SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center
(314) 577-5600

Choosing Safe Baby Products: Cribs

Whether you choose a new crib or a hand-me-down, check it carefully to make sure that your baby's sleep space is safe.

What to look for:

  • Fixed side rails: Side rails should be fixed, not adjustable. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the sale of adjustable side rails for safety reasons. Do not buy or accept a used crib with an adjustable side rail.
  • Proper slat distance: 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.
  • Get the firmest mattress you can find. Don't rely on manufacturers' labels — test it yourself by pushing firmly on the center and all sides of the mattress. Make sure the mattress holds firm and springs back in place quickly. 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. Make sure to remove any plastic mattress packaging before use. If you use a mattress pad, buy one that fits tightly.
  • Corner posts: 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.
  • If you are getting a used crib, check it with extra care:
    • Avoid cribs older than 10 years old: They may not meet the most recent safety standards. 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!
    • Check the condition of the crib: Check that the crib has all of its hardware and that all parts and slats are in good condition. Only use manufacturer-provided parts if any repairs are needed. Make sure you have a manual to assemble it properly.


  • Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep.
  • Make sure the crib has not been recalled by the manufacturer.
  • Check all screws and hardware regularly and tighten them if necessary.
  • A bare bed is best. Never place bumper pads, soft bedding, or soft toys (blankets, fluffy comforters, pillows, plush toys) in your baby's crib. Any of these items could cause your baby to suffocate.
  • Remove mobiles when your baby starts to push to his or her hands and knees or when your baby turns 5 months old, whichever comes first.
  • Do not place a crib near a window or drapes. Your baby could fall or become entangled in window blind and drape cords.
  • Remove bibs and necklaces from your baby’s neck before putting your baby in the crib.
  • Do not hang toys by strings.

Reviewed by: Samantha Hill, MD, and Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: August 2015