Vintage and antique cribs might possess a design element you desire for your nursery. However, these cribs can have a number of safety issues, such as the spacing of the slats on the rails, the stability of the older components and potentially toxic paint used to decorate them. It is unlikely that any antique cribs are safe for use, as they are likely to have one or more of these problems and are unlikely to meet current federal guidelines for crib safety.
Many antique items were painted with lead paint, which has since been determined to be toxic and has been banned for many uses. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission passed a ban in 1977 on lead-based paint used on furniture and toys. Children may ingest paint chips or peelings, which can be fatal. The Minnesota Department of Health says that lead can cause delayed mental development, shortened attention span, aggressive behavior, kidney damage, high blood pressure, digestive issues and future fertility problems. Unless you specifically have the crib tested for lead, officials with the department say you should assume that all antique items contain lead. Simply stripping or repainting the crib is not sufficient to protect you and your baby from the harms of lead-based paint.
Most older cribs have drop sides, which was once considered a convenience for getting baby into and out of the crib. However, drop sides can cause a number of injuries, some of which can be fatal. The sides could trap infants between the mattress and bars, leading to suffocation or strangulation. The CPSC issued rules outlawing the sale or re-sale of these cribs in 2011. Even if you get an antique crib from a family member, if it features a drop side, it is absolutely not safe to use.
The CPSC has passed a number of other regulations on the measurements of crib components to ensure the safety of infants. The slats on the crib sides should be no more than 2-3/8 inches apart. Otherwise, infants could become wedged in the space, leading to potentially serious injury. Antique cribs often have decorative cutouts, which also should also not be bigger than 2-3/8 inches. If the crib has corner posts, they should be flush with the headboard or be at least 16 inches taller than the headboard. The mattress should fit tightly against the edges of the crib so that there is no space in which the baby might become wedged. Side rails should be at least 26 inches taller than the mattress to prevent babies from falling over the sides. Antique cribs are likely to violate one or more of these new safety standards, making them unsafe for use.
Antique cribs are likely to have experienced a considerable deal of damage over the passage of time. For example, wood may have become weaker and hardware may have become loose or rusty. Check for loose, disengaged, rusty or sharp components on the crib. Also check for loose springs or springs that poke through the mattress. The new CPSC guidelines call for stronger wood to be used in the slats of cribs and for anti-loosening devices to be installed on crib hardware. It is unlikely that antique cribs meet these guidelines for crib stability.