What You Need To Know About Cribs: Regulations & Guidelines

What You Need To Know About Cribs:
Regulations & Guidelines

Buying a baby crib is an important step in preparing for your baby. Crib safety standards in the United States are set to keep manufacturers in line and make new cribs safe, but it is not a guarantee.

You may remember drop down sides or movable railings; they were designed to allow easier access to lay down or pick up your baby. Instead of bending over the crib from above, you could just adjust the drop-down side. Unfortunately, this ease of access came at a cost. Between 2001 and 2010 cribs with drop-down sides were linked to over 32 infant deaths.

These dangerous cribs were then banned for sale by the CPSC in 2011. However, recalls were not required since the standards were changed. Check if your drop-down side crib is on the recall list.

In June 2011, a safer generation of cribs came about with 5 New Federal Requirements:

   1. Wood slats must be made of stronger woods to prevent breakage.
   2. Mattress supports must be more durable.
   3. Traditional drop-side cribs cannot be made or sold; immobilizers and repair kits not allowed.
   4. Safety testing must be more rigorous.
   5. Crib hardware must have anti-loosening devices to keep it from coming loose or falling off.

Therefore, with safety the number one concern, avoid buying an older crib. Cribs with drop down sides often turn up at yard sales or second-hand stores, or even message boards online. While it may seem drop-down sides are a great feature, it is in your baby’s best interests that you walk away.

Safety Concerns & Guidelines

Be aware of the distant between slats and corner posts. There should not be more than 2-3/8 inches between crib slats so your baby’s body cannot fit through the slats. If a soda can fits easily through the slats on a crib, the spaces between the slats are too wide.

Corner posts should be flush with the end panels, or no more than 1/16 inches higher, as they can pose a safety hazard to your baby. Corner posts can easily catch onto your baby’s clothing and can result in choking or injury. Often older cribs manufactured in the 90’s or earlier had those fancy finials or knobs, but better to saw them off and sand down the rough edges if you find them on a used crib. The exception to this rule is if the corners are higher than 16 inches to support a canopy, they won’t be a safety risk.

You also need a firm snug-fitting mattress so a baby cannot get trapped between the mattress and the side of the crib. Make sure the mattress is firm and fits snugly against the inside of the crib. Try the two-finger test… if you can fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib, the mattress isn’t a good fit. Basically, the harder it is for you to make the bed, the better for your baby. Also, pull off the plastic if the mattress is new.

Check all hardware. Bolts, screws, and other fittings should be firmly secured, no sharp edges or rough areas and no spots that can pinch or otherwise injure your little one. The crib’s wood should be free of cracks or splits. The entire crib should be very sturdy with tight joints.

Lead paint poses a serious health risk to babies and young children. Even though it was banned in 1978, there are still recalls due to lead paint in children’s toys and jewelry. If you are using an older crib and have any concerns about the paint, it would be best to strip it down and start over using a high-quality, lead-free enamel (check the paint label to make sure your choice is safe as a nursery item). For a natural nursery, stick to non-toxic paint with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Any crib that has peeling or cracked paint (even lead-free) should also be refinished.

When babies began to stand and start teething, too, you will notice they are at the right height for chewing on the crib railings. This can mean a toddler with a mouthful of wood, splinters and paint. Crib manufacturers are not required to put teething rails in place, but some do opt to put permanent rails in their cribs. This can extend the life of your crib, a necessity if you want to reuse the crib for subsequent siblings. A curious toddler can remove separate teething rails with ease if you aren’t careful! Look into buying crib rail covers.

Inside the crib, make sure never to put plush toys or soft bedding in the crib with your baby. Even pillows and comforters that comes with the crib bedding set can pose a suffocation hazard.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also strongly advises against using bumper pads or sleep positioners, as they may increase the risk of SIDS and other crib-deaths. While they are no longer manufactured in the USA and they are not recommended, they might still be found for purchase online or at second-hand stores.

For more information on sleep safety, check out the CPSC Crib Information Center.

Buying A New Crib vs. Buying A Used Crib: Buyer Beware!

If you are considering purchasing a used crib online or from a second-hand store, or have inherited an older crib from friends or family, check to see if it was recalled. Aside from eliminating any drop-down side cribs or cribs with too much space between the slats, you can search the CPSC’s crib recall database to make sure this particular crib hasn’t been recalled. If it has been, don’t use it. In fact, if there is no sentimental value in the crib, it would be best to destroy it.

Another warning about used cribs, avoid ones that have been disassembled. Some parts could be missing, or if there are no instructions, there’s a chance it will be reassembled incorrectly or it will not fit back together snugly and securely. If the joints are loose or the crib isn’t sturdy, it may not last much longer. Be safe, if it’s in pieces when you buy it, it’s almost impossible to tell if it’s in good condition or not.

If you have a crib that you know is unsafe for any particular reason, whether it’s an old drop-side crib or it’s just old and missing parts, the responsible thing to do is to destroy it. Don’t give it away to someone or donate to a second-hand store. Throw it in the trash and mark on it somewhere that it’s unsafe to use. By properly disposing of unsafe cribs you may have just saved another baby’s life.

Other Safety Concerns: Crib Location

You can place your baby crib anywhere in your house, but be aware of placing a crib near a window. Consider as your baby grows and starts reaching and grabbing for things, they can be tangled in curtains or blind cords. They can also use these materials to climb out of their crib. Avoid placing any furniture to close to the crib that can also be used to climb out. Curious babies can get themselves into all sorts of situations!

Be aware of air currents, either cool constant breezes from vents or fans that can make your baby cold, or from radiators or heaters that can make your baby too warm. Avoid direct sunlight and drafty windows.

Feel Safe & Secure With The Cribs Listed On Our Site

All of the cribs reviewed by Best Baby Wishes have been approved by the leaders in baby safety standards.

Not just American as the standards they set are widely used around the world in many applications. Nor are they a “society” but actually a committee. They do not perform any testing, either, but rather insure integrity in products manufactured and sold to consumers by setting standards to meet specific safety requirements.

The JPMA Certification Seal signifies a baby product meets minimum government requirements based on safety and use. To become certified, each product is sample-tested at an independent laboratory to verify it meets the highest standards for safety, performance and functionality. While the JPMA Certification is voluntary, it is based on adherence to ASTM standards, federal and state laws and some retail requirements. The program is designed to provide peace of mind to parents that these products have been independently tested to the most stringent standards.

CPSC stands for safety. The CPSC seeks to promote the safety of consumer products by addressing “unreasonable risks” of injury by coordinating recalls, evaluating products that are the subject of consumer complaints or industry reports, etc.. The Commission also develops uniform safety standards and conducts research into product-related illness and injury.

Check for recalls and safety alerts.

Price Considerations For A New Crib

Size matters. Not the size of the crib, but the size of your baby’s bedroom. Full-size cribs are all the same size: about 29” wide and 53” long. That’s the interior dimension of the crib. Cribs with fancy headboards or curved sides can be several inches wider or longer. Note: A crib mattresses is usually sold separately.

If you get a crib that has an unusual shape or different size, it’s imperative that you get a mattress that will fit it. Also, standard cribs sheets won’t work, either, so keep that in mind when you have a strict budget. Accessories will generally cost more than that of a standard crib.

Standard Baby Cribs: Simple, sturdy designs, usually well-constructed and long-lasting, easy to assemble. Not easy to move from room to room, especially if they don’t fit through a regular door-way. If you are going to move it around, consider lockable caster wheels. It also makes it a lot easier to change the sheets. However, make sure that the wheels are able to be locked in place. Otherwise it’s not safe once your baby starts to stand on their own.

As discussed, it is safer to buy a new crib. If your budget is limited, your basic no-frills crib can be found for $80-$175. Yes, a good sturdy crib is affordable for everyone.

Convertible Baby Cribs: Designed to grow with your baby, convertible to toddler beds, daybeds, even twin-size or full-size beds, makes convertible beds the best value for your money. Even with the additional purchase of guard rails or conversion kits, these cribs can provide for your child for years. While sometimes harder to assemble and not as sturdy as standard cribs, they tend to be more stylish.

The best option for cost-conscious consumers would be a convertible crib. Ranging anywhere from $160-$475, they may cost more for the initial investment, but since they can also be converted into a toddler bed or a daybed, they are better in the long run. Skip buying an additional bed as your baby begins to outgrow their crib, but you may need to purchase an optional guardrail (around $40-$50) to convert to a toddler bed or a daybed.

To convert to a twin bed or a full bed, with the crib being used for a headboard and optional footboard, you may need to purchase a conversion kit which is sold separately (usually around $80-$90).

Higher priced cribs are best if you want the fancy woods and finishes, which may last longer, or if you are looking for the fancy designs and unique structures (think round or oval). These cribs can go for $500 or more.

Portable Cribs: If you have smaller spaces, portable cribs are a good choice. If it fits through your doorways, you can move it around with ease and keep on eye on your baby even when you need to be in a different room.

Also known as a folding crib, a portable crib is essentially a crib on wheels (also known as casters). Once you have moved your baby crib in the desired position, you simply use the locks on each wheel to lock it into place. With the locks on, the baby crib will be unable to roll away.

Depending on whether you have to roll it over carpet or the floor, make sure you have the right type of wheels. By choosing the correct wheels to make it easier to push around, you can also avoid floor damage by scratching.

Not ideal for a full-time crib, as they can become unstable, but portable cribs usually fold up easily, making them good for travel, too. Although you may need to store the mattress away when folded up. Note: Some models include the thinner mattress pad.

If you don’t have room at all for a crib, or want your baby to sleep in your room in the beginning, a baby bassinet is a good alternative to use for the first few months.

Travel Cribs: Made of lightweight materials like aluminum and mesh, they are quick to set up or broken down. They usually come with carry bags that makes them easy to transport and easy to carry. If you take your baby on holidays or often move your baby between houses then this is the baby crib for you.

However, the lightweight materials means they are not very sturdy. They are more prone to wear and tear than regular cribs. This makes travel cribs unsuitable to be used in place of a permanent crib.

With 1,000s of cribs on the market, there’s something for everyone. So set your budget and check out our reviews: 10 Best Baby Cribs: Top Rated for 2018.



  1. Great article and it is something we will need soon!

    I personally don’t like the portable cribs, as you said, they can become unstable.

    I didn’t knew there were convertible cribs as well, I certainly need to check that out, since it can save a lot of money and effort.

    One question about them, you can choose the colour and the material of them, right? 

  2. I didn’t even know that there are regulations! It’s good someone has thought of setting them. Can you believe that I was about to use for my son the one I had as a baby? It’s been like 30 years!

    Still I’m sure there are a lot of manufacturers who don’t follow the rules and they just care about lowering the cost. We have to be more careful…

    I’ll check out your site for suggestions and I’ll ask you if I have any questions. Thank you so much!

    • It’s not the manufacturers we have to worry about. There are standards set by the US Government requiring manufacturers to adhere to these safety standards. I’d be more worried about buying a used crib from a third party who may not be aware of all the hazards a used crib can pose and unknowingly sell you an unsafe crib. Thanks for your comments.

  3. Hi, many thanks for this eye opener about baby cribs namely the new safety standards required to make new cribs safe.  Its a good thing there’s a safe list mothers can refer to before purchase to ensure that any drop-side crib purchased is safe.  A child’s safety is really a number one concern and its just normal to ensure that anything purchased for the child  is safe.  Apart from purchasing used cribs, those ones that may have been used but are given out as a gift should also be examined for the safety standard.  I also agree with you that a best option is to get sizeable one that can be converted into a toddler bed, as the child can use it till he is about 3 years or more

    • Yes, it’s true, crib safety standards are improving all the time. A baby can be sleeping 16-20 hours a day so their sleeping environment needs serious scrutiny. Used cribs can be rickety, but also if they have been disassembled and reassembled adds to their unstableness. Some of the convertible cribs, however, can be used as a toddler bed until 3 or 4, and then converted to a daybed or twin bed and used for another decade!

  4. Great article! 

    Many good point of information for parents to be. There are so many options out there sometimes it’s hard to know what to buy, especially as a new parent. 

    I always wanted to get a convertible crib for our boys although we were gifted a crib. And… both had a slide down rail which I had no idea they are no longer considered safe. 

    Thank you for a great post. Very useful information for parents.

    Have a great day!


    • Yes, there are so many choices for a new parent to make. It can be overwhelming. Being gifted a crib might be a good thing, as long as they are safe so you don’t have to worry. Thank you for your comments.

  5. My wife and me are expecting a baby within the next few months and to be honest with you we were taking about buying a baby crib and your post provided us with great insights.

    I am really shocked when I read “Between 2001 and 2010 cribs with drop-down sides were linked to over 32 infant deaths” as a result to be on a safer side we will be more cautious, thanks a lot for sharing.

    Safety Concerns & Guidelines is really very helpful and you walked through all the necessities. Thanks for the two-finger test you advised.

    After reading your post, I think instead of buying an old crib it’s better to go for the new one and your recommendations on different types of cribs are helpful.

    Wishing you great success!


    • Thanks, Paul. It is important to be very mindful when buying a crib for your baby. Most people would think by the year 2000 we would have figured out how to build a better crib, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. At least by 2011, we had enough proof to ban drop-down sides. Now our babies can sleep safely!

  6. This is an awesome article! I wish I could have had this article around when I was buying a crib! We don’t think about how the smallest thing could be a potential hazard. The statistics are heartbreaking! I’m so glad you shared this information and brought these facts to light! I will definitely be sharing!

    • Thanks Janis, we have so much more information available to us today, and we share so much more, too. It’s wonderful that we are able to share more details than ever before… the better informed the parent is, the better for the parent and baby!

  7. Hi, 

    thanks for sharing information around safety guidelines for cribs.  I did not know that cribs were so heavily regulated.  I know that kids can get themselves into all kinds of unwanted situations, but I believe that many accidents happen because of parents’ negligence.  

    With both our babies, we have made sure that we use the crib only to sleep and not to have playtime in it.  Whenever the baby is up, we will go immediately to help them out of the crib and place them on the floor to play.  That might sound silly, but kids are not meant to be in the crib for extended times.  Adults are not in bed all the time either.  When they relax, they sit on a sofa, or lay on a couch, etc., but usually not in bed.  And we do not play in our bed either.  

    So many of the childrens deaths related to cribs, I believe, could in many cases be prevented if parents would tend to their babies.  However, that is just my opinion.

    And I am glad that cribs are regulated so less accidents happen.  

    Thanks for this valuable information,


    • It may not be that the parents were unattentive, but these types of deaths just happen way too fast. It is unfortunate, but some accidents can not be prevented even by the most doting parent. Thanks for your comments.

  8. I love kids but don’t have too much experience taking care of a baby and to see some of the improvements that have made for baby crib safety is actually great to hear. I’ve seen babies smart enough to get caught or escape their own cribs due to the lack of crib safety in the first place. With that being said, I would put in the effort to spend money for a new crib vs a used crib especially from a stranger and can certainly see the worth in buying the best one for my child.

    • Right, Ryan! Babies & toddlers grow up so fast and climb even faster! It’s amazing what they can get into. That’s why we have to pay attention to the CPSC saftey standards and make sure we purchase the safest crib for our little ones.

  9. Wow, didn’t know that there’s so much regulations for a crib!

    I’m an event decorator and recently I have this client who wanted me to decorate a baby arrival event in a hospital. They wanted me to provide drapes and lights decor, along with a crib decorated with a soft fairy-pink theme. I was thinking of getting a used crib since I have to only be using it for a 2 days, do you think it would be okay if I get a used one since its only for a few days?

    • That is a unique situation! Usually the elaborate photo sessions would come later at home, not take place in the hospital! A used crib for limited use should be just fine. I would still avoid a crib with drop-down sides as the hardware can fail and the side does not stay locked in place, causing a possible entrapment issue. That same hardware has also been known to come loose and become a choking hazard. The other concern is the snug fitting of the mattress. A newborn is not going to be so wiggly as a three-four month old baby, so a used crib should be fine if there is not too much space between the mattress and the crib.

  10. I don’t think people realize how important the safety of a babies sleeping arrangements are. I never knew they outlawed the drop down cribs I just figured they were old school and outdated. How did they attribute them to infant deaths?

    Do you recommend a new crib or is a used crib ok to use if you only plan on one child , and don’t want to spend on a bed that the child will eventually outgrow? 

    I had to learn the hard way when positioning my child near his dresser which was close to a chair that he would climb on to get to the chair to get down. Luckily I caught him on his nanny cam and stopped his daredevil escape. 

    Thanks for sharing,


    • No Shannon, I can not recommend a used crib. I certainly have no way of judging a crib without seeing it, but as I stated in the article you don’t know if it was ever disassembled and put back together again. This can make the crib unstable and unsafe, as well as missing parts can be a problem, or loose parts which is a choking hazard.

      You would also want to search the CPSC’s recall list (there is a link above in the article) to make sure there wasn’t lead paint used for that brand. And the drop-down sides can fail and trap a baby, essentially choking them between the railing and the mattress. For my baby’s safety, and for peace of mind, I would buy a new crib!

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