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.
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.
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.
More safety considerations:
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. Check the product recalls from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to make sure it hasn’t been recalled.
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.