That said, if you’re already imaging yourself combing through your favorite antique haunts in search of that perfect vintage jewel of a crib, you might want to think again. While a chic throwback nursery is always a safe bet, a vintage crib may be anything but.
Before you settle on a vintage crib or bring home a beautiful antique, take a moment to consider these important safety tips.
Why Experts Say “No” to Used Cribs
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), parents should pass on purchasing used cribs—antique or otherwise—whenever possible.
Sure, that beautiful thrift-shop find may look like it’s in good shape, but what you can’t see could hurt your little one. Worn or missing hardware can be easy to miss, especially if the crib does not come with the original owner’s manual. Even something as simple as poor assembly can have dangerous consequences, leading to malfunction and potential injury. Splinters and chipped or flaking paint may also pose a risk, not to mention dangerous, discontinued features. “Drop-gates,” for example, have reportedly been responsible for as many as 32 infant deaths before being discontinued in 2011.
Dangers of Vintage Cribs
Since federal safety guidelines of any kind did not go into effect until 1973, authentically vintage cribs pose an even greater threat than your average, yard-sale find. Dangerous posts, decorative cutouts, and other features that do not meet modern safety regulations are common and could kill or seriously injure your child.
What’s more, any crib built before 1978 may have been treated with toxic lead paint, the use of which was legal and prevalent before that date. Children and infants are especially susceptible to lead poisoning, which could cause severe learning disabilities, behavioral problems, seizures, and even death.
Protecting Your Child
Have your heart set on a family heirloom? You’ll need to make sure that the crib you choose meets all modern safety requirements. Need help? We've got you covered!
Here’s the skinny on what to look for:
- Lead-Free Paint: Before introducing a vintage crib into the nursery, you should consider performing a lead test. Home test kits, such as the D-Lead Paint Test Kit, are cheap and widely available and can go a long way toward easing a worried mind. Want a professional opinion? Try contacting a “lead abatement” company to run the test for you.
- Safe Slats: Check the slat spacing on your vintage crib. Crib slats should be no further than 2 and 3/8 inches apart. Any wider and you run the risk of your little one’s head slipping through or becoming stuck between the crib bars. If it looks like you could pass a soda can between the bars, the gap is likely too wide. Look for another crib, or consider hiring a carpenter to fix the problem.
- A Simple Design: Although beautiful, fancy features such as decorative cutouts and corner posts can catch on clothing or entrap your baby’s arms, legs, or head, resulting in injury and even death. Small, decorative woodwork is also prone to breakage, posing a choking hazard to unsupervised toddlers. Check your crib regularly for loose or broken pieces, and ensure that any decorative cutouts are well above baby’s reach. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "if your chosen crib features corner posts, those posts should be either be flush with the ned panels, or very, very tall (such as posts on a canopy bed), as clothing and ribbons can catch on tall corner posts and strangle an infant." If your posts don’t fall in this range, consider having them altered.
- A Sure-Fit Frame: Today, crib mattress sizes are standardized, but that has not always been the case. If you are using a vintage crib, it must be able to fit a standard crib mattress measuring 51 and 5/8 inches long and 27 and 1/4 inches wide. When installed, there should be no more than a two finger-width gap between the mattress and the frame. A larger gap could trap and possibly suffocate your baby.
- Solid Construction: Before you use your vintage crib, give it a good shakedown. If properly assembled, there shouldn’t be much give. Seeing a lot of movement? You may need to look for a sturdier crib.
Consider Buying a Look-a-Like
If you can’t find an honest-to-goodness vintage crib that meets today’s strict safety standards, why not opt for a beautiful reproduction instead? Vintage copycats offer all the style of an authentically vintage piece without any of the worry, and with the growing popularity of vintage décor, finding a faux vintage beauty is as easy as sitting down at your closest computer.
CPSC Warns Consumers That Used Cribs Can Be Deadly. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
CPSC Issues Warning on Drop-Side Cribs; 32 Fatalities in Drop-Side Cribs in Last 9 Years. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Hauptman, Marissa et al. An Update on Childhood Lead Poisoning. Clinical pediatric emergency medicine vol. 18,3 (2017): 181-192. doi:10.1016/j.cpem.2017.07.010
Make Baby's Room Safe: Parent Checklist. American Academy of Pediatrics.