Are heirloom cribs and high chairs safe?

Consumer Reports News: November 07, 2007 02:51 PM

Question: Is it safe to use an heirloom crib and high chair that have been in the family for three generations?

Using an old-fashioned crib or high chair that’s been passed down is a quaint idea. But it’s better to skip the sentimentality and buy new because those older cribs and high chairs won’t meet all current safety standards and may be in disrepair. In fact, according to the Juvenile Product Manufacturer’s Association, each year, 50 babies suffocate or strangle from becoming trapped between broken crib parts or in cribs with older, unsafe designs. They advise consumers to buy a new crib instead of using an heirloom or buying a secondhand one.

If you must use an older crib, avoid those built before 2000, about a year after the latest voluntary standards for slat-attachment strength took effect. (Check the manufacture date on the crib label, which is required by law.) So if you have a crib you used with a pre-2000 baby, you really should get a new crib for your new baby. Buy the mattress at the same time to make sure you’ve got a snug fit. (If you can fit two fingers between the mattress and the crib frame, the mattress is too small, and therefore unsafe for baby.)

Likewise, if you’ve got a hand-me-down high chair or come upon an old-fashioned, wooden high chair--the kind with a removable tray, or arms that lift the tray over a baby’s head (there may still be a few on the market)—don’t buy or use it. That style isn’t always as comfortable or cushy for babies as the modern, form-fitting models that dominate the market now, and may not meet the latest safety standards.

Before buying new and using it, however, check the U.S. government’s recall Web site,, to make sure the high chair or crib you select hasn’t been recalled. In September 2007, about 1 million Simplicity and Graco cribs were recalled because the installed drop-rail side of the crib could be unintentionally installed upside down, which created a suffocation hazard. Old or heirloom cribs may also be coated with lead-based paint, but that may be an issue with newer cribs as well, which is another reason to check the recall list.

When assembling a crib or high chair, use the hardware provided, and double check your handiwork to make sure you put together the product according to the instructions. You want to make sure your efforts don’t create a safety hazard. Cribs are shipped unassembled, and it typically takes two people a full hour to assemble one. If you’re not certain you can put a crib together correctly, ask the retailer to send a qualified assembly crew to your home. This can cost an extra $70 or more, unless assembly is included in the retail price, but it can give you valuable peace of mind.

Similarly, some high chairs have as many as 26 parts. If that sounds daunting, consider buying one that comes fully assembled, which is an option with some models. Look for a five-point harness and a fixed crotch post.

See our reports on cribs, crib mattresses, and crib alternatives for more information.

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