Is Your Antique Baby Crib Safe to Use?

Baby boy looking through his crib

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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), 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. The agency helps protect people from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical or mechanical hazard or products that can harm children.

CPSC's awareness campaigns led to a 30% decline in the rate of deaths and injuries from consumer products over the last 30 years.

Why Old Cribs Are Dangerous

CPSC's website called old cribs one of their "Most Wanted" dangerous products, and for good reason. Old cribs 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, 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.

Cribs used today should be manufactured after June 2011 (when the current safety standards banning the manufacture or sale of drop-side rail cribs became effective).

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

If the older crib you were hoping to use is a drop-side crib, you should know about the warnings relate to the safety of this style of cribs. 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. 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, 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. All of 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 style of crib can be particularly dangerous if it's moved and reassembled several times.

Crib safety groups recommend against using old drop-side cribs or antique cribs because they do not meet today's crib safety standards.

Crib Mattress Safety

Old mattresses can pose safety concerns, too. The mattress may be too soft or broken down, which could pose a suffocation risk. If it was made prior to federal sizing standards, it may not fit the crib frame. Improper mattress and crib compatibility could allow a baby to slip between the frame and the mattress—a type of entrapment that can be deadly.

A Word From Verywell

In CPSC's crib safety guidelines, the advice is simple: Do not use cribs made before safety guidelines were updated in 2011, and do not to use broken or modified cribs. The older your baby's crib is, the more likely it is to have a broken part that cannot be replaced or that was modified somewhere along the way by a well-meaning owner.

3 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. American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162938. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2938

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Make baby’s room safe: Parent checklist.

  3. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The new crib standard: Questions and answers.

By Heather Corley
Heather Wootton Corley is a mother, freelance writer and certified Child Passenger Safety Technician-Instructor.