Crib and Mattress Safety: What to Look for at Child Care Facilities

We hope you enjoy this guest post from the experts at the Sleep Help Institute. If you have additional questions about safe sleeping practices, please contact our Infant/Toddler specialists.

Child safety is always at the forefront of both the minds of parents and child care providers. When it comes to sleep safety, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) developed requirements to protect children when they’re at their most vulnerable. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics also updated their crib and mattress recommendations. These guidelines still hold today and all child care facilities, and caregivers should abide by them.

WHAT MAKES A CRIB SAFE?

The construction, hardware, placement, and accessories of a crib all contribute to child safety. Standards to watch for include:

  • Bar Space: Sidebars should be spaced no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. That’s about the width of a pop can. A wider space gives enough room for a child’s head to slide through the bars and potentially get injured.
  • Top Rail Height: The distance between the top of the crib rail and the mattress must be at least 26 inches. This should be the distance even when the crib mattress is at the highest position. As children get taller,  caregivers should lower the mattress so the child cannot climb or fall out of the crib.
  • Solid Head and Footboards: Solid headboard and footboards prevent a child’s body and clothing from getting caught in cutouts. Crib models that have bars at the head and foot of the crib should still maintain the 2 3/8-inch distance necessary on sidebars.
  • Remove Corner Posts: Corner posts present a strangulation hazard because clothing can get caught on them.
  • The Mattress: A safe crib mattress should be firm and should not sag under the weight of a child. The mattress should also fit snugly against the crib walls with no space between the two.

Even a crib that meets all the standards can become dangerous if not properly maintained. Child care providers should regularly check cribs for broken and missing pieces. Parents deciding on a facility should ask how often child care providers inspect the cribs.

Once in a while, an old crib that doesn’t meet the new standards may still be in use, including drop-side cribs. Today, drop-side cribs cannot be manufactured, sold, or even donated because of the danger they pose. These cribs were designed to give caregivers easy access to the baby with a side (or two) that could be lowered. However, a lowered side created a gap between the mattress and crib rail where children could get caught. The moving hardware necessary for these cribs also tended to break and warped, which led to preventable injuries.

MORE THAN A CRIB MAKES SLEEPING SAFE

Child safety requires more than the right hardware. The location and contents of the crib can also make a difference. For example:

  • Caregivers should not place cribs near windows. Drafts can make the baby uncomfortable while cords and strings pose a strangulation hazard.
  • Bumpers aren’t necessary. Bumpers were designed to prevent children from hurting themselves by running into the side of the crib. However, they pose more danger than they prevent as they can be a potential suffocation and strangulation hazard.
  • Stuffed animals and extra blankets may look cute but they aren’t necessary and can be a suffocation hazard. They also make a good step stool for older children, putting them at risk of falling out of the crib.

COMMITMENT TO SAFETY

Parents can and should discuss their safety concerns with any potential child care provider. A child care provider that’s up-to-date on the latest standards will be more than happy address any and all safety concerns.

Cover image by Flickr user Donnie Ray Jones, Creative Commons license.

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