How to Shop for a Safe Crib
So what should expectant parents look for when buying a crib?
- The Mattress: One of the most important standards is a firm, tight-fitting mattress with a support that doesn't pull away easily from the corner posts. Loose mattresses have led to the suffocation of many infants who became trapped between the mattress and the side of the crib. To test the space, place your fingers between the mattress and the side of the crib; if more than two fingers fit, the mattress is not large enough.
- Spacing of Crib Slats: Parents also should check the space between crib slats to make sure that a baby's leg or arm (or even his entire body) can't fit through. Slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart—about the width of a soda can. Take one with you during your crib search! If other shoppers give you funny looks, who cares? You're one step ahead in the quest for a safe nursery!
- Crib Hardware: The CPSC recommends checking for missing, broken, loose, or improperly installed hardware on the crib or mattress support. Never assume that manufacturers triple-checked every screw or bracket. Physically examine the crib for stability and make sure the wood joints are not splitting apart. Also check for splinters or rough edges and, in older cribs, cracked or peeling paint (to avoid lead poisoning). Make sure the corner posts are no higher than 1/16 inch; otherwise a baby's clothing could catch. If you find that your dream crib has foot-high posts, simply cut them off and sand down the edges. However, if the posts are 16 inches or higher, leave them be: they are too tall to pose a risk to your baby. You might even be able to have that canopy after all!
- Avoid Cut-Outs: As cute as cut-outs in the headboard or footboard may be, the CPSC recommends passing them by. They may look adorable and fit your nursery theme, but your baby's head could become trapped in them.
- Plan Ahead: Most parents buy a crib before the baby is born or shortly after her birth. Even then, you need to plan well into the future. Purchase a crib that provides as much space as possible between the mattress support and the top of the side rail.