Is Your Antique Crib Safe?

Antique Cribs Don't Meet Modern Crib Safety Standards

Baby boy looking through his crib
baobao ou/Moment/Getty Images

Many new parents treasure the idea of using an antique crib for their newborn that has been passed down a generation or more. Others search for a beautiful antique crib or a super thrift store find. Old cribs can be dangerous for babies, though, if they don't meet modern crib safety standards.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, an agency of the U.S. government, is charged with protecting the public from dangers associated with more than 15,000 types of consumer products, including cribs.

CPSC helps protect people from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical or mechanical hazard or products that can harm children. Thanks to CPSC's awareness campaigns, there has been a 30% decline in the rate of deaths and injuries from consumer products over the last 30 years.

CPSC's website lists old cribs as one of CPSC's "Most Wanted," and for good reason. Old cribs can pose a number of dangers to babies and toddlers. Corner posts can pose a risk to babies who are able to stand up, as loose clothing could become caught on the posts. Slats that are too far apart or decorative holes in the headboards can trap a child's head. Old mattresses may be too soft and pose a suffocation risk, or may not fit the crib frame, allowing a baby to slip between the frame and mattress.

Use the following list of CPSC crib safety guidelines to decide whether your old crib is safe to use.

  • The mattress should be firm and tight-fitting.
  • There should be no missing or broken hardware or slats.
  • Slats should be no more than 23/8" apart (about the width of a soda can).
  • Corner posts should not be higher than 1/16".
  • There should be no design cutouts in the headboard or footboard.

Though an antique crib may be beautiful and sentimental, if it doesn't meet modern safety standards, it should not be used.

Cribs that don't meet safety standards should be destroyed or used for decorative purposes only.

Old Drop-Side Cribs

If the older crib you're hoping to use for your baby is a drop-side crib, take note of warnings about the safety of these popular crib models. After more than twenty crib recalls, affecting more than 4 million cribs since 2007, CPSC created a set of mandatory  crib safety standards that include a ban on the manufacture of new drop-side cribs. These standards, which went into effect in 2011, replace the older voluntary safety recommendations manufacturers used in previous years. Some of the updated requirements include tougher testing, stronger hardware, sturdier slats, and better mattress supports.

However, not all of the safety issues with older or antique cribs lie with the manufacturers. CPSC and other crib safety organizations note that parents tend to keep cribs for a long time, or resell them, so they are taken apart and re-assembled several times. Hardware wears out or loosens, pieces go missing, or the crib is put together incorrectly, and all of these things can lead to a crib failure, particularly when it comes to drop-side cribs. When a drop side breaks or loosens, it can create a gap where a baby can become entrapped, so this style of old crib can be particularly dangerous if it's moved and reassembled several times.

If you're using an old drop-side crib, make absolutely sure that you have all of the pieces and that the crib is assembled correctly. Check the hardware and moving parts periodically to be sure they still work properly. Crib safety groups recommend against using old drop-side cribs or antique cribs that do not meet today's crib safety standards.