It goes without saying that your baby is going to sleep a lot—we’re talking 14 to 16 hours a day during his first year. As such, he’ll also be spending a lot of time in his crib. And much of that time will be spent unsupervised as well, whether your little one is fast asleep or wide awake and ready to play. With your baby’s crib playing such a huge role during the first couple years of his life, you’ll want to make sure you’ve done everything you can to make baby crib safety a priority.
So, what can you do to ensure your little one is safe and sound in his crib?
Buy a new crib if you can
While it can be tempting to use a hand-me-down crib (especially if it has sentimental value or it’s a family heirloom), it’s safer to get a new crib if you can swing it because an older crib may not meet modern safety standards. Hardware and joints may be prone to breaking, the slats may be too far apart (2 3/8 inches is the max), lead paint may have been used, and it may have a dangerous drop side. When you buy new, you can rest easier knowing none of these potential hazards are present.
Select the right mattress
Always use a mattress that was specially designed for a crib, and make sure that it’s firm. There should be very little indentation when you press on it gently and it should spring right back up. The mattress should also fit snuggly in the crib, with no more than an inch gap between the mattress and the side of the crib—if you can fit more than two fingers in the gap, it’s too big. Remember to remove and discard any plastic from a new mattress and ensure your mattress sheet fits snugly as well.
Position the crib in a safe spot in the nursery
When choosing a place for your little one’s crib, you’ll want to ensure that it isn’t near a window, as drapes, blinds, and cords can all pose a risk of strangulation. Setting your crib up near a window can also expose your baby to cold drafts during the winter and hot conditions in the summer. You’ll also want to position your crib away from the monitor or anything else with a cord.
Adjust the height of the mattress as baby grows
You’ll want to start with your crib’s mattress positioned at the highest level since it makes laying down and picking up your infant easier for you and less disturbing for him. But as your baby grows and gets more mobile, you’ll need to lower the mattress for his safety. When he’s able to sit up on his own or crawl—usually around 5 to 6 months—it’s time to lower the mattress. When he can pull himself up onto his feet, your crib’s mattress should be at its lowest setting.
Keep hazardous items out of the crib
This may come as a surprise, but soft items like plush toys and loose bedding can be a hazard to your baby in his crib because they pose a risk of suffocation. Same goes for bumper pads or other products that attach to your crib’s slats or sides. So, you’ll want to ensure they stay out of the crib for at least the first year (bumper pads should never be used). Natalie Willes from Baby Sleep Trainer reminds us that “as far as mobiles go, it’s best not to use these either as they can pose risks to baby as they grow older and their reach extends. In short, the safest crib is one that’s completely empty of everything besides a mattress, snugly fitting sheet, and baby."
Dress your baby safely
What your little one is wearing while he is in his crib can be just as important for his safety as anything else. To reduce the risk of suffocation, dress your baby in a sleeper instead of using blankets. If you’re worried about him getting cold in the winter months, layer on clothing or use a sleeveless sleep sack. “Conversely, it may be easier than you think for baby to overheat in the summer months, so be conscious not to overdress him when the temperature warms up,” warns Natalie. Getting your baby’s nursery set up and finding the perfect crib can be an exciting and joyous time for you and your partner. Whether you’re a first-time parent or you’ve been around the parenting block a few times and have even mastered your sleep deprivation coping techniques, by following these baby crib safety measures, you’ll both sleep better at night.