Of all nursery products, cribs are responsible for the most infant deaths. Whether you choose a new crib or a hand-me-down, evaluate it carefully to ensure that your baby's resting place is safe.
What to look for:
Side rails should be fixed and not adjustable. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the sale of adjustable side rails for safety reasons. Do not purchase or accept a used crib with an adjustable side rail.
The distance between slats must be no more than 2-3/8 inches (6 centimeters) to protect infants from falling out and toddlers from trapping their heads between the slats.
If the crib has corner posts, they must be either flush with the top of the headboard and footboard or very tall — over 16 inches (41 centimeters). Anything in between is a potential strangulation hazard.
Get the firmest mattress you can find. Don't rely on manufacturers' labels — test it yourself. This is extremely important because soft mattresses may play a role in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Be sure that the mattress fits snugly in the crib. This keeps a baby from slipping in between the mattress and the crib sides. Buy a mattress pad that fits tightly and make sure that the plastic mattress packaging has been removed.
Evaluate a used crib with extra care. There may be too much space between slats, or elaborate cut-outs in the headboard and footboard that can trap a baby's head. A crib made before 1978 may have a finish that contains lead, so a crib that has been in the family for generations may not be the best one to use!
Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep.
Check all screws and hardware regularly and tighten them if necessary.
To prevent suffocation, never place soft bedding or soft toys (blankets, fluffy comforters, pillows, plush toys) in your baby's crib.
Although bumper pads have been widely used, their safety has been questioned. One study, using data from the CPSC, found a number of accidental deaths appeared to be related to the use of bumper pads in cribs and bassinets. Pediatric organizations strongly discourage the use of bumper pads in cribs to avoid accidental suffocation.
Once your baby starts to pull up, remove crib gyms and mobiles to prevent entanglement. If you have bumper pads in the crib, remove them when your baby starts to stand so they cannot be used to help climb out of the crib.
Never place a crib near a window or drapes, because your baby can become entangled in window blind and drape cords. Remove bibs and necklaces when your baby is in the crib. Do not hang toys by strings.