Ensuring that your baby’s crib is a safe area to sleep is a vital part of overall baby safety. As part of Baby Safety Month, here are five ways to keep your baby’s crib safe.

No Bumper Pads, Ever

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but bumper pads are not safe to put in your baby’s crib. Back in the day, they were used as a means to prevent a baby from getting her head stuck between the rails of the crib (before cribs had to meet stricter safety standards). Some still use them thinking that it will prevent their baby from hitting her head on the crib rails. However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there is “no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment.”

Make Sure Your Crib Slats Are Close Together

This ties in with the bumper pad issue above. If you’re using a vintage crib or bassinet, you need to ensure that the crib slats/rails are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. This eliminates the risk that your baby could become trapped between the rails, and also further eliminates the perceived need for bumper pads. Feel free to measure this distance when you’re crib shopping too. It never hurts to double-check.

Keep Crib Area Free of Pillows, Blankets and Stuffed Animals

The AAP encourages parents to keep soft objects and loose bedding outside of the crib because they create a suffocation (and, with blankets, a strangulation) hazard. These items include pillows, blankets, stuffed animals and bumper pads. They also caution against the use of wedges and positioners for the same reason. Put your child to sleep on her back on a fitted sheet, with no other items in the crib. If you’re worried that baby will be too cold, try using a sleep sack for extra warmth.

Get the Right Crib Mattress

Ensuring that your crib mattress fits snugly against the inside of the crib is vital. A great way to test if the mattress fits properly is to use the two-finger test: if you can fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib, it’s not an ideal fit. Standard crib mattresses should measure at least 27 1/4 inches by 51 3/8 inches and be six (or less) inches thick. Think of it this way… the harder it is to make the bed, the better it is for your baby. Please also make sure your crib mattress is appropriately firm.

Just Say No to Drop-Side Cribs

If you’re using a vintage crib, please be aware that drop-side cribs are a safety hazard and have been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). If you feel you must use one, please invest in a kit the converts it to a fixed-side crib. But be advised that said kits are not foolproof and that the crib needs to be tested before use. Also, when using a painted vintage crib, please make sure you test the paint to make sure it’s not lead-based. You can also view the CPSC guidelines about crib safety here.