What you need to know to choose the best crib for your family
I remember when I was looking for a crib when I was pregnant with my first kiddo. It seemed like such a huge decision. I mean, it was THE HEART of the nursery. It cradled my baby when he wasn’t in my arms and I hoped he would spend many many hours slumbering there. And that’s kind of a lot of pressure to put on a piece of furniture.
So here you are and you want to choose the best crib for your family. You’re where I was a few years ago. But let’s take away some of that anxiety. There are several key topics to keep in mind and once you give them some thought, you’ll be able to decide which crib is the best crib for your family. No sweat.
Choose the best crib: safety
At this point in my rough draft I covered a ton about safety. And there's a lot to consider. But I don't want you to get bogged down in numbers and figures as your eyes glaze over. So I'm going to dedicate an entire extra worksheet just to safety. SAFETY IS NOT UNIMPORTANT! PLEASE READ THE INFORMATION. HERE'S A COPY. Just do it.
**One of the safety tips: lovies are super cute in a crib. But keep them out when baby's in it. Read the rest, too!
Choose the best crib: types
Super super cute, right? Well, while that’s true, they aren’t the safest option and experts suggest steering clear of these. Why? Most often the baskets have a fluffy pillow-like mattress rather than a firm one. And fluffy has been associated with an increased SIDS risk
A bassinet is a small bed designed for a newborn baby. Ideal for infants, bassinets are perfect for keeping baby close. They work perfectly next to the bed or in a small space. If the crib has a curved base it is frequently referred to as a cradle. The rounded base makes it easy to comfort baby to sleep with a soothing, gentle rocking motion. Bassinets are typically used for babies from 0 -3 months old.
Stop using the bassinet or cradle (or bassinet feature on a play yard) once your baby reaches the weight limit specified by the manufacturer or can sit up, pull up, roll over, or push up on hands and knees.
Your bassinet should have a firm mattress that fits snugly without any space around the edges. If you have pets or other young children in the house – for instance, a dog that might knock over a bassinet, a cat that may climb in, or a toddler who could try to lift your baby from the bassinet – use caution or stick with a crib instead.
When choosing a bassinet or cradle, pick a basic model that's certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (you'll see a JPMA certification seal on the packaging). Avoid bassinets and cradles with a motion or rocking feature, as these have caused suffocation when babies rolled against the edge.
Mini-cribs are pretty much what you’d expect from their name: a miniature version of a standard crib. This option works wonderfully for homes with a small footprint or for having as an extra and family member’s homes. Again, make sure they meet the same safety measures as cribs when it comes to mattress size, firmness and slat dimensions. (More on that below)
And, as you probably guessed, these sheets are their own consideration as well. Just like the co-sleepers, you can’t necessarily just accept hand-me-downs. Although you may luck out!
Straight off the bat, I want to say that this is the choice I used for both boys when they were tiny. It made the most sense for my family to have them right next to me, secured with a “belt” that went under our mattress. But there is debate about the safety of co-sleeping in general (mostly that accidental rolling on baby is super bad). I’m not advocating this choice for every family, but it’s the one mine made.
That said, just like cribs, the co-sleeper needs to have a thin, firm mattress, no more than an inch thick. The sides should be breathable, made of mesh or net, so that baby gets good air flow, and also so you can see in easily!
On a financial front, co-sleeper sheets are different from crib sheets, and there is not as much of a range in price or appearance. You’re stuck with what they give you.
Now that we’re up to full size, let’s talk about what full size is. Standard cribs will fit a crib mattress that is 27.5’’ by 52’’. There are tons of choices, from a typical crib to ones with special bells and whistles.
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.
Adjustable height crib
This is a super handy option that my family used when the boys were bigger. All the size, sturdiness and mattress/sheet standards of a crib, with the option to have the height of the mattress adjustable.
When baby is small, the mattress can be higher. It’s easier for you to reach them and easier for that all important “lay them down gently, they won’t realize they’re not being held” shuffle that parents (attempt) to perfect.
As they get bigger, roll over, sit up, you’ll want to put it down to the lowest level. Believe it or not, there will be a morning where you walk in to see baby gleefully grinning at you while chewing on the crib rail. Or was that just my house?
Convertible cribs are getting better and better. There are more choices from more vendors and can be made into many different forms of a bed.
The most common conversion is from crib to toddler bed (a toddler bed is to a twin bed what a mini-crib is to a crib). But beyond that there are 3-in-1 (crib-toddler bed-twin bed) and 4-in-1 (crib-toddler-twin-full and beyond).
Convertible cribs can be a pretty significant savings when you consider buying once and not again until the kiddo is much bigger. They’re also eco-friendly in that new materials are not being used for additional products. With that in mind, I’d advise not getting the bottom basement option of convertibles and invest in the longevity and durability of the crib.
Expert tip: If you’re going convertible, go as simple/classic visually as possible. The curlicues and sleigh bed options might look super cute now. But they might not in five years.
Choose the best crib: styles
Let’s just narrow it down to a few choices. Trendy versus classic. Gender-neutral versus elaborate. Oh, and uber-modern, throw that in there, too. The truth is there are tons to choose from. My advice is to either start with the crib before you buy other big pieces (like dressers, rockers, etc.) or if you already have furniture for the room, make sure the crib is a pleasing addition. Also keep in mind what your future plans for the crib might be. Most likely you won’t want to buy another crib should another baby arrive.
Choose the best crib: price
The honest answer is that there is a huge range of prices for cribs. So what you have to know going in is what sort of time and money investment you want to make.
If you’re planning on multiple kiddos/uses or using the crib long-term as a convertible option, it makes sense to put more money in going in. Similarly, if the crib is a “staying overnight at Grandma’s” buy, then you might not want top of the line.
One caution: if you’re looking to save money on a crib and/or buy second-hand, PLEASE be careful and vigilant about what you purchase. No amount of money is worth baby’s health.
That being said, quality cribs can start as low as $99 at IKEA and go up to $1000 at Land of Nod. Custom or independent vendors may go above that. Basically, spend what you’re comfortable with, do your research and you’ll be good.
Choose the best crib: green
I go into way more detail about what to look for in an eco-friendly crib here, but the main ideas are sustainable woods, Greenguard certification and non-toxic finishes (phthalate-free). Definitely worth considering.