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Cribs and crib safety

The following article offers recommendations for choosing a crib that meets current safety standards and implementing safe sleep practices for infants.

New Crib or old one?

Whether new or old, your crib should meet all current government safety standards:

  • Cribs should not have drop-rails. They are not safe for babies.
  • Crib parts and hardware must be stronger than in the past.

If you have an older crib that was made before the new safety standards were put into place:

  • Check with the maker of the crib. They may offer hardware to keep the drop side from moving.
  • Check the crib often to make sure the hardware is tight and no parts are broken or missing.
  • Check to see if your crib has been recalled before you use it.
  • Think about buying a new crib that meets the current standards, if you can.

Whether the Crib is new or Older

Always use a firm, tight-fitting mattress. This will help keep the baby from getting trapped between the mattress and the crib.

Do a crib-safety check. There should be:

  • No missing, loose, broken, or poorly installed screws, brackets, or other hardware on the crib
  • No cracked or peeling paint
  • No more than 2 3/8 inches, or 6 centimeters, (about the width of a soda can) between crib slats, so that a baby's body cannot fit through the slats
  • No missing or cracked slats
  • No corner posts over 1/16th inch (1.6 millimeters) high, so that they will not catch on the baby's clothing
  • No cutouts in the headboard or foot board, so that the baby's head will not get trapped

Using a Crib

Read and follow the directions to set up, use, and care for the crib.

  • Never use a crib with loose or missing parts or hardware. If parts are missing, stop using the crib and contact the crib maker for the right parts. Do not replace them with parts from a hardware store.
  • Never place a crib near cords from hanging window blinds, curtains, or drapes. Babies can get caught and strangled in the cords.
  • Hammocks and other swinging devices should not be put onto a crib because they could strangle a baby.
  • Lower the crib mattress before your baby can sit up on their own. The mattress should be at the lowest level before the baby can stand up.

Hanging crib toys (mobiles, crib gyms) should be out of the baby's reach.

  • Remove any hanging crib toys when your baby first begins to push up on hands and knees (or when your baby is 5 months old).
  • These toys can strangle a baby.

Children should be taken out of a crib by the time they are 35 inches (90 centimeters) tall.

Safe Bedding for Children

Though it is rare, some babies die in their sleep without any known reason. This is known as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

You can do many things to keep your baby safe during sleep and reduce the chance of a SIDS death.

  • Place your baby on their back on a firm, tight-fitting mattress.
  • Do not use pillows, bumper pads, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys, or any other object that could suffocate or strangle your baby.
  • Use a sleeper gown to cover your baby instead of a blanket.
  • Make sure your baby's head remains uncovered during sleep.

Do not place your baby on a water bed, sofa, soft mattress, pillow, or other soft surface.


Hauck FR, Carlin RF, Moon RY, Hunt CE. Sudden infant death syndrome. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 402.

United States Consumer Product Safety Commission website. Crib safety tips. Accessed September 26, 2022.

Wesley SE, Allen E, Bartsch H. Care of the newborn. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 21.

Review Date 6/7/2022

Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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