Crib Safety

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Crib Safety

Topic Overview

The crib is the one place where babies and young children are regularly left unsupervised. Keep your child safe by using recommended equipment properly and by updating features of the crib as your child grows. In Canada, cribs made before September 1986 are considered unsafe, and it is illegal to advertise and sell them, though they may be found at garage sales and flea markets. If you are thinking of buying a used crib, make sure to check for a label to see when it was made. Do not use or buy a crib made before September 1986.1

Because older cribs may not meet current safety standards, be sure to carefully look over used cribs. For more information on crib safety, go to Health Canada's Consumer Product Safety website at

Crib safety standards

The strict guidelines for crib construction help prevent many accidents. If a crib does not meet current safety standards, your baby may be injured. A properly constructed crib has:1

  • No more than 6 cm of space between slats. This prevents a child's head from becoming trapped.
  • No cutout designs or spaces if there is an otherwise solid headboard or footboard. A child's head, hands, arms, or legs can get stuck.
  • No corner posts. Clothing can attach to these posts and injure or strangle a child.
  • Tight and secure screws, bolts, and other construction materials. Check these parts every week. A physically active child can loosen these structures, and the crib can collapse. If replacement parts are needed, do not use the crib until the repairs are made. Only use parts that you order from the manufacturer.
  • Lead-free paint. Older cribs may have paint that is lead-based. Babies can get lead-poisoning from chewing and gnawing on a crib with lead-based paint.

Crib hazards

Crib-related injuries also are caused by unsafe or improperly used accessories. Be aware of the common crib hazards. Make sure you:2

  • Use only mattresses designed for the crib. You should not be able to fit more than two fingers in the space between the mattress and crib. Also, remove any plastic covering from the mattress.
  • Help prevent your child from falling out of the crib, the leading cause of crib accidents, by adjusting the mattress level as he or she grows. Start lowering the mattress no later than when your child begins to sit with little help. Adjust the mattress to its lowest setting by the time your baby can stand.
  • Remove mobiles and activity gyms from the crib by the time your child can push up on his or her hands and knees or is 5 months of age, whichever comes first. These are strangulation hazards for children who can get onto their hands and knees.
  • Keep cribs—as well as all other furniture and large objects—away from windows to prevent serious falls.
  • Do not place the crib near drapes or blinds. A child can strangle on window cords. When your child is 89 cm (35 in.) tall, he or she has outgrown the crib and should sleep in a bed.
  • Monitor what you put in the crib. Large stuffed animals or bulky blankets are hazards. Do not use sleep positioners. They are dangerous and are not needed.

Side rails are a safety hazard. If your crib has a side rail, always raise it and secure it properly when your child is in the crib.

Health Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS), and other professional organizations do not recommend the use of bumper pads in cribs because of the increased risk of serious injury for infants. Crib bumpers are not necessary for cribs that meet current safety standards. Bumpers were created to accommodate older cribs that have more than 6 cm (2 3/8 in.) between each slat.



  1. Health Canada, Consumer Product Safety (2010). Cribs and cradles. Available online:
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Keeping your child safe. In SP Shevlov et al., eds., Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 457–506. New York: Bantam.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last Revised May 13, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.