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The Safety of Iron Cribs

author image Sharon Perkins
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.
The Safety of Iron Cribs
An iron crib might not be a safe environment for your baby. Photo Credit: are you talking to me? image by red vette from <a href=''></a>

Iron cribs come in two varieties: the kind you find in antique stores and the ones you buy new in infant furniture specialty stores. New iron cribs must meet U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission safety standards, while old cribs, however charming and classic, can also be dangerous. If you love the look of an iron crib, look for a new crib that meets modern manufacturing standards rather than an antique crib.

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Bar Width

Old iron cribs weren't as standardized as those produced today. The space between the bars must, by CPSC safety standards, be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart to prevent your baby from getting his head stuck between them or his body from sliding between the bars, possibly causing strangulation. Measure all the spaces between all the bars on an old crib because they might not be uniform.


An old crib might have old paint that contains lead, even if it's been repainted. The paint beneath the new paint or in the corners or harder-to-paint areas might still be lead-based. Babies love to poke at small areas and could pick off new paint and chew on the old, especially on the railings. Eating lead paint can cause permanent neurological damage.

Mattress Fit

An old iron crib might not be a good fit for a modern mattress. If you can put two fingers between the edge of the mattress and the crib sides, there's enough space for your baby to get wedged and trapped between the mattress and the crib frame. Never use an old mattress that comes with an older crib because the mattress might be too soft. Your baby should sleep on a firm surface to reduce the risk of suffocation, according to American Academy of Pediatrics explains.


Iron is a hard material. While wood is also hard, it has a little more "give" than iron if your baby thumps his head into the side of falls onto it from a standing position. Because the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not using crib bumpers, a bump against an iron bed could cause more bruises or injuries than a wooden crib.

Posts and Decorations

A four-poster iron crib might not appear to pose any particular risk, but once your baby can stand, he could get his clothing caught on a post, which poses a strangulation risk. Don't use a crib that has posts higher than 1/16th of an inch higher than the end posts on the bed, according to the National Safety Council. Don't use the crib if it has cut-out decorations on either end because those spaces could also trap your baby's head.

Drop Sides

Consumer Product Safety Commission 2011 safety regulations forbid manufacturers to use drop sides on new cribs. If an old iron crib has drop sides, the sides could loosen or collapse, causing injuries, including strangulation. Because an old crib has probably been taken apart and put back together many times, it's more likely to be missing hardware or to have been put back together incorrectly, increasing the possibility that the drop side will fail.

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