Crib Safety Tips: Everything You Need To Know To Keep Your Baby Safe

Mom holding newborn in nursery

You keep a close eye on your baby while they’re up and at ‘em, but there is one place where babies spend a lot of time unsupervised: their crib. That’s why crib safety is crucial!

In this article, we’ll offer some crib safety tips to help you ensure that your little one’s bed is a safe and secure place for them to snooze. Then, we’ll dive into sleep safety in general.

Table of contents

Crib safety tips

Choosing a crib is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as you’re getting ready for your little one’s arrival. Here are some tips to ensure you’re making the best choice for your baby.

baby laying on back in crib

Choose a safe crib.

This tip seems obvious. Of course you want to choose a safe crib! But knowing exactly what that means is not always clear.

To start, you’ll want to check when your crib was made. On their blog called Healthychildren.org, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends opting for a crib that was manufactured after June 2011.

Why? They write that’s “when the current safety standards banning the manufacture or sale of drop-side rail cribs became effective. There is a good chance that an older crib no longer meets all the current safety standards, especially if it has a drop side.”

Generally speaking, these drop side cribs should not still be on the market, but every once in a while you might come across one on the resale market, so it’s good to know to steer clear.

Secondly, grab your measuring tape when you go shopping for a crib. The AAP also recommends that crib slats are no more than 2 ⅜ inches apart.

Similarly, you’ll want to stay away from cutouts in the headboard or footboard. Big gaps in the slats or the headboard or footboard pose a safety hazard for your little one that can and should be avoided.

Beyond this, you’ll want to look at the crib’s corner posts and ensure they’re flush with the end panels, or very tall like a canopy bed. This is because you don’t want any of baby’s clothing to get caught on the corners, as this can pose a strangulation hazard.

Check the recall list.

Another crib safety tip: Before purchasing a used crib, be sure to double check that there hasn’t been a recall of that model.

Make sure you have the crib’s instructions.

If you don’t have the instructions for a crib, you should not be using it. The instructions will tell you how to safely adjust it and what parts should come with it.

If you lose the instructions, don’t worry. You can always contact the manufacturer for a fresh set.

Check the crib for loose parts.

Once you’ve picked out a crib, you need to be sure it’s assembled correctly.

Whether you assemble the crib yourself or it comes to you put together, you’ll want to do a thorough once-over to make sure everything is a-OK.

That simply means checking to ensure there are no loose or missing parts, loose screws, sharp edges, or broken pieces. If something’s loose, tighten it up.

If there’s a missing piece, don’t just head to the hardware store. Instead, you want to order the correct piece directly from the crib manufacturer.

If something’s broken, either get a replacement part from the manufacturer, or if that’s not possible, opt for another crib.

Choose a firm crib mattress.

newton baby crib mattress

One of the AAP’s safe sleep recommendations is for babies to sleep on a firm sleep surface. That means they should never sleep on the couch, your fluffy bed, or pillows and blankets.

Soft, cozy surfaces might seem comfortable to you, but they pose a suffocation hazard for your little one.

When we’re talking about crib safety, this means that you’ll want to choose a firm crib mattress. Just remember that firm isn’t the same as rock-hard and uncomfortable!

The Newton Baby Crib Mattress is firm enough to provide safe sleep but much more comfortable than traditional mattresses, and even more so with our Waterproof Crib Mattress Pad. We also don’t use foam, glue, latex, or springs in the Newton Baby mattress.

Instead, this mattress’s Wovenaire® Core is made of 90% air and 10% of the same material used in yogurt cups. That makes it breathable so that when your little one rolls over in the middle of the night, they can breathe straight through the mattress!

The other advantage of a breathable mattress is that it provides airflow underneath your baby. No more sweaty backs!

Make sure the mattress fits correctly in the crib.

crib safety is important for new crib in nursery

Once you have a safe crib and a firm mattress, you’ll need to check the fit of the crib mattress in the crib.

While the sizes of cribs and mattresses are both regulated by the government, there’s a bit of wiggle room. The safest thing to do is to check for yourself that the fit is snug!

While the mattress should fit easily into the crib without having to be forced, a large gap between the edge of the mattress and the inside of the crib is a big safety risk for your baby.

How can you know if the gap is OK? When the mattress is inside the crib, you should not be able to fit more than two fingers between it and the crib frame.

Adjust the crib as your child grows.

As we said earlier, gone are the days of the drop side crib. This means to safely use your crib, you’ll also need to keep the mattress height in mind. The AAP says,

“Before your baby can sit, lower the mattress of the crib to the level where he cannot fall out either by leaning against the side or by pulling himself over it. Set the mattress at its lowest position before your child learns to stand.”

Basically, the base or the platform of your crib can be set at several levels, making it appropriate for different ages. When your baby is the smallest, you can set it at the highest level.

At this point the crib is shallow and it’s easy for you to pick up your little one to get them in and out of the crib.

However, as soon as your baby starts pushing up on their arms, you’ll have to lower the base of the crib to the next level down, and when they show signs of standing you have to lower it again. This way your baby will remain safe and cozy in their crib as they grow.

All of this is to say you’ll have to pay attention to your child’s developmental milestones and keep that Allen wrench handy!

Consider crib placement.

Nursery with crib safety set up properly

With a safely assembled crib, the next thing to think about is where you position it. It’s important to choose a safe place in the nursery.

Avoid putting the crib within reach of curtains, blinds, lamps, and the like. Your baby’s curious hands should not be able to grab anything outside of the crib. You’ll want to be particularly wary of any cords, especially those with a loop, as these can pose a strangulation hazard.

Additionally, if you hang a wall decoration or mobile above your baby’s crib, make sure that it’s securely attached to the wall. If you want to play safe and skip the wall hanging altogether, there are lots of fun nursery paint ideas or wall decals that look adorable above cribs!

Use only a fitted sheet.

baby laying in crib

You’re getting closer and closer to a safe bed that is ready and waiting to welcome your little one!

Crib safety includes choosing a safe crib, assembling it correctly, and putting it in a safe location, but what goes inside the crib is also a huge part of crib safety.

When it comes to bed linens for babies, they should include a fitted sheet and nothing else. No top sheet and no blankets, which are both safety hazards for babies. In a nutshell, keep it simple.

You’ll want to choose a cozy, cute fitted sheet, like Newton Baby’s Breathable, Organic Cotton Sheets. These hypoallergenic sheets are made of pre-shrunk, organic muslin cotton.

They’re machine washable for the most hygienic sleep surface and incredibly soft on your baby’s sweet skin!

Put baby to bed in a swaddle or sleep sack.

Since you shouldn’t cover your baby with a blanket or top sheet, use a swaddle or sleep sack to keep them warm and cozy all night.

A swaddle works well for a newborn as it keeps baby’s arms and legs close, replicating the cozy feeling they had in the womb. It also stifles your little one’s Moro reflex, which is when the baby startles awake and flails their limbs.

Once your little one is a bit older and starting to roll over, it’s time to transition to a sleep sack, which is basically a wearable blanket. These leave baby’s arms free and are roomy at the bottom so that your little one is able to move around easily.

Sleep sacks come in many different weights, or TOGS, so you can keep your baby comfy depending on the temperature of the room. If the room is colder, choose a higher TOG or heavier fabric, and if it’s warmer, opt for a lower TOG or lighter fabric.

As for your old swaddling blankets, we’ll let you in on a secret: they’re great multitaskers! Swaddles can easily double as a burp cloth, stroller cover, changing pad, or nursing cover.

Keep the crib bare. 

Another rule for sleep and crib safety: keep the crib bare. As we just mentioned, that means no top sheets or blankets but — sorry to break it to you — it also applies to lots of other adorable baby items.

As cute as baby pillows, stuffed animals, and toys are, the crib is not the place for them. In fact, it’s best to avoid crib bumpers as well. They might seem like a good idea, but the AAP recommends against them.

To sum it up: only a fitted sheet and your baby should go in the crib. After all, your baby is cute enough that you won’t need anything else in the crib!

Declutter the room.

Another crib safety tip has to do with the room. You may need to go in and out of the nursery as your little one is getting ready for bed.

It’s best to pick up any toys that are left out around the crib and make a clear path so that you won’t trip and wake baby up, or worse, get hurt on your way to tend to your little one.

Put your baby on their back.

Once you’ve been to the hospital or gone to adopt your little one, it’s time to lay them in the safe crib that you’ve prepared for them!

That brings us to the last crib safety tip: put your baby on their back to sleep. This goes for naps as well as nighttime. There is a much lower chance of SIDS for babies who sleep on their back compared to those who sleep on their stomach or side.

Just remember that once your baby gets the hang of rolling over, you won’t have to tiptoe into their room and turn them if they roll over in the middle of the night as they’ll be able to roll themselves back.

Other safe sleep tips

Now that you know how to keep the crib safe, let’s talk about sleep safety. Although crib safety and sleep safety pretty much go hand-in-hand, sleep safety has more to do with sleeping in general.

Here are some recommendations to ensure your baby gets a safe and sound night’s sleep.

Room share; don’t bed share.

You don’t want to let your little one out of your sight, but as sweet as it seems, bed sharing can be very dangerous for your baby.

Not only could you roll over in your sleep and harm them, but your bed is not firm enough to be safe. It also may have dangers like blankets and pillows.

Instead, consider room sharing, which is highly recommended by the AAP for at least the first six months. Room sharing has been associated with a lower risk of SIDS — decreasing the risk by as much as 50% — and it allows you some wonderful bonding time together.

Breastfeed for at least six months.

Because human milk also lowers the risk of SIDS, the AAP recommends that you breastfeed your baby exclusively for at least six months.

Even when you add solids to their diet, try to continue breastfeeding up until your little one’s first birthday because the longer you breastfeed, the greater the protection for your baby.

Give your baby a pacifier to help them sleep.

Non nutritive sucking, or using a pacifier, both decreases the risk of SIDS and helps calm your baby to sleep. Just be sure to establish your breastfeeding routine before introducing a pacifier.

Only let your baby sleep on approved surfaces.

There are only three safe places for your little one to sleep: the bassinet, crib, and travel crib or pack and play. If your baby nods off anywhere else, such as a car seat, stroller, swing, or carrier, pick them up and put them to bed in a safe space.

Never use an inclined sleeper.

Although once popular, inclined sleepers are a hard no. The 2022 Safe Sleep for Babies Act officially banned their manufacture and sale for being too dangerous. Again, only put your little one to bed on a firm, flat surface.

Don’t fall asleep with your baby in your arms.

Getting your baby to sleep can sometimes be tricky, and you may find yourself tired as you’re soothing your little one in your rocker at night.

However, if you think you’re in danger of falling asleep yourself, put your baby to bed in their crib or bassinet first and then get your needed rest.

Don’t let your baby overheat.

Babies don’t thermoregulate and can overheat, so avoid dressing your little one in too many layers when you’re putting them to bed. The rule of thumb is that they should only wear about one layer more than what you would be comfortable wearing in the room.

Also, never let them go to bed wearing a hat.

If your baby is sweating, has flushed skin, or feels hot, they could be overheating. If you think that’s the case, move them to a cooler room and remove any excess clothing.

You may also want to give them a lukewarm bath or wet a washcloth with cold water and gently press it to their skin.

Skip the caffeine.

If you want your little one to catch those zzzs, you’ll want to steer clear of caffeine while breastfeeding. The extra energy will not prove to be helpful when it’s time to turn in for the night.

Don’t smoke before or after baby is born.

Smoking raises the risk of SIDS, so it’s best to stop if you’re pregnant and keep a smoke-free house once the baby is born.

Stay up to date with vaccinations.

Getting immunizations is key in protecting your little one. Although they won’t be clamoring for it, be sure to keep your baby up to date with all their shots.

Get regular prenatal care.

Making sure you visit your doctor often while you’re pregnant is important to your baby’s health as well as yours. In fact, there’s evidence that regular prenatal care may decrease the risk of SIDS.

Good sleep hygiene

Now that you know both the crib safety and sleep safety rules, it’s time to make sure your baby’s room is a shuteye haven. Creating an optimal sleep environment is easy with a few simple steps. Let’s dive in.

Enjoy time outdoors.

Did you know that what you do during the day will make an impact on how your little one sleeps? Spending time outside can really pay off in the evenings.

Pull down the shades.

If you want your little one to catch some good zzz’s, it’s best to invest in blackout shades. As your baby will be sleeping during the day and night, keeping it dark in their room will help them make the most of these intervals of slumber.

Keep it quiet.

Of course, if it sounds like everyone’s up and having a good time together, your little one will want to follow suit. It’s best to keep the house as quiet as possible while it’s your baby’s nap time.

You may want to try a sound machine to protect against any noise that you can’t control. The ambient noise will drown out outside distractions and help your little one relax.

Turn down the temperature.

If you want your baby to close those eyes, it’s best to turn down the heat. The optimal temperature for a good night’s sleep is about 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Try a humidifier.

If the room is too dry, it will be hard for your little one to get their needed shuteye. You might try a humidifier to add some moisture to the air.

Give your baby a bath.

Sometimes your little one is not in the mood for going to sleep. You might want to try a bath in order to help them wind down. A bath an hour or so before bedtime will trigger their circadian rhythm and make them sleep-ready.

Maintain a consistent routine.

In order for your little one to get the best sleep you’ll want to stick to a bedtime routine. It doesn’t matter what you do during that wind-up to bedtime as long as you do it consistently.

Whether it’s a little soft, calming music, a bath, or a bedtime story, repeating the same steps day after day will go a long way. Here are some ideas to include in your bedtime routine:

  • Dimming the lights
  • Taking a bath
  • Reading a story
  • Giving baby a massage
  • Playing music
  • Turning on the sound machine

Crib safety for your little one

baby laying in crib with proper crib safety

Your baby will spend a lot of time in their crib, and almost all of that time is unsupervised. That’s why crib safety is so important.

With the guidelines we listed above, you can easily cross your T’s and dot your I’s to make the crib a secure place for your baby!

Choose a safe crib, opt for a firm mattress like Newton Baby’s breathable Crib Mattress, place the crib in a safe corner of the nursery, and outfit it with Newton Baby’s Breathable, Organic Cotton Sheets.

When you take the right measures, your baby can sleep safely and soundly at night — and you’ll have peace of mind, too!

Browse all nurseries