Whether you’re already home with your little bundle of joy, are awaiting the arrival of your baby, or setting up your baby’s nursery, you’re probably spending a lot of time thinking about how you’ll get your new-born to sleep. Parenthood arrives with a ton of decisions to be thought about and made carefully. Because before you know it, that tiny, sleeping baby you just brought home from the hospital will soon be crawling around.
As a new parent, you’ll be making a whole slew of decisions based on specific considerations you never had to keep in mind before, and selecting your baby’s crib is one of the most important ones.
We all know babies go through stages of growth and maturity and we need to roll with the changes. Since your child will spend a great deal of time in her crib, you’ll want to be sure it’s safe.
According to a 19-year long study conducted by the American Pediatrics Society, more than 80% of infant injuries brought to the ER during that period were related to cribs. Due to the risks involved with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related hazards, providing a safe and sound environment for your baby’s sleep is vital.
We dug deeper into why lowering your baby’s crib matters. We want to help parents and caregivers grappling with the question – “My baby’s growing, but I’m not sure whether it’s time to lower her crib?
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When the Crib Came into Existence:
The present-day high-sided, slatted child’s bed that we call “crib” is derived from the Old English word “cribb” used to describe a manger in the shape of a bassinette.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that cribs acquired the role of keeping the child in their bed. Back then, poisonous fumes were believed to be below the knee level. Whereas one could find explosive vapors nearer to the ceiling. The “good air” was in the middle and so it was better to raise the baby’s bed.
Once children’s beds were raised off the ground the role of the slats changed from a convenience to a key safety feature. It was recognized by an expert of the time, that once children learn to stand, they may be able to get out of a bed with low sides, and by the time they are 12 months old, they should be moved out to “big boy” or “big girl” beds.
According to a 19-year study published in the journal Pediatrics, US emergency rooms treat an average of nearly 10,000 zero- to two-year-olds each year for crib, playpens, or bassinet injuries. Of those, roughly 66% of injuries specifically involve babies jumping or falling from a crib, playpen or bassinet. And the head and neck region were the most frequently injured.
These statistics are as sobering as they are eye-opening. And for this reason, it is crucial that as fathers and mothers you are aware of and on the lookout for potential dangers in your baby’s crib.
Crib safety should not be taken lightly and it’s a reason why safety guidelines are prescribed. You should ensure your baby’s crib (especially when using a hand-me-down) meets the newest safety guidelines and that each nut and bolt are installed correctly when putting it together.
As soon as your child learns to pull herself up in her crib, she may be susceptible to falling out and injuring herself. According to PubMed.gov, “regulations have set the minimum distance between the top of the mattress…and top of the crib side rail as 26 in.” These measurements “must include a 6-inch thick mattress.” The intention is to make sure your child is in a crib that is “escape-resistant”.
To help keep your child safe, use a crib manufactured after June 2011, when the current safety standards banning the manufacture or sale of drop-side rail cribs became effective.
Before considering purchasing any crib or simply testing the safety of one, here’s a quick rundown of the most important features you should look for:
- Slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches (6 cm) apart to prevent a child’s head from getting trapped in between them. A key design feature of cribs is the sidewalls that keep your baby safe and secure and prevent them from falling out and injuring themselves.
- As your infant grows the mattress needs to be periodically lowered to a level that prevents your infant from climbing out of the crib, falling, and potentially hurting herself.
- All screws, bolts, nuts, plastic parts, and other hardware should be present and original equipment. Never substitute original parts with something from a hardware store; replacement parts must be obtained from the manufacturer. They must be tightly in place to prevent the crib from coming apart; a child’s activity can cause the crib to collapse, trapping, and suffocating her.
- Before each assembly and weekly thereafter, inspect the crib for damage to hardware, loose joints, missing parts, or sharp edges. Do not use a crib if any parts are missing or broken.
Stages to Lower Crib:
According to the recommendations set out by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and crib manufacturers, both recommend that you lower the level of the crib mattress when the baby is able to sit or stand up.
- In its raised position, the top rail of the adjustable side of a crib must be 26 inches from the bottom of the crib’s mattress to prevent falls. In its lowered position, the top rail needs to be at least 9 inches from the crib’s mattress support. These guidelines are set-up to create “escape resistant” sleep environments for babies shorter than 35 inches.
- As kids get more active you don’t want them to climb or fall out of the crib because they start standing and pulling themselves up. Because of this, you should make sure that the top of the crib rail is at least 26 inches from the top of the mattress.
Help prevent your child from falling out of the crib, the leading cause of crib injuries, by adjusting the mattress level as she grows. Start lowering the mattress no later than when your child begins to sit with little help. Adjust the mattress to its lowest setting by the time your baby can stand.
- The crib should be assembled and be kept at the highest level when your little one first arrives at home when there’s no risk of the baby standing up and climbing out of the crib. This will also be the period where you’ll be coming in to get her and put her back most often.
- Once the baby is anywhere between 4 and 7 months and starts to sit up or pull herself up to a standing position, it’ll be time for stage 2 to lower the mattress so she can’t climb out.
- As soon as a child shows signs of pulling herself up to a standing position this is when you should adjust the crib mattress to the last setting so as to make the crib escape-resistant.
Stage 1: When your newborn baby first arrives home, you should already have the crib put together according to the guidelines of the manufacturer and set up wherever you plan to have your baby sleep. You should keep cribs away from all other furniture and large objects as well as away from windows to prevent serious falls.
Stage 2: The crib should be set at the highest setting. Keeping the crib higher makes sense with a new-born baby because it’s easier for you to reach her. It also makes it easier on your back, not to mention the proper support it provides to your baby’s neck when you’re lifting her out of the crib. As your baby will be spending much of her first few months lying down, the railing doesn’t need to be to high to offer adequate protection.
Stage 3: Before your baby can sit, lower the mattress of the crib to the level where she cannot fall out either by leaning against the side or by pulling herself over it. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind, you can keep the crib in the highest position as long as your baby is immobile.
Stage 4: Eventually, as your baby grows, somewhere between three and five months old, she will begin to roll over and start moving around. As soon as babies learn to sit up, the next stage for them is pulling up to a standing position. This is the time when you should lower the crib down to the middle setting.
Once the baby starts rolling around, the higher setting of the crib could present a falling danger for your baby. To prevent babies who can pull themselves up from tipping over, you want the top rail to be high enough so that they don’t accidentally flop out of the crib.
Most babies can sit up by themselves between five and seven months of age. Once they start moving on their own and have mastered rolling and sitting unaided, babies generally work to push themselves on their hands and knees. Keeping the crib at its highest height setting can be dangerous as your baby may pull herself up to standing and fall out.
At five months of age, by the time your child can push up on her hands and knees you should remove all activity gyms and phones. These can pose strangulation hazards for babies once they start moving on their own, are able to sit up, or rollover.
Stage 5: Lowering the crib to its lowest setting is essential as and when your baby starts showing signs of pulling herself up or trying to stand up on her own. If your baby is able to use chairs or other objects to get on to her feet without your help, she will also be able to stand up in the crib. Therefore, you want the crib sides to be high enough to prevent her from tipping over and out of the crib. You should take care that the corner posts are less than 1/16th of an inch, as regulations advise, to prevent your baby’s clothes from getting stuck, leading to entrapment.
Stage 6: During the baby’s development, the crib should continuously be positioned at a height that prevents her from climbing out and at its lowest position before she learns to stand. This is when you should adjust the crib mattress to the last setting. This simple modification will help increase the safety of your baby.
At this stage, we also suggest removing bumpers or any padding that is in the crib so the child doesn’t use it for climbing as well. This will make it harder for your baby to climb out of her crib. So, lowering the mattress at the right time reduces the risk of falls and injury.
Safe sleep for babies is serious, but it doesn’t have to be scary and it is essential that every new parent becomes familiar with safe sleep guidelines. You needn’t worry about complicated, time-consuming rules either; when it comes to safe sleep for babies, simple is often better.
By following the expert-recommended safe sleep guidelines, you provide your baby both a safe and comfortable sleeping environment. Make sure that your crib (especially if using a hand-me-down) meets the newest safety guidelines and when putting it together that each nut and bolt is installed correctly and firmly.
When a child starts making any headway at all in trying to climb out of the crib, it’s time to look at other options and be prepared for the day when they will need to transition from their crib to a toddler bed.
It’s safe to both raise and lower the height of the crib as long as you follow the guidelines correctly. Remember to keep your baby’s crib clear and watch her development so you know when to lower her crib! When in doubt, err on the side of caution and ask a child safety expert or your Pediatrician what’s safest for your family.
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