Why Are Drop-Side Cribs Banned?

Newborn in a crib

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Drop-side baby cribs were designed so that one of the sides slides down to allow a caretaker easy access to the baby. Although the sliding side was intended to help with reaching the baby, this popular crib design turned from convenient to dangerous. Recalls of the design led to stronger safety regulations that ultimately banned the manufacture of drop-side cribs in 2011. Drop-side cribs now cannot be sold or donated.

What Is a Drop-Side Crib?

A drop-side rail crib, as the name suggests, is a crib with hardware that enables one side of the crib to lower down. Some of these cribs designs have two mobile sides instead of just one.

Safety Issues

Unfortunately, the same mechanisms that allow for the drop-gate's functionality also create a gap that forms between the crib mattress and part of the drop side. As a result, babies could become trapped and suffocate or get strangled in the gap. The following issues can occur with the drop-side crib design:

  • Drop-side pieces can go missing over time, allowing the cribs to be disassembled.
  • Parents can install the drop-side upside-down, which can increase wear on hardware.
  • Some types of softwood could allow the hardware to come loose faster.
  • The plastic drop-side hardware can break or warp.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported in 2010 that there were 32 infant and toddler deaths in the decade prior that involved drop-side crib detachments. The same review noted there were also "incidents" with these cribs that numbered in the hundreds.

Between 2005 and 2010, there were millions of recalls of these harmful cribs.

Drop-Side Crib Ban

Now that it's illegal to manufacture, sell, or even donate drop-side cribs in the United States, baby cribs go through a meticulous process in order to meet federal safety standards. According to the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC), this new process was set in 2011:

"Beginning June 28, 2011, all cribs manufactured and sold (including resale) must comply with new and improved federal safety standards. The new rules, which apply to full-size and non-full-size cribs, prohibit the manufacture or sale of traditional drop-side rail cribs, strengthen crib slats and mattress supports, improve the quality of hardware, and require more rigorous testing."

The CPSC created new crib standards with the Consumer Product Safety Act of 2008. Aside from making it illegal to make or sell drop-gate cribs, the act set forth other key points to consider:

  • Unlike before, repair kits or immobilizer components to drop-side kits are not allowed.
  • There must be rigorous testing for crib safety.
  • Any hardware on a crib needs devices that will prevent it from loosening.
  • Durability is required for mattress supports.
  • So that they don't break, a crib's wooden slats have to be derived from strong materials.

Checking Crib Safety

Drop-side cribs have been illegal since 2011, and new crib regulations are now in place. It is imperative for parents to be mindful of certain factors when determining crib safety, including:

  • Periodically checking crib hardware to ensure it has not loosened, broken, or gone missing
  • Checking the CPSC website to see if your baby's crib has been recalled (Get a repair kit or exchange the crib if it is under recall; do not try to repair a recalled crib on your own.)
  • Ensuring all of the hardware and parts are included if buying a used crib (Find an instruction book if there isn't one with the crib.)
  • Making sure your child's crib is correctly assembled and in proper working condition

Other crib safety tips involve more than just the structure itself. Experts including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advise that babies should sleep in a crib that is free of bumpers, blankets, pillows, toys, etc. Baby mattresses should have a fitted sheet, be firm, and be specifically sized to fit their cribs. Do not use sleep positioners.

According to CPSC, any crib corner posts should be less than 1/16th inch high to avoid clothing being snagged, and crib slats should have no more than 2 3/8 inches between them. There shouldn't be headboard or footboard cutouts.

Recalls

More than 20 different crib recalls were issued between 2007 and 2011, according to CPSC's recall archives. These recalls affected more than 11 million cribs from many different manufacturers. While the specific reasons for each recall vary, nearly all of them were issued because of a durability or hardware problem, which created a gap in the crib where a child could become entrapped or suffocate.

A Word From Verywell

Drop-side cribs are no longer manufactured, but they may still be in circulation. If you think you might take on a secondhand crib, be sure it is not of the drop-side variety. It's natural to feel overwhelmed by the seemingly endless crib options and numerous recommendations and regulations, but as long as you make safety a top priority, you can feel more secure with the crib design you choose for your baby.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, On Safety. CPSC Warns Parents About Drop-Side Cribs. 2010.

  2. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. CPSC Issues Warning on Drop-Side Cribs; 32 Fatalities in Drop-Side Cribs in Last 9 Years. 2010.

  3. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, On Safety. The New Crib Standard: Questions and Answers.

  4. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. 2008.

  5. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Safe Sleep: Recommendations. 2021.

  6. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Crib Safety Tips.