Safety Considerations for Secondhand Cribs

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends against using a secondhand crib.  If you do, they recommend not using a crib that is more than 10 years old.  When considering giving or receiving a crib secondhand, make sure the crib:

  • Was not recalled: The CPSC has recalled more than 11 million dangerous new and used cribs since 2007.  Call the crib’s manufacturer or go to the Recalls and Product Safety News section of the CPSC website to verify that the crib has not been recalled (Canadian users can visit the Recalls and Product Safety Alerts page on the Healthy Canadians website to check for recalls).
  • Has a label with the date of manufacture and model number: Without these, the crib cannot be checked for recalls.
  • Is not too old: Regulations and crib standards have improved over time and a crib that is too old will not meet new safety standards (see below for more information about safety standards).  Also, cribs that have been assembled, disassembled and reassembled over time may have worn out hardware, which can loosen, making the crib unsafe.
  • Comes with instructions: The safest crib on the market can still cause death or injury if not assembled correctly.  Instructions are absolutely necessary to ensure proper assembly of the crib and to verify that there are not any missing parts.  For help locating instructions, check our Instructions/Manuals and Replacement Parts Index.
  • Includes all parts: Used cribs often come without important parts. If parts are missing, check with the manufacturer to make sure the correct parts can be obtained.  For help locating parts, check our Instructions/Manuals and Replacement Parts Index.
  • Is not damaged: Do not try to repair a damaged crib.
  • Is properly assembled: When receiving a crib that is already assembled, make sure there are no missing, loose, broken, or improperly installed screws, brackets or other hardware.

Crib Regulations and Standards

There are three organizations that appear regularly when researching U.S. crib regulations and standards:

  • U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC): an Independent Federal Regulatory Agency charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death from over 15,000 kinds of consumer products in its jurisdiction.
  • ASTM International (ASTM, formerly American Society for Testing and Materials): a non-profit organization whose members, representing industry, government, academia, and consumers, develop voluntary consensus standards for materials, products, systems, and services.
  • Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, Inc. (JPMA): a national trade organization whose member companies manufacture, import and/or distribute infant products.

The CPSC first issued mandatory regulations for full-size cribs in 1973 and issued similar regulations for non-full-size cribs in 1976.  Both sets of regulations were amended in 1982.  In 1976, the JPMA established a voluntary certification program for juvenile products.  JPMA-certified cribs meet or exceed the mandatory regulations of the CPSC and the voluntary standards set by ASTM (ASTM F-1169 and ASTM F-406 are the formal terms used by ASTM to identify their voluntary crib standards) and display the JPMA Certification Seal.

In accordance with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the CPSC studied and developed new mandatory safety standards for full-size and non-full-size hard sided cribs (products with mesh, netting or other non-rigid sides, such as play yards, fall under different standards).  These new standards are largely the same as ASTM’s voluntary standards, with two modifications to their full-size crib standards (ASTM F 1169-10), and four modifications to their non-full-size crib standards (ASTM F 406-10a).  Effective June 28, 2011, the new mandatory standards (updated from the CPSC 1982 regulations):

  • Prohibit the manufacture or sale of traditional drop-side rail cribs
  • Strengthen crib slats and mattress supports
  • Improve the quality of hardware
  • Require more rigorous product testing

The section of the new federal crib standards banning the manufacture or sale of drop-side cribs has received the most attention.  Numerous drop-side cribs manufactured by various companies have been recalled due to failing hardware that allows the drop-side wall of the crib to partially detach from the crib.  This creates a space where a child can become trapped between the drop-side wall and the rest of the crib, causing strangulation and/or suffocation.  Since 2000, drop-side crib sides that have detached have been associated with at least 32 infant suffocation and strangulation deaths.

Some crib manufacturers offer a piece of hardware that can be added to their cribs to immobilize the drop-side.  While this removes the drop-side detachment hazard, the crib will most likely not meet all of the new, more rigorous CPSC crib standards previously mentioned.  A crib cannot be checked for compliance with the new standards by visually examining it.  To verify compliance, contact the manufacturer and ask if the crib complies with 16 CFR 1219, the new federal standard for full-size cribs, or with 16 CFR 1220, the new federal standard for non-full-size cribs.

Some current crib standards were in place prior to June 28, 2011 and can be confirmed through visual examination.  These include:

  • Distance between crib slats or spindles should be no more than 2 3/8 inches (about the width of a soda can, which should not be able to easily pass through).  Widely spaced slats can allow a baby to slip through completely or allow a baby’s torso to slip through, trapping the baby’s head, which can result in death.
  • The crib should not have any decorative cutouts in the headboard or footboard so a baby’s head cannot get trapped.
  • Corner posts should not stick out any higher than 1/16th inch above the headboard and footboard (unless the posts are over 16 inches for a canopy).  A baby can become strangled if their clothes catch on the corner posts.
  • Top rails of crib sides should be at least 26 inches above the top of the mattress support when the mattress support is in its lowest position.
  • If the crib has a drop gate (which is different from the banned drop side), the crib side should be at least 9 inches above the mattress support when the gate is in the lowered position.  This is to prevent the infant from falling out.
  • Paint should not be cracked or peeling.  Cribs constructed before 1978 may pose a lead paint hazard.  Checking for lead cannot be done through visual examination and requires a lead paint test kit.
  • The crib should not have any splinters or rough edges.

If the crib includes a mattress:

  • The mattress should fit tightly within the crib, with no spaces where an infant can get caught and possibly suffocate.
  • The mattress should be firm.

To view more information from the CPSC about the crib standards that went into effect on June 28, 2011, visit their Crib Information Center.

Do you have a crib that no longer meets safety standards?  Check out our blog post with repurposed crib projects to see ideas for giving your old crib new life.