries

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Baby boy looking through his crib
baobao ou/Moment/Getty Images

Many new parents treasure the idea of using a crib for their newborn that has been passed down a generation or more. Others may search for a beautiful antique crib or a super thrift-store find. Older cribs can be dangerous for babies, though, if they don't meet modern safety standards.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, an agency of the U.S. government, is charged with protecting the public from dangers associated with more than 15,000 types of consumer products, including cribs. CPSC seeks to protect people from products that pose fire, electrical, chemical or mechanical hazard or products that can harm children. Thanks to CPSC's vigilance, there has been a 30% decline in the rate of deaths and injuries from consumer products over the last 30 years

CPSC's website lists old cribs as one of CPSC's "Most Wanted," and for good reason. Old cribs can pose a number of dangers to babies and toddlers. Old mattresses may be too soft and pose a suffocation risk, or may not fit the crib frame, allowing a baby to slip between the frame and mattress. Corner posts can pose a risk to babies who are able to stand up, as loose clothing could become caught on the posts. Slats that are too far apart or decorative holes in the headboards can trap small heads.

Use the following list of CPSC guidelines to determine whether your old crib is safe to use.

  • The mattress should be firm and tight-fitting.
  • There should be no missing or broken hardware or slats.
  • Slats should be no more than 23/8" apart (about the width of a soda can).
  • Corner posts should not be higher than 1/16".
  • There should be no design cutouts in the headboard or footboard.

Though an old crib may be beautiful and sentimental, if it doesn't meet modern safety standards, it should not be used. Cribs that don't meet safety standards should be destroyed or used for decorative purposes only.

New Warnings Regarding Used Drop-Side Cribs

If the older crib you're hoping to use for your baby is a drop-side crib, take note of new warnings about the safety of these popular crib models. After more than twenty crib recalls, affecting more than 4 million cribs, since 2007, CPSC is now looking at new crib safety standards that may even include a ban on the manufacture of new drop-side cribs.

However, not all of the safety issues with these cribs lies with the manufacturers. CPSC and other crib safety organizations note that parents tend to keep cribs for a long time, or resell them, so they are taken apart and re-assembled several times. Hardware wears out or loosens, pieces go missing, or the crib is put together incorrectly, and all of these things can lead to a drop-side crib failure. The crib style means that when the drop side breaks or loosens, it can create a gap where a baby can become entrapped.

If you're using an older or used drop-side crib, make absolutely sure that you have all of the pieces and that the crib is assembled correctly. Check the hardware and moving parts periodically to be sure they still work properly. Some crib safety groups are already recommending against the use of older drop-side cribs, and baby gear giant Toys R Us has decided to stop ordering new drop-side cribs due to the safety issues, so your best best may be to avoid this type of crib altogether until more information is available.

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