Are Antique Cribs Safe for Your Baby?

By Geoff McKinnen Certified Sleep Coach

Last Updated On June 26th, 2024
Are Antique Cribs Safe for Your Baby?

Key Takeaways

  • Antique cribs are unsafe for babies, regardless of their sentimental value. Cribs made before 2011 don’t meet current safety standards and can pose serious risks, including suffocation, strangulation, and poisoning from lead paint.
  • New cribs are designed with essential safety features like fixed sides, narrow slat gaps, and snug-fitting mattresses. Always choose a crib that meets current safety standards and has a certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA).
  • Regular safety checks are crucial for maintaining a safe sleep environment. Inspect your crib frequently for loose parts, wobbly structures, or any signs of wear and tear. If you can’t afford a new crib, education-focused organizations can help you obtain a safe, affordable option.

Old family cribs might hold sweet memories, but they also hide real dangers for your baby. The hard truth is that antique cribs just aren’t safe. They can seriously hurt or even kill an infant, no matter how special they seem.

Before 2011, crib safety rules in the U.S. hadn’t changed much in about 30 years. Now, new cribs must follow much stricter standards.

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This means old cribs, even ones from just a decade ago, might not be safe enough. To keep your baby safe while sleeping and lower the risk of SIDS, you need to know what makes a crib dangerous.

Why Old Cribs Pose Serious Risks

Using an antique crib might seem charming, but it’s a gamble with your baby’s safety. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) strongly advises against using cribs older than 10 years or those that have been altered.

Even repaired cribs make the no-go list. New cribs follow strict safety rules that protect babies. These rules change as experts learn more about keeping babies safe.

Let’s explore why these old beds can be so dangerous.

Old Paint Can Poison Your Baby

Cribs made before 1978 Verified Source Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Works to control/prevent natural and manmade disasters. View source might have lead paint. Lead hurts Verified Source Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Works to control/prevent natural and manmade disasters. View source your baby’s brain and body. It can cause learning problems too.

Even small amounts of lead can be harmful. If your baby chews on the crib, they might swallow lead paint chips. This can make them very sick.

Wide Slats Can Trap Your Baby

Old cribs often have big gaps between bars. Your baby might get stuck in these spaces. New cribs have smaller gaps to keep babies safe inside.

The safe distance is about as wide as a soda can. This stops babies from slipping through or getting their heads stuck.

Broken Parts Can Hurt Your Baby

Time can make cribs weak and dangerous. Loose screws or broken pieces might make the crib fall apart. Always check for these problems, even in newer cribs.

Shake the crib gently when it’s empty to see if it’s sturdy. If it wobbles or creaks, it’s not safe for your baby.

Loose Mattresses Can Suffocate Your Baby

A crib mattress should fit tightly. If it’s too loose, your baby might get trapped and stop breathing. In the United States, there is a consistent set of safety standards that all crib mattress manufacturers must meet, making them subject to third-party testing and certification requirements.

Check your crib mattress by trying to fit two fingers between it and the crib side. If you can, the mattress is too small and unsafe, a sit leaves a gap for your baby to hurt themselves.

Fancy Designs Can Harm Your Baby

Pretty carvings on cribs look nice but can hurt babies. Your baby’s arm, leg, or head might get stuck in headboard cutouts, or the sharp edge of an inlaid carving might cut or scrape.

New cribs avoid these risky details. Smooth, simple cribs are safer for babies. They don’t have places where babies can get caught or hurt.

Tall Corner Posts Can Strangle Your Baby

Corner posts on cribs might seem harmless, but they’re not. They can catch your baby’s clothes and cause choking.

New cribs have safer, shorter corner posts. These posts should not stick up more than 1/16 of an inch. This small height keeps your baby’s clothes from getting caught.

Drop-Sides Have Killed Babies

Cribs with sides that move up and down were once considered convenient, but now they have been banned in the U.S.

The primary danger stems from the movable side, which can detach or malfunction, creating gaps between the crib mattress and the side of the crib. These gaps pose a serious risk of entrapment, strangulation, and suffocation for babies. The moving parts could also break or come loose over time.


Is it okay to use my grandmother’s old crib for my baby?

No, it’s not safe to use very old cribs. Cribs made before 2011 don’t meet new safety rules. They might have dangerous parts that could hurt your baby.

It’s best to buy a new crib that follows all the latest safety standards. Even if the old crib looks sturdy, it may have hidden dangers you can’t see. Your baby’s safety is worth the investment in a new, safer crib.

What’s wrong with cribs that have drop-sides?

The moving sides can break or come loose, creating gaps. Babies can get stuck in these gaps and suffocate.

The hardware that allows the side to drop can also out over time, making the crib even more risky. It’s never safe to use a drop-side crib, even if it seems to work well.

How can I tell if a crib mattress fits safely?

Try the two-finger test. Put two fingers between the mattress and the crib side. If they fit, the mattress is too small and unsafe. A safe mattress should fit snugly with no big gaps. This prevents your baby from getting trapped.

Also, make sure the mattress is firm. A soft mattress can shape to your baby’s face and cause suffocation. When you press on the mattress, it should snap back and not keep your handprint.

Why are old cribs more likely to have lead paint?

Lead used to be used in paint before 1978, when it was banned for its toxicity. If your baby chews on a crib with lead paint, they could get very sick. It’s safer to use a newer crib without lead paint.

Even small amounts of lead can harm a baby’s brain and cause learning problems. You can’t always see or smell lead paint, so it’s best to avoid old cribs altogether.

Are cribs with pretty designs safer?

No, fancy designs can actually be dangerous. Cribs with carvings or cut-outs might look nice, but babies can get stuck in them.

Choose a crib with simple, smooth sides instead. This keeps your baby safer. Decorative knobs or raised corners can also snag clothing and cause strangulation. Remember, when it comes to cribs, simpler is always safer.

How often should I check my crib for safety?

Check your crib every few weeks. Look for loose screws, wobbly parts, or broken pieces. Gently shake the crib (without the baby inside, obviously) to make sure it’s sturdy.

If anything seems loose or broken, don’t use the crib until it’s fixed or replaced. Also, check the crib after any event that might have damaged it, like moving furniture. Regular checks can catch problems early and keep your baby safe.

What’s the safest type of crib to buy?

The safest cribs are new ones that meet current safety rules. Look for cribs with fixed sides, narrow gaps between slats, and no tall corner posts.

Choose a simple design without fancy carvings. Always buy a new, snug-fitting crib mattress too.

Make sure the crib has a certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). This shows that the crib meets all current safety standards.

Where not to put a baby crib?

You should avoid placing a baby’s crib near windows, as curtains and blinds pose strangulation risks and falling hazards. Don’t put the crib close to heating or cooling vents, which can make the baby uncomfortable and potentially cause breathing issues.

Keep the crib away from any furniture, shelves, or wall decorations that could fall onto the crib or that the child might reach as they grow, potentially causing injury or allowing them to climb out.

When should you not use a crib?

You should not use a crib when it’s damaged, broken, or has missing parts, as this can create safety hazards for your baby. Additionally, you should stop using a crib when your child is able to climb out or reaches a height of 35 inches, typically around 2 to 3 years old, as they may fall and injure themselves.

It’s also important to discontinue crib use if it’s an older model that doesn’t meet current safety standards, particularly drop-side cribs which have been banned due to safety concerns.

How to tell if a crib is expired?

While cribs don’t have official expiration dates, they can become unsafe over time. Manufacturers often only offer warranties for crib during the first year of ownership, and it’s important to regularly check a crib for any hazards beyond this point (and before, too).

Look for any loose, missing, or broken parts, as well as peeling paint or splinters that could indicate the crib is too old. Look up the crib’s model number to see if it has been recalled or if it was manufactured before the latest safety standards were implemented (in the U.S., this would be before June 2011).


Babies can sleep up to 19 hours daily, so a safe crib is crucial. While old cribs may look charming, they can be dangerous.

Always choose a new crib that meets current safety standards. If you need to consider secondhand cribs for budget reasons, make sure the crib comes with assembly instructions and verify that all parts are present and in good condition.

If you have a treasured family crib, consider repurposing it. Many people upcycle old cribs into desks, garden planters, or storage devices. This way, you preserve memories without putting your baby at risk.

Are you worried about the cost of a new crib? Organizations like Cribs for Kids can help you find a safe, affordable option.

Remember, your baby’s safety is the top priority. A simple, modern crib might not be fancy, but it provides the safest sleep space for your little one.

About the author

Geoff McKinnen is a writer focusing mainly on the healthcare industry and has written articles on everything from foods to help you lose weight to the connection between Alzheimer’s and sleep. Geoff’s passionate about helping readers improve their well-being to lead happier lives. Outside of work, Geoff enjoys cycling and hiking and believes that by leading a healthy lifestyle, he can help others do the same.

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