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Color Their World - Safe! Articles on child health and safety, from Nanny's Place

Safety Tips for Preparing and Using Your Crib

Preparation and Upkeep

Once you’ve chosen a safe crib, you need to prepare it for use.

If you’re going to repaint the crib, be sure to use high quality household enamel paint and make sure it’s completely dry so there are no residual fumes. Don’t use any old paint that may have too much lead it it, and be sure to check the label to see if the manufacturer has recommended that you not use it for cribs and other items for children.

If the crib or any parts of it have been protected with plastic wrapping material, remove all of the plastic, tie it into knots and throw it away. And remember, never use thin plastic cleaning or trash bags as mattress covers. The thin film can cling to your baby’s face and cause her to suffocate.

If you use bumper pads, be sure they fit around the entire crib, tie or snap into place and have at least six straps (in each corner and at the middle of both long sides). Tie off any excess length to keep your baby from chewing on the straps or getting tangled up in them. Stop using the bumpers once your baby can pull himself up to a standing position, so he won’t use them to try to climb out.

Never put the crib or other child furniture near window blinds or drapery. Your baby could strangle on the cords or fall through the screen. To keep cords out of your child’s reach, you can use a clamp or clothes pin, tie the cord to itself, or cut the loop in half to make two separate cords.

Before you place your child inside the crib, look it over carefully. Replace any missing parts such as screws, bolts and mattress support hangers; tighten all screws and bolts. If the screws are inserted into a wood component that can’t be tightened securely, replace it with one that can be. Make sure the mattress fits snugly.

If the mattress support of your crib is suspended by hangers attached to hooks on the end panels, make sure they are firmly connected. And be sure to check often to make sure they have not become disconnected.

Checking over your crib on a regular basis to make sure it’s structurally sound is extremely important. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has investigated or received reports of many cases where cribs have come apart. When this happens, your baby’s head can get trapped in the newly created open spaces between the mattress and side rail.

Hardware intended to hold the crib together can become loose or break for a number of reasons: children’s play, repeated disassembling and reassembling, or just because of moving or cleaning the crib.

Some cribs have been designed in such a way that the mattress support hanger can come out of the supporting hook easily, letting the mattress drop at one corner. The CPSC says that this can happen when changing the sheets, raising or lowering the drop side, or simply when the baby moves in the crib. The CPSC also knows of cases in which wood screws have pulled out of the wood, machine screws and nuts have worked loose, and hooks which support the mattress have broken or bent. For more details, please read CPSC Warns Parents About Infant Strangulations Caused by Failure of Crib Hardware.

You should also check your crib on a regular basis for other potential problems mentioned in this and the article about buying a crib, such as loose bumper pads, or chips or cracks in the wood.

If you have any doubts about the safety of your crib, repair or discard it!

Using Your Crib

If your baby is less than one year old, CPSC recommends that you
*Place her on her back in a crib with a firm, tight-fitting mattress.
*Don’t use pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, or pillow-like stuffed toys in the crib.
*Use a sleeper or thin blanket with no other covering.
*Use only a fitted bottom sheet specifically made for crib use.

Always lock the side rail in the raised position whenever your baby is in the crib. As soon as he starts to stand up, move the mattress to its lowest position and remove bumper pads, large toys or pillows and anything else your baby could use to climb out on.

Never hang any stringed object, such as a toy on a string, on the corner post or near the crib where you baby could catch on it and strangle. If you buy toys with cords or strings attached, cut the strings off.

Never put a loop of ribbon or cord around your child’s neck for any reason. Be sure to remove bibs and necklaces when you put your baby in the crib or playpen.

Is your child 35 inches or more in height? Then she’s too big for her crib and should now sleep in a bed.

If you have a mesh drop-sided crib or playpen make sure the drop side is up and securely locked into position whenever your child is inside. When the side is down, a loose pocket forms between the mattress and the mesh which your baby could fall or roll into. If his head becomes trapped, he could suffocate. For more information and a picture of how this can happen, see Infants Can Suffocate In Mesh Drop-Sided Playpens.

Temporary beds: CPSC recommends that you never place your baby to sleep on an adult bed, water bed, or bunk bed. Babies up to 18 months can suffocate in their sleep when their bodies or faces become wedged between the mattress and bed frame or the mattress and wall. (I don’t know how this relates to the family bed, I’ll be researching and writing on that issue later.)

These tips are compiled from information on the CPSC web site:
and also from information in Economics and Rural Sociology, Penn State, May 1990, which I found online in 1993.

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Last updated Sun, Jun 4, 2006

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