Baby Crib Buying Guide
Baby Cribs 101
Types of Baby Cribs
Baby Crib Buying Tips:
• Consider a neutral finish that works well with any decor
• Avoid elaborate scrollwork or finials and beware of protruding fasteners
• A versatile crib that converts into a bed or bench offers longer term value
• Buy a crib before the start of your third trimester so it’s ready when baby arrives
• Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for care and maintenance
Baby Crib Features
Most baby cribs are rectangular to comply with federal standards for crib safety. Less common, round cribs are available, but are more expensive and not certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). A rectangular mini crib can be a space-saving option in confined living quarters. In larger nurseries, a standard rectangular crib in a “sleigh” design adds a stylish accent.
Construction Materials and Finishes +
Most cribs are made of solid wood or wood products. Wood cribs can come in various shades of light or dark finish or stain. Since teething infants may try to gnaw on the crib, it’s important to ensure that any finish is non-toxic, meets or exceeds ASTM safety standards, and is tested for lead and other toxic elements — yet another reason to buy new. Painted finishes in neutral colours can fit any decor, but make sure they aren’t prone to chipping or peeling.
Mattress Support Base +
Most cribs offer an adjustable support base, which typically consists of a metal frame and firm springs. The mattress base can be lowered (usually by several notches) as your child grows. Once your baby can sit up, the mattress should be set at its lowest position. The distance between the mattress support in its lowest position and the top of the crib rail should be at least 26 inches. Before buying, check to see if the bottom of the crib has stabilizer bars (metal rods extending beneath the two end rods of the crib) which help keep the crib on solid footing.
Teething Rail +
A teething rail is a smooth plastic cover that goes on top of the side rails of the crib. Many babies enjoy teething on their cribs, so the teething rail offers protection for both the crib and your baby’s teeth and gums. Teething rails should be sturdy and not crack or break. This is a nice feature for convertible cribs, since the rails will be repurposed for the toddler bed or full-sized bed in the future.
Crib Mattress +
To ensure a proper fit, try to purchase the crib and the mattress at the same time, ideally as a matched set from the same manufacturer. The crib mattress should fit snugly into the crib with no more than two adult fingers of space between the mattress and the frame. A firm mattress is key — this helps babies roll if they need to, which prevents suffocation if they end up face down. A durable multi-layer cover will protect the mattress from fluids and messy diapers.
The sides of most cribs consist of bars or slats, but may be solid at either end of the crib. The slats should be less than 2 3/8 inches apart from each other so the baby’s head does not get stuck. Fixed sides, securely tightened, are important for the stability and safety of the crib. It is now considered unsafe to have a drop-side crib, whereby the front side of the crib can be lowered to pick up or change the baby. Drop-side cribs can no longer be made or sold.
This is the side of the crib opposite the front, and tends to be slightly higher and more ornate than the other sides. The endboard may feature a curved top or hand-painted detail. It’s also the section of the crib most critical to conversion as it becomes the headboard for a toddler’s bed and the endboard for a daybed. When thinking about repurposing the crib in the future, it’s a good idea to pick an endboard that appeals to you.
Legs and Casters +
Look for sturdy legs that don’t wobble. A portable crib on wheels or casters can be moved with a gentle push and repositioned throughout the room. Simply push the crib into place and lock each wheel. Match wheels or casters to your type of flooring to avoid damaging carpet or hardwood. While a portable crib is appealing, most cribs are too wide to fit through doorways, and may need to be disassembled to be moved between rooms.
Additional Furniture +
Some cribs are designed as multi-purpose nursery pieces that are also equipped with a baby change table, dresser or shelf storage. Generally, these pieces are smaller in size than if they were purchased individually, which makes them a great choice for smaller nurseries. A crib that comes with additional baby furniture also means that the nursery will be set up faster and with fewer purchases.
Conversion Kit +
If you plan on converting your crib to another type of bed, you’ll likely need a conversion kit. Most parents choose to buy the conversion kit at the same time they purchase the crib. In the long run it’s a cost-effective solution, as you won’t need to buy an entirely new bed as your little one grows. Cribs will often have instructions permanently attached to the frame; since you’ll have it for many years and the setup can be complicated, this is a nice added feature.
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Baby Crib Safety Tips:
• Babies should be placed on their backs for safety reasons
• Make sure loose or dangling items are a safe distance from the crib
• Avoid placing anything in the crib that presents a suffocation hazard
• Keep your baby warm in the crib by using a swaddle wrap or wearable blanket
• Avoid using a canopy over the crib
• Thoroughly inspect hotel cribs prior to use