Buying Guide – How to Shop for a Crib
Purchasing a crib can be a daunting process, but by paying attention to these top considerations, you’re sure to find the crib that’s right for you—and your baby.
While hand-me-downs and thrift stores are great sources for most baby gear, it’s a good idea to buy new when it comes to cribs. That’s because crib safety standards change over time and all new cribs must adhere to current standards.
The latest federal requirements for crib safety were passed in 2011 by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). They prohibit drop-side rails, require stronger slats and mattress supports, require higher quality hardware and outline rigorous testing
In addition to these federal standards, it’s important to check cribs to make sure they feel solid, both before you purchase one and after you assemble it at home. Opt for basic cribs with simple lines rather than decorative cut-outs or finials that can catch on baby’s clothing.
Also make sure slats are no more than 2″ inches apart. And finally, ensure your baby’s sleeping environment is safe by keeping blankets, pillows and soft toys out of the crib, at least before he or she turns one.
Some parents spend months designing their dream nurseries while others throw everything together at the last minute. Either way, the crib plays a central role. There are cribs for every taste, from sleek and modern to traditional to unique.
Some cribs come in a variety of colors or wood tones. Especially if you want to keep your crib for several years through multiple children, you may want to pick a classic or simple design so it fits with a variety of nurseries.
Design can impact more than aesthetics. It can also play into durability, as very thin slats or legs tend to be less sturdy over time. Low-profile cribs that sit lower to the ground can also be more functional for shorter parents as it’s easier to reach in to pick up baby.
All new cribs must meet federal guidelines for safety, but that doesn’t mean they were all created equal when it comes to material quality and durability. Especially if you’re purchasing a convertible crib that you plan to hang onto for a few years, you’ll want to choose one made with materials that will last.
Hardwoods, like beech and poplar, tend to hold up better against dings and nicks than softer woods, like pine. Hardwood cribs also tend to cost more, however. Some cribs also feature solid panels at the head and foot made from fiberboard, which tends to be somewhat flimsy.
Crib prices can vary widely, from just over a hundred dollars to a couple thousand. Choose the crib that best fits your budget, keeping in mind that higher priced cribs may have better quality materials—to a point.
Very expensive cribs tend to have details that you might find unnecessary, like hand-crafted elements or appliqued molding. It’s fairly easy to find a quality crib for a few hundred dollars.
In addition to material quality, you’ll want to consider looking for a convertible crib to get the best value. Being able to convert your crib into a toddler bed or even full-size bed is a great way to stretch your dollar.
Ease of Assembly
Sitting in a nursery surrounded by crib parts may seem like a parenthood right of passage, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult. Some cribs are simply easier to assemble than others. Check out assembly instructions online before purchasing a crib, and pay extra attention to the number of parts and tools required.
Some cribs come completely disassembled into several parts, while others just require you attach the four sides and mattress support. In theory, you only need to assemble your crib once (or once for each child), but you will have to move the mattress position as your baby grows.
Check the process for that to make sure it’s simple. Proper assembly is also vital in ensuring crib safety, so a crib that’s easier to put together might be the best choice.
When Should Parents Purchase a Crib?
A crib is the quintessential piece of baby furniture, but there’s variation in how different families use them and when. Will your baby sleep in his crib from day one or move into it after a few months? How old will your child be when he transitions out of his crib, and how do you know when that time has come?
The truth is that baby sleep is more of an art than a science, and the answers to these questions depend on several variables, including safety considerations, how your house is set up, your baby and your own sleep needs. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants sleep in their parents’ rooms for at least their first six months, and ideally a year.
If you have a small bedroom, fitting a full-sized crib in it might not be an option, so you may opt for a smaller bassinet while you room-share. Once your child is ready to move into her own room, she’ll transition to a crib. If you can fit a crib in your room or like the idea of only purchasing one bed for your baby, then your little one may sleep in a crib from day one.
The age at which babies transition to sleeping in a crib in their own rooms also varies. While the AAP recommendation is six months, a recent study shows that room-sharing can lead to interrupted sleep. Parents and babies who are light sleepers may wake each other up all night. This can cause parents to opt for less safe sleep practices, like bed-sharing.
As a family, you have to weigh the options and choose to move your child into his own crib in his own room when it feels right to you. A crib is an important purchase because your child will spend a great deal of time in it. In fact, by the time they’re two years old, children will have spent 40 percent of their lives asleep.
While every child is different, expect your child to sleep in her crib for around two years. Some children start climbing out of their cribs earlier, at which point it’s safer to transition to a toddler bed. Others stay in their cribs for longer, which is perfectly fine as long as they don’t exceed weight limits for their cribs.
Safe Sleep in Cribs
Safety is a top concern when choosing a new crib, and it’s equally important to consider safe sleeping once you have your crib. Here are some practices to keep in mind:
- Place baby on back to sleep: The safest position for a baby to sleep is on her back. This position lowers the risk of SIDS and helps prevent airways being blocked from being face down.
- Keep sleep surface bare: The safest crib is an empty crib. Until your baby is one, keep his crib free from everything but a fitted sheet. Use a wearable blanket instead of loose ones.
- Ensure firm sleep surface: A firm crib mattress is the safest option because it lowers the risk of suffocation or rolling. Some mattresses have a firm infant side and a slightly plusher toddler side.
- Choose safe mattress height: Current cribs have at least two mattress heights, so be sure to lower your mattress once your baby is able to sit on his own and again when he can stand.
Additional Tuck Resources