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Can I Use An Old Crib For My Baby?

Though it may have been the crib you spent time in as a child—and you did just fine—your old crib is most likely not suitable for your new baby. It’s tempting to purchase a used crib from a tag sale or to accept one from a kindhearted family or friends whose children have grown up, but Willows Pediatrics recommends avoiding cribs that are more than ten years old. (This means avoiding them at home, and also at daycare centres and grandma’s house too!)

Here are just some of the dangers of older cribs:

  • Drop-side cribs can entrap and suffocate infants and toddlers. (According to the AAP, at least 32 infants or toddlers have died, and hundreds of others were injured in drop-side cribs). In December, they were officially banned by the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
  • Antique cribs can have lead in the finish.
  • Slats in older cribs could be more than 2 3/8 inches apart, or there can be cut out designs in headboards or footboards. These conditions can also lead to entrapment.
  • Older wood cribs can be rough and cause splinters.

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. However, old cribs can be dangerous for babies if they don't meet modern crib safety standards.​

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a government agency, protects the public from dangers associated with more than 15,000 types of consumer products, including cribs. The agency helps protect people from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical or mechanical hazard or products that can harm children.

In our modern society, many products we own are meant for temporary use and then get thrown away all too quickly. That shouldn’t be the case with our beautiful furniture. Unfortunately, much of our baby gear and furniture must meet current standards to be the safest for our children—baby cribs included. Meaning old products may no longer be ideal to use.

Do baby cribs expire? Infant cribs do not exactly “expire,” but some older models do not meet today’s safety standards and regulations. It is recommended that you check the safety of your used crib before allowing your infant to sleep in it.

Read on to learn more about current crib safety standards, as well as some tips to help determine whether or not to use old cribs.


FAQs About Baby Crib

Do not use cribs older than ten years or broken or modified cribs. Infants can strangle to death if their bodies pass through gaps between loose components or broken slats while their heads remain entrapped. Set up play yards properly according to manufacturers' directions.

If possible, avoid buying or accepting a used second-hand crib. While someone offering you a crib is generous and well-meaning, it may not be the best option for the safety of your child. The simple truth is that a used crib can be hazardous. Older cribs might not comply with current safety regulations.

Though an antique crib may be beautiful and sentimental, if it doesn't meet modern safety standards, it should not be used. Cribs that do not meet safety standards should be destroyed or used for decorative purposes only.

There can also be loads of sentimental appeal to using a crib that's been passed down through your family. But hand-me-downs may not be safe, especially if they're more than ten years old. These requirements include stronger mattress supports and crib slats, extremely durable crib hardware and rigorous safety testing.

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends against using a second-hand crib. If you do, they recommend not using a crib that is more than ten years old. Also, cribs that have been assembled, disassembled and reassembled over time may have worn out hardware, which can loosen, making the crib unsafe.


Why Old Cribs Are Dangerous

CPSC's website called old cribs one of their "Most Wanted" dangerous products, and for a good reason. Old cribs pose some dangers to babies and toddlers. 

Corner posts can pose a risk to babies who can stand up, as loose clothing could become caught on the posts, which is a strangulation risk. Slats that are too far apart or decorative holes in the headboards can trap a child's head.

Additionally, cribs made before 1978 may have a finish that contains lead, which poses a significant health hazard. Use the following list of CPSC crib safety guidelines to decide whether your old crib is safe to use.

  • Corner posts should not be higher than 1/16".
  • Cribs must have fixed sides. Drop-side cribs are no longer allowed in the US.
  • Slats should be no more than 2 and 3/8" apart (about the width of a soda can).
  • The mattress should be firm and tight-fitting. If you can insert more than two fingers between the mattress and the sides or ends of the crib, the crib and mattress combination should not be used.
  • There should be no design cutouts in the headboard or footboard.
  • There should be no missing or broken hardware or slats.

Though an antique crib may be beautiful and sentimental, if it doesn't meet modern safety standards, it should not be used. Cribs that do not meet safety standards should be destroyed or used for decorative purposes only.

Why Drop-Side Cribs Were Banned

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If the older crib you were hoping to use is a drop-side crib, you should know about the warnings related to the safety of this crib style. After more than twenty recalls (affecting more than 4 million cribs since 2007), CPSC created mandatory crib safety standards that included 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. The updated requirements include tougher testing, stronger hardware, sturdier slats, and better mattress supports.

However, not all safety issues with older or antique cribs lie with the manufacturers. 

CPSC and other crib safety organisations note that parents tend to keep cribs for a long time or resell them, meaning they get taken apart and re-assembled several times.

In the process, hardware wears out or loosens, pieces go missing, or the crib is put together incorrectly. These things can lead to a crib failure, particularly when it comes to drop-side cribs. If the drop-side breaks or loosens, it can create a gap where a baby can become entrapped. This crib style can be particularly dangerous if it's moved and reassembled several times.

Baby Crib Safety Standards and Regulations 

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends against using a second-hand crib. If you do, they recommend not using a crib that is more than ten years old. When considering giving or receiving a crib secondhand, make sure the crib:

  • Was not recalled: The CPSC has recalled more than 11 million dangerous new and used cribs since 2007. Call the crib manufacturer or go to the Recalls and Product Safety News section of the CPSC website to verify that the crib has not been recalled (Canadian users can visit the Recalls and Product Safety Alerts page on the Healthy Canadians website to check for recalls).
  • Has a label with the date of manufacture and model number: Without these, the crib cannot be checked for recalls.
  • Is not too old: Regulations and crib standards have improved over time, and a crib that is too old will not meet new safety standards (see below for more information about safety standards). Also, cribs that have been assembled, disassembled and reassembled over time may have worn out hardware, which can loosen, making the crib unsafe.
  • Comes with instructions: The safest crib on the market can still cause death or injury if not assembled correctly. Instructions are necessary to ensure proper assembly of the crib and to verify that there are not any missing parts. For help locating instructions, check our Instructions/Manuals and Replacement Parts Index.
  • Includes all parts: Used cribs often come without important parts. If parts are missing, check with the manufacturer to ensure the correct parts can be obtained. For help locating parts, check our Instructions/Manuals and Replacement Parts Index.
  • Is not damaged: Do not try to repair a damaged crib.
  • Is properly assembled: When receiving a crib that is already assembled, make sure there are no missing, loose, broken, or improperly installed screws, brackets or other hardware.

Under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the CPSC studied and developed new mandatory safety standards for full-size and non-full-size hard-sided cribs (products with mesh, netting or other non-rigid sides, such as play yards, fall under different standards).  

These new standards are largely the same as ASTM’s voluntary standards, with two modifications to their full-size crib standards (ASTM F 1169-10) and four modifications to their non-full-size crib standards (ASTM F 406-10a). Effective June 28, 2011, the new mandatory standards (updated from the CPSC 1982 regulations):

  • Prohibit the manufacture or sale of traditional drop-side rail cribs
  • Strengthen crib slats and mattress supports
  • Improve the quality of hardware
  • Require more rigorous product testing

The section of the new federal crib standards banning the manufacture or sale of drop-side cribs has received the most attention. Numerous drop-side cribs manufactured by various companies have been recalled due to failing hardware that allows the drop-side wall of the crib to detach from the crib partially.  

This creates a space where a child can become trapped between the drop-side wall and the rest of the crib, causing strangulation and suffocation. Since 2000, drop-side cribs sides that have detached have been associated with at least 32 infant suffocation and strangulation deaths.

Some crib manufacturers offer a piece of hardware that can be added to their cribs to immobilise the drop-side. While this removes the drop-side detachment hazard, the crib will most likely not meet all of the new, more rigorous CPSC crib standards previously mentioned.  

A crib cannot be checked for compliance with the new standards by visually examining it. To verify compliance, contact the manufacturer and ask if the crib complies with 16 CFR 1219, the new federal standard for full-size cribs, or 16 CFR 1220, the new federal standard for non-full-size cribs.

Some current crib standards were in place before June 28, 2011, and can be confirmed through visual examination. These include:

  • Distance between crib slats or spindles should be no more than 2 3/8 inches (about the width of a soda can, which should not be able to pass through easily). Widely spaced slats can allow a baby to slip through completely or allow a baby’s torso to slip through, trapping the baby’s head, which can result in death.
  • The crib should not have any decorative cutouts in the headboard or footboard so a baby’s head cannot get trapped.
  • Corner posts should not stick out any higher than 1/16th inch above the headboard and footboard (unless the posts are over 16 inches for a canopy). A baby can become strangled if their clothes catch on the corner posts.
  • The top rails of crib sides should be at least 26 inches above the top of the mattress support when the mattress support is in its lowest position.
  • If the crib has a drop gate (which is different from the banned drop side), the crib side should be at least 9 inches above the mattress support when the gate is in the lowered position. This is to prevent the infant from falling out.
  • The paint should not be cracked or peeling. Cribs constructed before 1978 may pose a lead paint hazard. Checking for lead cannot be done through a visual examination and requires a lead paint test kit.
  • The crib should not have any splinters or rough edges.

If the crib includes a mattress:

  • The mattress should fit tightly within the crib, with no spaces where an infant can get caught and possibly suffocate.
  • The mattress should be firm.

To view more information from the CPSC about the crib standards that went into effect on June 28, 2011, visit their Crib Information Center.

Slat Spacing

can i use an old crib for my baby

The slats on the walls of your baby’s crib are a safety hazard if they are not properly manufactured. Law requires these spaces to be less than two ⅜ inches. Don’t have a ruler handy? Use The Soda Can Trick to measure the slats easily:

If a regular soda can fit through the slats, it is too wide. That means it is unsafe for a baby to sleep in. If these bars are too far apart, you could risk your baby’s legs, arms, or torso getting wedged between them.


Cribs should be deep enough so that your child cannot climb up and over the rails. CPSC requires that the top rails be 26 inches or more above the top of the mattress support when it is in its lowest position.

In addition to the depth of your baby’s crib, there are also requirements on the height of corner posts. These parts should not extend 1/16 of an inch above the headboard unless for a canopy. If these posts are too high, children’s clothing can get caught on the posts and risk strangulation.


The US Consumer Product Safety Commission puts strict regulations on the materials used for baby cribs and baby crib accessories such as mobiles. Here is what they look for:

  • Slats or spindles on cribs must be made with strong wood. This will prevent breakage. The wood pieces need to be strong enough not to become loose or fall apart if your child pulls on them. As many parents know, babies can have a strong grip!
  • The mattress should be strong and not susceptible to breakage.
  • Crib mattresses should be firm and fit snugly into the crib frame. Make sure the mattress you have is compatible with the crib. Products that do not fit well within the crib frame could cause a baby to slip in between gaps.
  • The headboard and footboard should not have any design cutouts.

How to Make an Old Crib Safe

If you want to renew the life of an old crib, start by carefully inspecting it to check its potential to be used again. Check for signs of wear and tear like

  • Peeling paint
  • Wood splinters
  • Loose parts
  • Rough patches on the crib

You may have to get a little rough and shake the crib parts, including the side slats, to ensure nothing is loose and no screws are missing.

If you are a DIY-er and determined to get some more use out of that old crib, here are some things you could do to improve its safety:

Install new hardware – If your crib has been taken apart and put back together multiple times, you may want to take a close look at the hardware. Remove old, stripped screws and replace them with new pieces that are operational and safe.

Add more slats – If your crib does not pass the soda can test (and you’re a decent woodworker), you could add more slats to the crib to reduce the spacing between.

Get a new mattress – Avoid using an old mattress, as these can wear out and become too soft or carry bacteria. Purchase a new one that fits the frame of your crib snuggly.

Test the paint for lead – Hardware stores sell kits that allow you to test paint for lead. If lead exists, you may be tempted to strip it and repaint it. Unfortunately, the lead can seep into the wood and remain there even if the paint layer is gone.

If there is no lead and it is safe to repaint, use a non-toxic paint stripper. Make sure it is environmentally friendly and safe for your baby. Then, find a new paint made specifically for children’s furniture—free of lead and other toxic materials.


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