Got a crib yet? Many expectant moms and dads race to finish the nursery before the baby’s arrival, but it’s not necessary to complete everything. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in a safety-approved crib, bassinet or cradle in their parents’ room until they are six months old. Still, decorating that nursery is something parents enjoy, and the centerpiece of baby’s naptime and sleep time will undoubtedly be the crib. Before you choose the place where your baby will spend the better part of the next two to three years, let Pronto’s Crib Buying Guide help you identify your purchasing priorities.
All cribs sold in the United States are required to meet government safety standards, but other organizations, such as the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association set higher crib standards. Buying a crib with the JPMA certification ensures you’re getting the safest and highest-quality crib available.
Your crib’s interior dimensions should be at least 57 ¾ inches long by 27 ¾ inches wide. U.S. regulations require crib mattresses to be 57 5/8 inches by 27 ¼ inches. If you can fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the side of the crib, the mattress is too small.
Look for cribs with a drop side that can be released with one hand or your knee or foot. Casters make cribs easy to move for cleaning or temporary relocation. If you’re short on space, choose a crib with drawers for easy storage. Look for a minimum of two adjustable mattress heights with metal-bar or metal-spring supports.
Convertible cribs grow with your child, turning into toddler beds. These cribs are significantly more expensive than traditional cribs, but the added cost may be worth it for some families. If you need to buy a separate conversion kit, try to purchase it at the same time as the crib.
Buying your crib new ensures that you’re getting the latest technology and safety features.
Sides that lower, allowing for easier placement of and access to a baby. Drop sides can be very important for vertically challenged parents, or to avoid straining yourself when baby starts to pack on the pounds.
An adjustable platform that holds up a crib’s mattress. Materials used for mattress supports range from low-quality vinyl straps to metal bars and spring systems.
A plastic covering that protects both baby’s mouth and the crib’s wood from the possible gnawing that may occur during teething time.
Like car seats, all cribs sold in the United States must meet certain safety requirements. Crib slats or spindles must be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart to prevent babies’ heads from slipping through and getting stuck.
The drop side of a crib, when lowered, must be at least nine inches above the mattress support, which protects babies from accidental falls. When raised, the drop side should be at least 26 inches above the mattress support when the mattress is set at the lowest level. A crib’s corner posts should be no higher than one sixteenth of an inch above the rails unless the crib has a canopy, in which case the posts should be about 16 inches high.
Most cribs need to be assembled by the buyer, so keep this mind when purchasing online. Proper assembly is critical to ensure safety. For more information about crib safety, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics (http://www.aap.org/family/inffurn.htm) or the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (http://www.jpma.org/index2.cfm?section=BabySafety#cribs).
When you buy a crib, you will probably have to purchase a crib mattress separately. Your crib’s interior dimensions should accommodate a standard crib mattress and be at least 57 ¾ inches long by 27 ¾ inches wide. By law, all crib mattresses are required to be 57 5/8 inches by 27 ¼ inches. When the mattress is in the crib, you should be able to fit no more than two fingers between the mattress and the sides of the crib.
Experts say the best cribs offer the simplest design and features, but there are some features worth looking for while you’re crib shopping. Look for cribs with one-hand release—handy when you’re trying to put your already-sleeping baby to bed—or that offer a drop side that can be operated with your knee or foot. Cribs with dual drop sides are only necessary if you plan to place the crib in the middle of the room or perpendicular to the wall.
Adjustable mattress supports are common to almost all cribs. These allow you to raise the mattress higher for infants, then lower it for older babies who can pull up. Look for a minimum of two mattress heights and be sure to check how the mattress is supported. Avoid vinyl straps that can wear over time in favor of metal bars or metal spring systems.
Some cribs come on casters that lock in place when the crib is stationary and release when you need to move the crib for cleaning or to temporarily relocate your sleeping infant. If relocation is your reason for buying a crib with casters, make sure it will fit through the door after it’s assembled. Check the crib’s full physical dimensions and measure your doorways before buying.
If your nursery is small and you need to save space, look for storage drawers beneath the crib or choose a model that has a full chest of drawers on one side.
Another point to consider when shopping for a crib is how long you’ll need to use it. Many manufacturers now offer cribs that grow with your child and convert to toddler beds. In some cases, they convert again to adult day beds. Convertible cribs are generally more expensive than traditional cribs, but some families find the cost savings over time are worth the added up-front cost. If you’re considering a convertible crib, check to see if it comes with a conversion kit or if you’ll need to purchase one separately.
Your baby’s crib will likely be the focal point of his or her room, so it’s not unreasonable to want it to look good or match your décor. Baby furniture design has come a long way, and most manufacturers now offer a variety of woods, finishes and designs—from traditional to contemporary and everything in between. If you’re designing your nursery for the first time or redoing it for another child, look for manufacturers that offer other nursery pieces to match. You can outfit the entire room at once or add pieces as you’re ready.
Cribs are one of the more expensive items you’ll purchase for your baby. The short length of time your baby will use a crib may make it tempting to cut corners and buy used. Don’t. Like car seats and other critical baby gear, you want to buy your crib new to ensure you’re purchasing one that meets the most up-to-date safety standards. Although all new cribs must meet minimum government requirements, many self-governing trade associations set even higher standards. Look for evidence that the crib you purchase meets or exceeds certification standards set by the Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association (http://www.jpma.org/) or the American Society of Testing and Materials (www.astm.org/).
We've compiled this group of information links to help you further your research: