Building a Crib
When the baby first comes home, she will almost certainly not sleep in a crib. She is so tiny, and the crib is so big. For the first few months she will sleep in a bassinet or perhaps your own bed or a co-sleeper.
Sooner or later, though, your child will move into her crib. This is where she will spend much of her day asleep. She will be alone during this time, not watched by either her mother or you. For these reasons, her crib needs to be absolutely safe.
As many as three out of four newborns in the United States sleep in used cribs. You may receive a loaner from other parents who no longer need theirs. You may have picked one up at a yard or garage sale. Grandma may have also given you a sentimental hand-me-down. She may have kept the crib you slept in when you were a baby for decades, waiting for the chance to give it to you so you could use it for your child.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a used crib, as long as it is safe. A used crib may have been sitting in a garage for years, gathering dust. Parts may need to be replaced, and it may need a new paint job. Check it over thoroughly. You may need to refurbish part or all of it before you let your baby sleep in it.
Most crib injuries occur when the child is older and can move around. The baby could jump up and down and catch a piece of clothing on a corner post extension, causing strangulation. Or she could jump with enough force to make the entire crib collapse on top of her. Both of these are frightening scenarios, to be sure, but they can and do occur.
Your child will not be able to jump or bounce or move around in her crib for some months. You will put her down on her back, and that is how she will be when you return to pick her up after her nap. Even so, your crib needs to be safe from day one. Here are some guidelines to follow:
Shake the crib after you assemble it. Make sure it is solid and not wobbly.
Inspect corner extensions. Corner posts need to be the same height as end panels so clothing cannot catch on them.
Remove corner post extensions if they stick out. Saw them off and sand them down.
Inspect the slats, which must be less than 2⅜ inches apart. A child will stick her feet down in the slats and may wedge her head in the spaces.
Tighten down the screws, nuts, and hardware. They should be solidly in place and secure.
Check for any sharp edges or points or any rough surfaces. Sand them down smooth.
Be sure the mattress fits snugly. Babies can slip into the gaps between the mattress and crib and suffocate.
Follow the instructions if putting together a new crib. A badly assembled crib may lead to problems.
Inspect the crib periodically. Screws can become loose, especially when the baby gets older and more active.
If you have any doubts about your crib, junk it and get a new one. If that's not possible, hire someone to take a look at it and fix what needs to be fixed. Your baby needs a safe crib, and knowing you have provided this for her will give you peace of mind.
Thousands of children are hurt in unsafe cribs every year. Many of these injuries are so severe that the infants need medical treatment. More seriously, hundreds of children have died in the past decade from injuries sustained in their crib. The causes of many of these injuries and deaths are considered preventable. To check recalls visit www.cpsc.gov.