The lowdown on cribs
Babies often spend more time in the crib than anywhere else, so while comfort is important, safety is essential. Since most children sleep in a crib until it’s time to move into a real bed – typically between the ages of 2 and 3 – you’ll want a sturdy one.
Many moms like to have the crib set up several months before their due date. But don’t worry if the baby arrives before your crib does; tots do fine in a bassinet, cradle, or sleeper for the first several weeks or even months of their lives.
What to look for when buying
Space savers: Parents short on space may be interested in portable or mini-crib options, both of which take up less space than full-size cribs. Some fold or collapse for storage; some have wheels so they can be rolled around the house.
Stability: Give the crib a good shake in the store or after you put it together at home. If it wobbles or rattles, it may have been put together improperly. (Although wobbling or rattling could also be a sign that you should look for a sturdier crib.)
Mattresses: The two most common types sold are innerspring and foam and both are available in thicknesses between 3 and 6 inches. For a foam mattress, more important than thickness, though, is high density; weight can be a good indicator – a heavier mattress is denser than one that’s the same size but lighter.
Frame size: The crib interior should snugly accommodate a standard crib mattress – at least 51 3/4 inches long by 27 3/8 inches wide. Make sure that there is no space between the sides of the mattress and the crib walls. This poses a significant danger, as babies can get trapped in that space.
Versatility: Many cribs are designed to convert to a toddler bed, day bed, or even the headboard and footboard for a full-size bed. Make sure that the crib makeover is relatively easy to perform (check online reviews from parents) and that you like the look of the new furniture.
Adjustable mattress height: Most cribs let you change the height of the crib mattress by simply raising or lowering the mattress support. The time to lower the mattress is when your child begins sitting up. As kids get more active and move to pulling up and standing, they can climb and fall out of the crib.
Important safety notes
Most new cribs on the market comply with both mandatory and voluntary safety standards. Read crib safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). For starters, make sure yours is properly assembled and structurally sound; the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports many cases in which cribs have come apart. If this happens, a baby’s head can get trapped in the spaces between the mattress and side rail.
When setting up a crib, choose a spot away from windows, window blinds, and draperies. Babies can strangle on the cords, and older babies could possibly pull themselves up and fall through the window. If there’s a cord on your baby monitor, keep it at least 3 feet from the crib.
More safety considerations:
Cribs with drop sides: The rule is simple – don’t use them. The movable railings known as drop sides were common on cribs for decades, but can pose a serious hazard to babies. If the drop side detaches or comes loose, a baby can become entrapped and strangle or suffocate in the space between the drop side and the crib mattress. Their sale has been banned since 2011.
Bumpers: Crib bumpers – cushioned padding that attaches to the inside railings of the crib – are sometimes still included in crib bedding sets, but a number of organizations, including the AAP, now discourage them as a SIDS hazard for babies.
Old cribs: Cribs made before 1974, when federal crib-safety standards went into effect, are more likely than newer models to have safety problems. Secondhand cribs may also have splinters, lead paint, discontinued (and potentially dangerous) features, or slats that are too far apart. Slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart (about the size of a soda can) to prevent a baby’s head from getting suck. Posts on a crib should no higher than 1/16 of an inch (unless they’re over 16 inches high to support a canopy); otherwise, clothing can catch on them and injure or choke an infant. Even models manufactured as recently as 1991 can be unsafe, so if you’re borrowing a crib or buying a used one, look out for these dangers as well as for sharp edges, protruding metal, anything that can be broken off and choked on, peeling paint, and cutouts along the rail that can trap your baby’s arm or neck.
Safety limits: Crib manufacturers recommend discontinuing use (or converting to the product’s next stage, for convertible cribs) when your child reaches a particular height, weight, or developmental stage. Height/weight limits are generally much lower on portable or mini-cribs. Read your product manual carefully and follow recommendations.
Safe sleep recommendations: Get tips about crib bedding and sleep position to reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS.
What it’s going to cost you
Full-sized cribs, including convertibles, range from $110 to $800. Portable and mini-cribs cost between $100 and $400. Fancier cribs can run $800 to $1,000 or much more.