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Crib Safety Standards

How the Current Federal Crib Standards Keep Your Baby Safe

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Baby Standing in Crib

Today's crib safety standards require testing that mimics real-world crib use.

James Woodson / Getty Images
When new federal crib safety standards went into effect in June 2011, most people only heard about the ban on drop-side cribs. While the new standards do only include cribs with stationary sides, effectively banning drop-sides, that's not the only safety improvement.

Tougher Testing

The previous level of testing required to call a crib safe was pretty weak. Today's standards require much more stringent racking tests, which push and pull on a crib, and move it in two directions. This type of testing is supposed to mimic a baby or toddler moving around in the crib as they would in real life. The testing must be repeated according to the standard, as well, without re-tightening the crib hardware. The new testing requirements provide a much better simulation of real life wear and tear.

Slat Strength

Some cribs on the market before the new standards came about had incredibly weak slats. In fact, some of them were easily broken by babies inside the crib. Between 2008 and 2009, more than 450,000 Jardine brand cribs were recalled because their slats could break, forming a gap in the crib side that could allow entrapment or strangulation. In about a third of the reported incidents, a child in the crib was able to break the slats. The new federal safety standards require crib slats to be made with stronger wood and attached in ways that they cannot be easily broken.

Mattress Supports

Since 2009, well over half a million cribs have been recalled because their mattress supports could bend, detach or fail in some way, allowing the mattress to fall. This posed a risk of entrapment and strangulation. In some cases, such as the 2010 recall of Simplicity brand cribs, the problem was that the mattress supports themselves could break. For other cribs, such as the 2009 Stork Craft cribs recall, the brackets or hardware that attached the mattress supports to the crib could break or fail. Included in the new safety standards are tougher requirements for the brackets and other hardware that attach mattress supports to the crib, and for the supports themselves. Testing is required to mimic a child jumping on the crib.

Hardware Requirements

Millions of cribs have been recalled because of weak hardware that could break or come loose from the crib. In many cases, hardware problems affected drop-side cribs because the moving parts put more wear and tear on hardware. According to safety advocacy group Kids in Danger, if the U.S. had required stronger hardware in the old standards, millions of drop-side cribs likely wouldn't have required recalls. As part of the new safety standards, crib manufacturers can no longer use wood screws in crib assembly. They also must use anti-loosening devices on crib hardware to make sure it can't fall off or come loose.

Some Assembly Required

Now, when you unpack baby's crib from its box to prepare for assembly, it should be more obvious than ever which piece goes where. Thousands of cribs have been recalled because it was too easy to assemble them incorrectly, which lead to breakage or other safety issues. The new safety standards require instructions to be even more clear, and the crib parts are supposed to be labeled in an obvious way so that you can't mistake a crib side for a mattress support, for example, or install a crib rail upside-down.

Stationary Sides

The best known aspect of the new crib safety standards is the ban on drop-side cribs. You'll no longer find cribs with moving sides in stores. Some manufacturers have created cribs with adjustable sides, or cribs that are lower to the ground, in order to accommodate parents who really liked that lower crib side.

Crib Bedding - A Separate Issue

While a large portion of crib-related deaths were due to soft bedding, padding, or pillows in the crib, these things are not part of the new safety standards. There's no reasonable way for crib manufacturers to address all of the things parents could add to baby's sleep space. However, today's cribs will have labeling on the crib rails or headboards telling parents not to add extra items to the crib. These labels are supposed to be in an obvious place, not hidden from view. The labels also should instruct parents to place baby to sleep on his or her back.

Safer Than Ever

These new crib safety standards are based on the voluntary ASTM international standards, but with a few extra improvements. For example, ASTM standards allow retightening of hardware between test repetitions, while U.S. standards do not. CPSC calls today's cribs the safest generation of cribs ever available. According to Kids in Danger, the U.S. now has the best crib safety standards in the world.
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