Are Solid headboard or Upholstered Cribs Safe?

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Having a safe place for a baby to sleep is peace of mind for most parents. And if you are wondering whether solid headboard or upholstered cribs are safe, read on.  

The essential item on a nursery checklist is a crib. A crib or bedside bassinet is where the baby will spend the most time in the first few months.

So, you need to make sure that the crib is safe for the baby to sleep in. If you are shopping for a crib and are overwhelmed by varieties available in the market, you are not alone.

baby in a crib with white sheet
Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

You will find a solid back crib, slat crib, upholstered crib, or crib that are super expensive vs. affordable.

So how do you decide which one is safe for a baby?

If your heart is set on a solid headboard crib but wondering whether they are safe for your baby, we have got you covered.

If you are looking for a quick answer, then a solid headboard crib or upholstered crib is safe for your baby as long as they meet the standard set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and you follow sleep safety guidelines.

Keep reading to know what you need to keep in mind with a solid headboard or upholstered crib to keep your baby safe. Also, if you are natural-minded or green parents, you may want to avoid an upholstered crib. We will talk about it in detail below.  

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Are cribs with Solid headboards Safe?

white solid sides and slats crib with gray crib sheet against wall with 3 wall art
Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay

A crib with a solid headboard or a crib without slats may make you wonder whether they are safe for a baby. The main concern is – there might not be enough airflow in the crib with solid sides.

But if they are sold in the market, they are safe for the babies to use because crib manufacturers are responsible for following ASTM F1169-19 full-size crib safety standards.

Actually, a crib with a solid headboard or footboard is considered safe as it is sturdy and less likely to fall apart than a crib with slats.

Another benefit of having a crib with solid sides is that your baby won’t be able to put their leg through the slats of the cribs.

Yes, babies like to do that in their sleep, and they end up crying in the middle of the night when they can’t pull their legs back in.

Babies also like to toss stuff out of their cribs. So, when you have a crib with solid sides, they won’t be able to toss stuff out of the crib.

Babies also like to chew on crib railing when they can stand in the crib. When you have a solid headboard which is usually higher than the other sides of the crib, they won’t be able to chew on, and you won’t have to purchase a crib rail guard for the solid side. However, you will still have to get crib rail guards for the three slatted sides to stop the baby chewing and eating the paint off the crib.

If you are concerned that the baby will not have adequate airflow with a solid headboard or food board, then make sure that the solid side is positioned against the nursery wall. Then, with all other slated sides of the crib, there will be enough air circulation when the baby is sleeping in her crib.

You can choose any kind of crib (solid sides or slated) currently sold in the market. There is no safety concern as they are all manufactured following safety standards and meet extensive safety tests.

Having said that, not all cribs are manufactured equally. Depending on the type of material used to build a crib, it can off-gas VOC and toxic chemicals that your baby will end up breathing. VOCs are ten times more toxic indoors and for your baby’s developing organ system.

The crib with a solid side will expose the baby to VOCs and toxic chemicals more than a crib with slats (because of the larger surface area). So, you want to avoid cribs that are made with composite wood, MDF, plywood, or particleboard.

So, if you care about your baby’s sleeping environment, you might want to invest in a non-toxic crib instead of a conventional crib. It is particularly important because newborn spends 12-18 hours a day in a crib in the first few months.

Are Upholstered cribs Safe?

As stated above, any kind of crib (with solid sides, solid headboard, slatted crib, upholstered crib) that are currently sold in the market are manufactured following crib safety standards and are safe to use for a baby.

So, if your heart is set on the upholstered crib, you can use it for your baby. However, you might want to consider the kind of material used for the upholstered side of the crib.

Depending upon the type of fabric, batting, the glue used for upholstery, it may emit VOCs or other toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, phenol, toluene, and others in the baby’s sleeping environment.

Chronic exposure to these toxic chemicals has been linked to asthma damage to the central nervous system, liver, and kidney.

If you still want to get an upholstered crib, make sure it is Greenguard Gold certified. This certification means that crib has been tested for more than 10,000 chemicals and meets chemical emissions limits.

Another thing to consider when getting an upholstered crib is that they are hard to clean. You will have many diaper blowouts, diaper leaks, spit-ups, or potential tossing of a bottle of milk around in the crib.

And cleaning the mess off the upholstery is hard, and you will end up getting stains on the fabric.

Most of all, why you won’t extra work when you are busy taking care of a baby?

I would suggest thinking about the pros and cons of an upholstered crib before buying it for your nursery.

Personally, I would not buy it if you wanted to use it for the long term or for your second child or pass it on to someone later.  

Are Cribs with Solid headboards or sides a Suffocation risk?

No, Cribs with solid headboard, footboard, or sides are not a suffocation risk on their own.

A solid surface is safer for babies to sleep on as it can not contour to the shape of the baby’s body. So, even when a baby presses against the solid sides or solid crib headboard, she can still breathe as there will still be space for the baby to breathe underneath their nose.

Solid sides or solid headboard of a crib is only suffocation risk when there is space between crib mattress (if the mattress is small) and solid sides. In this case, the baby will roll and get trapped into the space between the mattress and crib sides.

If you purchase a crib with solid sides or a solid headboard/footboard, make sure that there are no cutout designs or spaces on the solid surface. The cutout designs pose a risk of the baby’s limbs or head getting entrapped.

As long as you follow safe sleep practice (more on it below), a crib with solid sides or a solid headboard is not a suffocation risk for your baby.

Are Upholstered Cribs a Suffocation risk?

Anything that is fabric and fluffy in a crib poses a risk of suffocation or SIDS for a baby. This is true for the loose blanket, crib sheet, stuffed animals, and crib bumper.

There is no research or report on upholstered cribs posing a risk of suffocation to the baby. But logically, if your baby presses against the upholstered crib, she might not have enough space to breathe underneath her nose as fabric tends to contour to the shape of the body.

The safe sleep guidelines to minimize the risk of SIDS by AAP, unfortunately, do not touch on the style of the crib in use. So this means that if upholstered cribs are sold in the market, there is little to no risk of suffocation to the baby.

If you are over-conscious parents, you may want to avoid an upholstered crib for peace of mind.

How to Choose a Safe Crib for a baby?

All the cribs sold in the USA must be compliant with the regulation set by CPSC. The CPSC focuses on the structural safety of the cribs to ensure that crib is sturdy and safe for the baby to use.  

The properly constructed crib helps prevent accidents and injuries. Here is how to choose a safe crib for a baby.

Crib with stationary sides

A crib with stationary sides ensures that the baby does not climb out or fall off the crib.

No drop-side rails

After 2007, it is illegal to sell or donate drop-side rails in the USA. Drop-side rails cribs were initially constructed to help parents easily access their babies. But drop-side gates create a gap between crib mattress and gates, increasing the risk of entrapment and suffocation for the baby. And there are many reports of death and injuries associated with the use of drop-side rails cribs.

If you have inherited a crib with drop-side rails, you may want to get rid of it as it is a serious risk of suffocation and SIDS for a baby.

Well constructed

The cribs should be well constructed and sturdy. It should not have any loose, missing, or broken components. For example, a crib with a solid headboard or footboard is considered sturdy compared to cribs with slats.

Slat gap

The gap between crib slats should be no more than 6 centimeters or the same as a soda can’s width. The larger gap between slats poses a risk of the baby’s legs, hands, or head getting entrapped. So here are things you can do to keep the baby’s feet and hands getting wedged between crib slats.  


Before purchasing a crib, make sure that the crib is painted with natural or water-based paint. Most conventional cribs are painted with paints that off-gas VOCs in the baby’s sleep environment. Breathing these toxic chemicals is not good for a baby’s developing organ system.

Also, once baby starts teething, they will most likely chew on crib railing so having a crib painted with non-toxic paint is essential.

No cutout design or style in solid headboard or footboard

If you are using a crib without slats or have a solid headboard or footboard, make sure that it does not have cutout designs or style as it is a potential risk of the baby’s hands, legs, and even head getting stuck into the space.

No loose items in the crib

The crib should be free of any loose items like stuffed animals, blankets, pillows, toys, bedding, and a crib bumper when the baby is sleeping. The major risk of suffocation or SIDS comes from loose items other than the type of crib you use for your baby.

You want to avoid covering your baby with a loose blanket even in the cold. Instead, dress your baby properly and use a swaddling blanket or wearable sleep sacks to keep them warm in winter.

Firm and well-fit Crib mattress

The crib mattress should be firm and snuggly. There should be no more than two finger gaps between the crib mattress and the slats. Also, crib mattress sheets should be fitted. A loose sheet poses a significant risk of suffocation for the baby.

The best crib mattress should be non-toxic and firm. Check out the list of the best non-toxic crib mattress and coupon codes to save more.

If you are having a baby, it is important to ensure that the baby’s sleep environment is safe. Babies spend almost 12-18 hours of sleep. So, regardless of the type of crib you use, learning about safe sleep is very important.

Check out this informational video on sleep safety for babies.

Is it safe to use a used crib?

From a safety point of view, a secondhand crib or inherited crib is not good for use. The older crib may not comply with new crib safety guidelines set by CPSC. In addition, if you have an inherited crib built before 1978, there is a chance that it is painted with lead-based paint. And if your baby chews on it when teething, it may lead to lead poisoning.

Another risk of using a secondhand crib is that it may not be as sturdy as a new one. Assembly and disassembly (as is the case with second-had crib) may loosen some part of the crib. Baby’s body part can trap in loose components or broken slats of the secondhand crib, causing entrapment of death.

Also, as your baby becomes mobile, there is a chance of the crib falling apart.

So, if possible, avoid purchasing or accepting a secondhand crib. If you have a secondhand crib, make sure that you have assembled it following the manufacturer’s direction and make sure that there are no loose or broken components.

How long are cribs safe?

According to CPSC, do not use cribs older than ten years. You should also avoid broken cribs or have loose components, or broken slats. All of these pose a significant risk of suffocation or SIDS. If you are using a secondhand crib, make sure that it is reassembled properly and no loose components.


Creating a safe sleep environment for the baby is essential for getting ready for a baby in your third trimester. Most of the cribs sold in the USA are designed following the guidelines established by CPSC.

So, a crib without slats or with slats is safe for a baby. But before you make a purchase, check out the CPSC database for crib recalls, if any.

As long as you follow safe sleep safety guidelines set by AAP, your baby is safe to sleep in a non-toxic crib with or without slats you want.

I would be careful about using an upholstered crib as materials may off-gas VOCs in the baby’s sleeping environment.

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