Why are cribs with large gaps between the slats dangerous for my baby?
Crib slats are the long, flat pieces of wood that run vertically across the sides of the crib. This design allows you to see into the crib while preventing your child from getting out. Unfortunately, when these slats are improperly designed, they can place your child at risk for the following accidents:
Strangling: Widely spaced slats creat large gaps. These gaps can provide an “escape” for children to squeeze through. However, in addition to a possible escape and fall, a child can also become stuck in the gaps. If your baby manages to slip his legs and stomach through the gap but is unable to squeeze his head through, he could become stuck at the neck and wind up strangling himself.
Falling. Falling is a great concern for children of any age, but the delicate bones of a newborn or toddler are highly susceptible to breakage from falls over great distances. If your baby manages to slip through a gap, he could wind up plunging over three feet to the ground. As a result of the fall, he could suffer a skull fracture, broken bones, or spinal injuries.
Impaling. Slats on older or poorly-made new cribs can break, splinter, or even completely fall out. Poorly constructed slats could not only increase the risk of falls, but also the risk of your child being stabbed by the splinter or the broken shards of the slat itself.
Crib Slat Regulations
On June 28, 2011, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) instituted new safety regulations specifically intended to increase crib safety. These standards include specific design guidelines for crib slats. These include:
Distance. As part of the regulations, the CPSC addressed the slat-gap issue by mandating that all cribs sold in the United States must have slats that are spaced no more than 2 3/8 inches apart—roughly the size of a soda can.
Strength. A secondary precaution, which addresses the issue of breakage, requires crib manufacturers to make slats thicker, stronger, and more durable. It’s important to verify the strength of your crib’s slats, as many cribs made before December 2010 won't meet the new standard.
Although important, crib slat safety isn't the only issue to address when choosing a crib. Make sure you check out our crib safety article How to Prevent Common Crib Injuries to learn more about how you can protect your baby and ensure a safe night’s sleep.