Why Do Cribs Have Bars Or Slats?

child looking through the bars of a crib

One distinctive feature of most cribs is the vertical slats and bars which run down on both sides. My kids have got their limbs stuck between them on numerous occasions when they were babies, although it was never a real issue to free them.

But why do cribs they have this feature? In this article let’s look at this in more detail.

What are crib slats?

Crib slats are the vertical strips which run down the side of the crib. Some cribs may have slats all the way around, but others just have them on the sides with some solid pieces of wood at both ends. The slats are often made of the same material as the rest of the crib (usually wood)

Why do cribs have slats or bars?

It might be hard to believe but the reason why cribs have vertical slats or bars comes from an old idea from Italy way back in the 18th century. Mothers would share a bed with their newborn, but to avoid any risk of rolling over and crushing their little bundle of joy during the night, they placed them in a whisky barrel to form a protective cocoon or shell. These whisky barrels had three slats with holes in which allowed the babies to breathe and make it easier for mums to check on them. While modern day cribs hardly look like old whisky barrels, they still use slats. It’s almost like crib manufacturers have a ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” kind of approach. Another reason for slats is they improve ventilation, which promotes safer sleeping for babies and reduces the risk of SIDS.

Are cribs with slats safe?

Providing the crib has been assembled correctly, it should be perfectly safe for your baby to use. In terms of crib safety using slats, make sure they are no more than 2 3/8” wide and none of them are cracked or missing. If the slats are not installed correctly, or if they are not in good condition it’s possible your baby can become strangulated if their head gets trapped in any gaps.

Can a baby get stuck in crib slats?

It is still possible for babies to get stuck between crib slats. However, providing your crib passes all the safety regulations, you shouldn’t worry, as it is normally only a leg or arm which can get wedged. Typically it happens with babies who are around 7-9 months old. At this age, they start moving around more in the crib and their limbs are still small enough to get stuck in between the crib slats. When it happens your baby will likely cry out for attention but you can easily free them. As long as it’s impossible for a head or torso to get stuck you have nothing to worry about.

How wide should the slats be on a crib?

The distance between the slats should be no more than 2 3/8” (6 cms). This protects infants from falling out and from older babies/toddlers from getting their head stuck in the slats.

Are cribs with solid headboards or sides safe?

As long as the crib meets all the current safety guidelines, there is nothing wrong in using a crib with solid headboards or sides. However, you should avoid using a headboard which has some decorative cutouts in case your baby’s limbs get caught in them. One of the main advantages of having a crib with slats is it allows the air to ventilate properly while your baby is sleeping. Therefore, you’re probably better off choosing a crib with slats or bars all the way around, or just with a solid headboard and footboard with slats on the sides.