7 Crib safety tips and checklist: A guide to safe sleep

Updated Mar 24, 2022
Crib in nursery

During the first year of their life, babies spend more time sleeping than awake. Since safety guidelines are always evolving, we’ve outlined the most important things you’ll need to know to ensure your baby has a safe sleep space. From choosing the right crib, to setting up the sleep environment, here’s what you should know according to current guidelines.


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You’ve probably already figured out that we’re obsessed with improving sleep at Huckleberry. As parents ourselves, safety is also a top priority. When we talk about “safe sleep,” we’re interested in two categories: (1) the sleep space itself (i.e., the furniture), and (2) the conditions within the sleep space.

In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Task Force on SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) issued a policy statement on safe sleep, which recommends using a crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard that meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Keep the following in mind when choosing a crib: 

It can be so helpful when generous friends and relatives offer second hand baby gear. However, it’s important to know that the CPSC warns against using cribs that are older than 10 years.

The AAP and CPSC also caution parents to avoid using cribs that are broken, modified, or have a dropside design.

According to the CPSC, crib slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. This helps prevent a baby’s body from fitting through the slats.

Check for missing or cracked slats. All slats should be present and in good condition.

Make sure all of the screws, brackets, and hardware are installed properly. We don’t want any missing, loose, broken, or improperly installed parts on the crib or the mattress support.

Any corner posts should be no more than  1/16th inch high, so your baby's clothing cannot catch.

Pass on cribs that have cutouts in the headboard or the footboard, as these pose a risk of the baby’s head getting trapped.

Crib in nursery in the evening

Once we’ve made sure the crib is safe, we’ll turn our attention to the “hows” involved in safely putting your infant in the crib for sleep. Note that some of these guidelines only apply to babies under 12 months of age. We’ll add an asterisk next to those.

Use a firm, tight-fitting mattress. Ensure that there are no gaps larger than two fingers between the sides of the crib and the mattress to prevent getting trapped between the mattress and crib.

To prevent suffocation, keep pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, pillow-like bumper pads, or pillow-like stuffed toys out of the crib. Consider using a sleepsack once you’ve transitioned out of the swaddle

Place your baby on their back in the crib for sleep. Once a baby starts to roll, it’s usually OK for them to remain sleeping on their stomachs if they roll themselves that way (assuming a firm, flat surface without soft objects or loose bedding), but please confirm with your pediatrician, who knows your child's health history and development.

Never place a crib near a window with blinds, curtain cords or baby monitor cords, as they have the potential to strangle.  

In a 2014 study, 14 white noise machines were tested for safety. All of the machines at maximum output exceeded hospital-recommended noise levels. As a result, the AAP recommends placing noise machines at least 7 feet (200 centimeters) away from a baby’s sleep space and lowering the volume below the maximum volume setting. Ideally the volume should be no louder than 50 decibels, or the volume of an average vacuum cleaner or hair dryer.

The AAP recommends sharing a room for at least 6 months, ideally a year. However, according to the AAP and the public health campaign from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, babies should be placed in a separate sleeping area, rather than share a bed with you.

It’s important to acknowledge that many families do choose to bed-share despite the potential risks. Others begin the night in separate sleep spaces, but then bed-share at some point during the night. This is especially common after nighttime feedings. 

Research shows that it is more dangerous to fall asleep in an armchair or sofa, than in an adult bed. If you choose to bed-share, or there’s a chance a caregiver will fall asleep while feeding your baby in an adult bed, be sure to remove all soft items and bedding from the bed. This will reduce the risk of SIDS, suffocation, and other sleep-related causes of death.

Crib Safety FAQ

Q: Are cribs safe for newborns?

A:

 Experts say that the crib is the safest place for your baby to sleep, starting from day one, as long as the crib meets the CPSC standards for safety and all other safe sleeping practices are followed.

Q: What about mesh-sided cribs and playpens?

A:

 Play yards should be set up properly according to manufacturers' directions. Extra padding shouldn’t be used; only use the mattress pad provided with the playpen or travel crib.

Q: Are crib tents a good option for toddlers prone to climbing out of their crib?

A:

 There have been a number of recalls on crib tents in the past, and many experts warn about the safety of modifying the crib space with accessories. Ensure the mattress is at the lowest setting and consider using a sleep sack to prevent your toddler from climbing out of the crib.

Q: How can I know if my crib from 1990 is safe for my baby? Do cribs expire?

A:

 Cribs don’t expire per se. However, the CPSC doesn't recommend using cribs that are older than 10 years, as they are unlikely to adhere to their official safety standards.

Q: Where can I find a list of crib recalls?

A:

 For further information on crib safety, you can contact the CPSC at 1-800-638-2772 or search for recalls here.

Q: Are baby boxes safe to use instead of a crib?

A:

 Baby boxes don’t meet the criteria for a safe sleep space under the current CPSC safety standards. The AAP has said that more information is needed before making a recommendation regarding the safety of baby boxes.

Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.