Key Safety Features for Buying a Crib


Your newborn will spend more time in the crib than anywhere else. These safety features are a must for your child’s safety and comfort.

Type of Crib

No matter what you decide to do, do not buy a “drop side” crib. Drop side cribs were recently eliminated from industry standards and have been associated with at least 32 child deaths in the past decade. That essentially leaves you with two options – stationary side cribs and a “single drop gate” crib which is also called a “single folding side” crib.

With this recent elimination of drop side cribs, stationary side cribs are the most common cribs you will come across. With these cribs, the side of the crib where you would reach for baby is not designed to lower, hence the name “stationary side crib”.

Single folding side cribs, also called single drop gate cribs, allow you to lower a small portion of the crib instead of the entire side of the crib. This option makes it easier to reach for your baby while avoiding the safety hazard of a full drop side crib.

Crib Railings and Sides

Crib railings are subject to a mandatory safety standard. This standard states that the slats may not be more than 2 3/8 inches apart. After assembly and before using the crib, use a ruler to measure the distance between each slat to make sure the distance, or opening, between each slat is no more than 2 3/8 inches. Measure at the top of the crib as well as the bottom – imagine if you just measure the top and the slats are not fully level from top to bottom, it’s possible that the top opening between slats may meet this standard while the bottom may not, and vice versa. So measure each slat, top and bottom. It takes time but will be well worth the added insurance for your child’s safety.

In addition to the distance between slats, measure corner posts. The corner posts, or finials, should be either 1/16” high or should be more than 16” high so that a child’s clothing does not catch on it. 

Crib’s Mattress Support

The mattress that lives in the crib is supported by the crib’s “mattress support”. It is this mattress support that helps to adjust mattress height and hold the mattress in place.

A full sized crib you buy will have two to four mattress height positions. Most crib models are built to adjust the mattress height without tools, while others may require tools such as screws and bolts. Make sure you understand these requirements when setting up your baby’s crib because you will look to lower the mattress height at the 6-8 month mark, on rather short notice. I will explain.

So what happens at the 6-8 month mark? Usually during this time, and for some babies outside of this age window, a baby develops the ability to sit up or pull up. When your baby is able to pull up or sit up, you must adjust the crib’s mattress support to its lowest height. When the mattress support is in this lowest position, the distance between the top of the crib rail and the mattress support should be at least 26 inches. Before you even use the crib, measure this distance to make sure it meets the 26 inch standard.

Another important quality of the mattress support is to ensure it stays secure and intact and does not dislodge – when you are changing the mattress crib sheet, or if your baby bounces on the mattress. Test movement around the mattress and mattress support, both from inside the crib and beneath the crib. The mattress support should not dislodge and should stay intact.


The mattress you buy for a full sized crib must be at least 51 5/8” long, 27 1/4” wide and should be no more than 6 inches thick. These dimensions are legal requirements for a full-sized crib mattress. The intention is for the mattress to fit snugly and securely against the crib, thus reducing likelihood of gaps between the mattress and crib where a child’s body part can be caught.

Your rule of thumb on testing for mattress-crib fit is to test using two fingers, no pun intended. The distance between the mattress and crib should be no larger than two fingers. If you can place more than two fingers between the crib frame and the crib mattress, the fit is not snug enough.

Do not attempt to mitigate for lack of snug fit by introducing tucked blankets in the crib. In that same light, buy and use crib sheets that fit tightly with the mattress. If there are loose sheets in the crib, the baby can pull on the sheets, which poses strangulation risk.

Crib Wheels and Casters

If you are considering a crib that has wheels and casters, make sure the casters can be locked. This will not only help preserve the quality of your hardwood floors as your baby moves while in the crib, it will also help ensure your baby’s safety in case older children consider the “fun” idea of taking the baby for a ride.

Cribs with Drawers

Some cribs come with drawers underneath the mattress support of the crib. If you are considering this type of crib, inquire about the bottom material of the crib drawer. You want to buy a crib with drawers that have a hard bottom, such as fiberboard. This type of thick and sturdy bottom has higher chance to hold up to your baby’s clothing and toys. Avoid a thin drawer bottom, such as a cardboard-like ones, which may easily fall apart against the vast selection of outfits you have in store for baby as she grows!

Overall Construction

As you have likely noticed, most crib models are made of wood and many are painted in all kinds of beautiful colors. Pay special attention to the finish – a little roughness in the finish is okay, but check to make sure the paint is not peeling and there are no defects in the finish such as splintering in the wood.

After you assemble the crib, test for durability and stability. Give the crib a slight shake, the frame should feel stable and intact. Try rotating the slats with reasonable pressure – the slats should stay intact and remain well-secured against the railings; you should not find that the slats loosen, crack or splinter.

Inspect the crib to make sure there are no posts, nuts, screws or other sharp objects that protrude from the crib. Sharp objects and edges can catch your baby’s clothing and can pose a strangulation risk. For this reason, when buying a crib, we should remind ourselves that less is more. A good basic crib that has simple lines and minimalistic design elements is often times the better option for your precious one.

One More Thing

Equally important to these key safety features is knowing when to graduate your baby from the crib. Monitor your baby’s development. As soon as your precious one is able to climb out of the crib, it’s time to stop using the crib. The next stage after a crib is the toddler bed. Plan in advance and expect that you may need to make this change on rather short notice and transition your baby, now toddler, safely.

Enjoy and cherish the time with your baby :)

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