The crib is the one place where babies and young children are regularly left unsupervised. To help keep your child safe, use recommended equipment properly and update features of the crib as your child grows.
In Canada, cribs made before September 1986 are considered unsafe, and it is illegal to advertise and sell them, though they may be found at garage sales and flea markets. If you are thinking of buying a used crib, be sure to check for a label to see when it was made. Do not use or buy a crib made before September 1986.
Crib safety standards
The strict guidelines for crib construction help prevent many injuries. If a crib does not meet current safety standards, your baby may be injured.
A properly constructed crib has:1
- Less than 6 cm (2.4 in.) of space between slats. This prevents a child's head from becoming trapped.
- No cutout designs or spaces if there is an otherwise solid headboard or footboard. A child's head, hands, arms, or legs can get stuck.
- No corner posts. Clothing can attach to these posts and injure or strangle a child.
- Tight and secure screws, bolts, and other construction materials. Check these parts every week. A physically active child can loosen these structures, and the crib can collapse.
- Lead-free paint. Older cribs may have paint that is lead-based. Babies can get lead poisoning from chewing and gnawing on a crib with lead-based paint.
Don't use an old crib. And if a crib has missing or broken parts, don't use the crib and don't try to fix it yourself. Get a crib that does not need any repairs. Visit the Government of Canada's webpage on baby product safety at www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/nursery-products.html to learn more information.
Crib-related injuries also are caused by unsafe or improperly used accessories. Injuries can also occur as your child grows bigger. Be aware of the common crib hazards. Make sure you:1, 1, 1
- Use only mattresses designed for the crib. You should not be able to fit more than two fingers in the space between the mattress and crib. Also, remove any plastic covering from the mattress.
- Help prevent your child from falling out of the crib, the leading cause of crib injuries, by adjusting the mattress level as he or she grows. Start lowering the mattress no later than when your child begins to sit with little help. Adjust the mattress to its lowest setting by the time your baby can stand.
- Keep cribs—as well as all other furniture and large objects—away from windows to prevent serious falls.
- Do not place the crib near drapes or blinds. Window cords can get wrapped around a child's neck. When your child is 90 cm (35 in.) tall, he or she has outgrown the crib and should sleep in a bed.
- Remove mobiles and activity gyms from the crib by the time your child can push up on his or her hands and knees or is 5 months of age, whichever comes first. These are strangulation hazards for children who can get on their hands and knees.
- Don't use bumper pads or other products that attach to crib slats or sides. They could suffocate or trap your baby.
- Never use a sleep positioner. Using a sleep positioner to hold a baby on his or her side or back can be dangerous.
- Keep soft items and loose bedding out of the crib. Items such as blankets, stuffed animals, toys, and pillows could suffocate or trap your baby. Dress your baby in sleepers instead of using blankets.
Movable side rails are a safety hazard. If your crib has the kind of side rail that can be raised and lowered, always raise it and secure it properly when your child is in the crib.
- Health Canada, Consumer Product Safety (2012). Is your child safe? Sleep time. Health Canada. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/cons/child-enfant/sleep-coucher-eng.php. Accessed October 14, 2015.
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Keeping your child safe. In SP Shevlov et al., eds., Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 457–506. New York: Bantam.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2017). Infant sleep positioners: FDA warning—Risk of suffocation. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm578531.htm. Accessed: October 3, 2017.
Current as of: February 10, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics