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 (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 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 cannot 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 his or her 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 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 his or her 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.
Hunt CE, Hauck FR. Sudden infant death syndrome. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 367.
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.