Buy your crib new if you can. Hand-me-down and used cribs may have traditional drop-sides, which don't meet the latest safety standards, or have broken or missing parts. If you do reuse your first child's crib or borrow one from a trusted friend or relative, check to see if it's been recalled and inspect it for missing hardware and loose parts. Do not attempt to fix a broken crib -- if it's broken, toss it.
When picking a mattress, make sure it's firm. There should be a minimal indentation -- or none at all -- when you press on it gently. The mattress should also fit snugly into the crib, with no more than a one-inch space between the edge of the mattress and the side of the crib to avoid a suffocation risk. If you can fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib, the gap is too wide. Make sure the mattress pad and crib sheet fit securely and wrap tightly around the mattress corners so they won't slip off in the night. Keep the mattress at the highest setting to start, then lower it as your baby learns to sit and stand.
When choosing a spot in the nursery, keep your crib away from windows. Cords, blinds, and drapes pose a strangulation hazard, plus it could be drafty near windows during cool months or hot and bright in the summer. Keep anything with cords (including the baby monitor) out of the crib and off side tables where your baby might be able to reach them.
Keep bumpers, stuffed animals, blankets, and pillows out of the crib. A mobile is fine, but hang it high enough so your newborn can't reach it when he's lying on his back, and be sure to remove it once your baby can push up on his hands and knees.
Originally published in the June 2012 issue of American Baby magazine.
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