What is The Safe Distance Between Crib Slats?

Parents are increasingly aware of the importance of crib safety. Among the many things they worry about is the appropriate space between slats. They are afraid that the baby would get stuck if the gap was too big. But what is the maximum safe distance between crib slats?

Crib Slat Safety

Preparing a safe sleeping environment is one of the firsts and most important tasks for the parents.

The first step is choosing a safe crib and a well-fitted crib mattress. Fortunately, mandatory crib standards have been in place since 2011. New regulations have increased the safety of cribs and reduced the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrom). In short, the framework of a crib purchased after 2011 should be safe.

However, a significant part of a crib’s safety depends on its use. For instance, you should know where is the right space for the crib, how to put your baby in the crib, or what accessories are safe, etc.

I will explain more about the whole crib’s safety below, so let’s focus on the slats first. Crib slat safety is an essential part of a new standard. It states the maximum allowed distance between slats and mandatory strength testing, which has greatly increased their safety.

What is the safe distance between crib slats?

The distance between crib slats should not exceed 2 3/8 inches! That prevents the baby’s body from getting stuck between the slats. While it is still possible for an infant to push an arm or leg through a gap, it prevents the infant’s head from getting stuck in it, which is the purpose of this regulation!

To illustrate with a simple example, if soda can fit easily through the slats on a crib, the space between slats is too wide!

Another safety requirement for crib slats refers to their strength. Slats must be made of stronger wood and properly tested to prevent breaking or detaching during use.

What about crib bumper pads?

Because the gap between slats still allows those little hands or legs to slip between slats, many parents decide on a crib bumper pad. But, can you prevent injuries caused by limb entrapment between slats by using crib bumper pads?

Used to, the distance between slats was bigger. Crib bumpers were preventing the baby’s head from getting stuck between the slats, which justified their use. The space between slats is now smaller, so that is no longer an issue, and you don’t need them anymore! In fact, it is better not to use crib bumpers at all!

  1. First of all, there is no proof that crib bumpers protect from injuries. 
  2. Second, only a small number of minor injuries on cribs without bumper pads are known so far. Of course, that refers to injuries due to a slip of an arm or leg between slats.
  3. And the most important one, crib bumper pads pose a severe danger to your baby! And that has been proven. Unfortunately, even deaths caused by crib bumpers have been recorded. Babies either suffocated by pressing their face into the plushy bumper or strangled on the bumper’s loosen strings.

You can find more about this issue in our article about crib bumpers.

The safest baby cribs
Click on the picture for the safest baby cribs in 2023.

Crib safety standard

New CPSC crib safety standards are effective for manufacturers, importers, and distributors since June 28, 2011. From December 28, 2012, they also apply for all child care organizations, rental, and places of public accommodation.

All cribs on the market must pass rigorous testing to meet the requirements. Cribs that do not meet them are illegal to sell!

Using cribs made before 2011 is not recommended, but some parents are fascinated by old or even antique models anyway. Maybe such a crib matches their interior nicely, or it represents a nostalgic value to them. Either way, if you’re one of them, check to see if your crib meets all safety recommendations before use.

In addition to crib slat safety, the CPSC standard also requires:

  • Drop-side cribs cannot be made or sold. The framework must be steady without any moving parts.
  • All wood must be without cracks or splits.
  • There shouldn’t be any sharp edges and rough areas on the framework.
  • Cribs must stand on sturdy feet.
  • Firmer, durable, and more reliable mattress support is required.
  • There must be anti-loosening devices, which keep the crib’s parts from coming loose or falling off.

Sometimes, a problem only arises when the crib is already in mass use. Such cribs are immediately recalled and shouldn’t be sell anymore. If you have an old crib made after 2011, check the CPSC recall list to see if there were any problems.

Your crib meets all of the above requirements. Is it now safe for your baby? Not yet! Now its safety depends mostly on you. Following all safety recommendations will increase the crib’s safety and reduce the risk of SIDS.

Other crib safety guidelines are:

Proper assembly:
  • Follow the assembly instructions, and make sure that every part is installed correctly.
  • Check for loose or broken screws, bolts, and mattress support regularly. 
Crib mattress:
  • The crib mattress must be firm.
  • It must fit snuggly into the crib. There shouldn’t be gaps larger than two fingers between the sides of the crib and the mattress.
Inside the rib:
  • Do not use crib bumpers and other soft items, such as pillows, blankets, or sheepskins in a crib. 
  • Do not put plush toys and any comforters in the crib with your baby.
Suitable place:
  • Place the baby’s monitor cord far from the crib. 
  • The crib shouldn’t stand near windows, blinds, or anything else the baby can reach. 
  • Always keep a smoke-free zone around your baby. 
Put your baby to sleep safely:
  • Always place your baby in the crib on the back.
  • The safest place to sleep is in the parent’s room, but not in the same bed.
  • Remove bibs and necklaces before putting your baby in the crib.
  • Do not over cloth your baby. She should be warm, but not too much, to prevent overheating.

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