As much as you might love the old crib you and all your family slept in as babies, using an old crib or cradle can pose risks for your baby. Crib accidents cause more injuries than any other nursery product, with 14,500 injuries in 2009 alone, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The slats on cribs must meet up-to-date safety standards to be sold legally in the United States.
The regulations for the distance between crib slats changed in June 2011, when the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) mandated that cribs sold in the United States must have crib slats no more than 2 3/8 inches apart and that the slats must be made stronger to reduce the possibility of them breaking or coming loose. This applies both to new cribs and used cribs sold commercially, whether full-sized or smaller. If you don't carry around a measuring tape, you can use a soda can as a quick and easy measurement tool. If you can easily fit the can through the slats, they're too far apart. Many cribs made before December 2010 won't meet the new regulations, the CPSC reports.
Crib slats further apart than 2 3/8 inches leave a gap large enough for a small infant to slip through. If your baby's legs and trunk fall through the slats, he could strangle if his neck and head can't pass through. If he does slip through, he could suffer a skull fracture or other injury from the fall. Falls accounted for 38 percent of the crib injuries suffered by children between the ages of 1 and 5 months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, with 65 percent of the crib injuries to 6- to 11-month-olds coming from falls.
The standard spacing of crib slats isn't the only safety issue to check for when choosing a crib. Slats on an older or poorly-made new crib could break easily or become loose enough to fall out, leaving a gap your baby could fall through or get stuck in. Manufacturers must also strengthen slats as part of the 2011 guidelines, to reduce the risk of loose or broken slats. Check wooden slats for cracks that could splinter or break off. If you can wiggle the crib slats, they could fall out.
Rather than give up your old crib, you might think that putting a crib bumper into the crib bypasses the problem of non-regulation crib slats because it prevents your baby from getting too close to the sides of the crib and falling through wide slat spaces. But crib bumpers have many of the same injury risks as widely-spaced crib slats, although for different reasons. For example, a baby can suffocate if he becomes wedged between the crib bumpers and the mattress.
- Consumer Product Safety Commission: The New Crib Standard: Questions and Answers
- Healthy Children: New Crib Standards: What Parents Need to Know
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Injuries Associated With Cribs, Playpens, and Bassinets Among Young Children
- Consumer Product Safety Commission: Crib Safety Tips
- James Woodson/Photodisc/Getty Images