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I’ll start this crib buying guide by highlighting some important statistics to give you an idea of why you should take your crib buying research seriously.

According to CPSC’s 2019 Report on the leading causes of Emergency Room visits to treat injuries cribs along with crib mattresses came second both in 2018 and in 2019 with about 11,000 injuries out of about 60,000 annual injuries treated annually.

Snapshot from CPSC Report showing the different reasons/causes of ER Visits in 2018 and in 2019
Snapshot from CPSC Report showing the different reasons/causes of ER Visits in 2018 and in 2019

On actual fatalities, CPSC reported that accidents relating to cribs and crib mattresses are the leading cause of fatalities among kids under the age of 5. In the 2015-17 period, 38 of 119 fatalities were contributed by cribs/mattresses, representing about 32%.

Below is a screenshot showing the fatalities from 2014 to 2017.

Snapshot from CPSC Report showing the fatalities from various baby gear including cribs from 2014 to 2017
Snapshot from CPSC Report showing the fatalities from various baby gear including cribs from 2014 to 2017

So what do these statistics tell us?

  • Firstly, that cribs are dangerous and need to be approached with caution.
  • Secondly, when it comes to choosing a crib, parents need to be extra vigilant in order to avoid putting their child in harm’s way.

Some of the most common accidents related to cribs occur when kids:

  • – Fall out of cribs (easy fix with getting a crib with adjustable-height-mattress that will allow you to make sure the space in the crib is not enough for your baby to climb out at any time)
  • – Strangle themselves on crib bedding (fix this by following safe sleep guidelines)
  • – Crawl under or climb over crib railings (fix this by getting a crib that meets the set minimum safety standards that include safe rail spacing guidelines)

To prevent these accidents, it is important that you choose the right type of crib for your child. There are practical ways to prevent these accidents are:

  • Make sure the crib is the right size for your child.
  • Check that the crib has sturdy rails that are not more than 2 3/8 inches apart.
  • Do not use pillows, quilts, or other soft bedding in the crib.
  • Use a firm mattress that fits the edge of the crib away from the wall
  • Always get CPSC-approved, ASTM-certified cribs that meet the strict testing and safety evaluation parameters set by CPSC in their Manual here.

This guide was long overdue

We recently posted a bassinets buying guide and in that guide, I mentioned how we are at fault here at Motherhood HQ. Why? We never published cribs buying guide and we get so many questions on the topic after we released our selection of best cribs. It’s time to right that wrong!

There are SO MANY OPTIONS when it comes to choosing a crib and we want to make sure you have all the information you need to make the best decision for your family. In this post, we will be discussing the different types of cribs, the features you should look for when choosing a crib, and what type of crib is best for your family.

Some recent development in crib safety regulations:

Here in the US, cribs are regulated by Consumer Products Safety Commission through the umbrella statute called the Consumer Product Safety Act which was enacted in 1972. This law (15 U.S.C. Chapter 47) provides the CPSC with the authority to issue mandatory safety standards for certain children’s products and all full-size and non-full-size cribs must comply with these mandatory safety standards.

In December 2010, the CPSC published a final rule that updated the safety, defines CPSC’s basic requirements for the design and construction of full-size and non-full-size cribs, and establishes a new federal performance standard that all full-size and non-full-size cribs must meet. The rule was effective on June 28, 2011, and compliance was required as of December 28, 2012.

The most recent mandatory safety standard for full-size and non-full-size cribs is 16 CFR 1219 which was published in September 2019. Aside the recent 2019 updated standards, the most far-reaching regulation is the 2011 Federal Regulation which banned the use of drop-side cribs.

Prior to 2011, drop-side cribs were-ut the norm in baby cribs. That all changed when the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released new safety guidelines that banned the manufacturing and selling of drop-side cribs. The new guidelines also required that all new cribs meet stricter safety standards, which included stronger hardware, better mattress support, and sturdier slats.

The new guidelines were a result of over 32 infant and toddler fatalities that were caused by drop-side cribs between 2000 and 2010. In addition to the fatalities, there were also over 9,600 reports of injuries associated with drop-side cribs.

The image below shows an example of a baby being put at risk of strangulation or suffocation by a drop-side crib;

Recalled Crib

As a result of the new safety guidelines, many companies stopped selling drop-side cribs and started to recall existing models. If you have a drop-side crib, the CPSC recommends that you stop using it and find a safe alternative for your child.

In summary below are the 5 key regulations that the 2011 federal requirements on the safer generation of cribs;

  • “Traditional drop-side cribs cannot be made or sold; immobilizers and repair kits not allowed
  • Wood slats must be made of stronger woods to prevent breakage
  • Crib hardware must have anti-loosening devices to keep it from coming loose or falling off
  • Mattress supports must be more durable
  • Safety testing must be more rigorous”

The 5 new requirements are shown in the image below;

What does this mean for you as a parent?

Well, the good news is that all new cribs on the market must now meet these stricter safety guidelines. So, if you are in the market for a new crib, you can rest assured knowing that any crib you purchase will meet these higher safety standards.

The bad news is that, if you have an older crib that was manufactured before these guidelines went into effect, it may not meet the new safety standards. If you are using an older crib, we recommend that you check with the manufacturer to see if your particular model has been recalled.

You can also check the CPSC’s website for a list of recalled cribs, even if your particular model has not been recalled, we still recommend that you upgrade to a newer, safer model.

Snapshot of CPSC website with recalled cribs
Snapshot of CPSC website with recalled cribs

Essential Cribs Safety Tips:

Many non-governmental entities including the American Academy of Pediatricians(AAP), the National Safe Sleep Hospital Alliance, and the Juvenile Product Manufacturer’s Association (JPMA) offer guidance on choosing and using a crib.

AAP has also published extensive guides on how you can reduce the chances of SIDs by following some helpful and practical tips. The first AAP Guidelines were published in 2016 and were just revised this year in April 2022.

Below are a combination of the safest sleep guidelines for infants;

  1. Place your infant on his or her back in a crib with a firm, tight-fitting mattress.
  2. Pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, bumper pads with a pillow-like feel, and stuffed animals should not be used in the crib.
  3. Instead of a blanket, try using a sofa sleeper.
  4. Place the infant on his/her back with feet to the foot of the crib if you do use one. Covering baby only as high as his/her chest with a thin blanket
  5. Only a fitted bottom sheet that is specifically designed for crib use should be used.
  6. Car seats, strollers, swings, infant carriers, and infant slings should not be used as standard sleep gear in the hospital or at home, particularly for infants younger than four months(AAP, 2022)
  7. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of sleep-related infant deaths(AAP, 2022)
  8. AAP recommends that parents and caregivers sleep in the same room for the first six months, but not necessarily in the same bed(AAP, 2022)
  9. Pacifier use is associated with reducing risk (AAP, 2022)
  10. To promote infant growth and minimize positional plagiocephaly, supervised, awake tummy time is suggested(AAP, 2022)

In 2022, AAP included in its guidelines the advisory against the use of inclined cribs or inclined surfaces in line with CPSC’s new safety guidelines.

According to this 2019 CPSC report, there were “reports of 1,108 incidents, including 73 infant deaths, related to infant inclined sleep products that occurred from January 2005 through June 2019.”

In the wake of these grim reports, CPSC hired an independent expert Erin Mannen who found that “none of the inclined sleep products her team tested were safe for infant sleep.” She found that an incline of more than 10 degrees is associated with a 4-fold increase in the risk of SIDS.

As a result, the new CPSC guidelines now advise against the use of any type of inclined cribs or inclined surfaces for infant sleep. 

How does incline surface lead to infant deaths?

The prevailing theory is that when an infant sleeps on an incline, the baby’s head can fall forward and block the baby’s airway. This can cause suffocation or strangulation.

Consumer Reports put together the 3 images below showing how an infant can suffocate on an inclined sleeper;

Image showing how an infant can suffocate on an inclined sleeper;
Image showing how an infant can suffocate on an inclined sleeper;

Inclined sleepers are any sleep products (cribs, bassinets, playards, or portable beds) that have an incline of more than 10 degrees. Some models that were on sale previously had inclines of up to 30 degrees as shown by Consumer Report’s illustration below’

Sleep positioners are also unsafe and allow babies to suffocate if they roll onto their stomachs since they are unable to lift their heads. If a baby’s face comes into touch with the soft padding, it might be difficult to breathe.

But first, a word about cribs usage vs bassinets

Unlike bassinets that babies will outgrow in a few months, cribs will stay and be part of your nursery furniture for a long time. It is therefore essential that you put some thought into the kind or design of crib you’re getting and consider how that fits into your overall nursery decor.

A lot of times, cribs come in different colors and finishes. You may be tempted to buy a white or natural wood finish to match the rest of your nursery furniture but that might not always be the best idea. Why? Babies are messy! They will spit up, have diaper leaks, and drop food on their crib and sooner or later, that beautiful white or natural wood finish will be stained.

Instead, we recommend choosing a dark wood finish or a color that you won’t mind seeing get a little dirty over time. Not only will it be easier to maintain but it will also give your nursery a bit more personality. With that being said, let’s get into the types of cribs!

Types of Cribs

Standard/Full-size Cribs:

Full-size standard-sized cribs and probably the most popular type. The average cost of a full-size crib is between $100 to $600 but you can find some really nice ones for under $200. To adhere to CPSC guidelines on full-size cribs, a “mattress used in a full-size crib must be at least 27 1/4 inches x 51 1/4 inches and not more than 6 inches thick to prevent head entrapment and suffocation between the mattress and crib sides.” 6 inches is a thick mattress so you’re not going to have any problems with that.

In addition, the mattress should meet these flammability guidelines.

CPSC further specifies that full-size cribs dimensions should be;

  • 28 ± 5/8 inches (71 ± 1.6 centimeters) in width
  • 52 3/8 ± 5/8 inches (133 ± 1.6 centimeters) in length.

The average weight limit for a full-size crib is 50 pounds but can be as high as 60 pounds for toddler conversion. For full-size bed conversion, the weight limit is 500 lbs.

Below is an image of a Graco Full-size crib

Make sure you know the difference between those with toddler conversion kits and those that don’t, you may have to buy one separately. Also, know that some full-size cribs come with a mattress while others don’t so factor that in when making your decision.

The advantage of conversion is that they fit a standard size mattress so you can find mattresses easily and they will last longer since your child can use it for a few years. They also have a wide range of prices, styles, and features to choose from.

If you want a big full-size crib but have limited space, you can get foldable models that can be easily folded flat and stored away when not in use. Dream on Me and a few other crib brands have models available for sale.

Another way to save on space is to opt for a full-size crib that comes with a changing table attached. This can serve as a changing station and save you the money of buying a separate changing table. There are many combinations available on the market, so take your time to find one that fits your needs.

Pros:

– Standard size so finding a mattress and bedding is easy

– More affordable than other types

– Lots of style options available

– Can buy secondhand without worry as long as it meets current safety standards

-Several levels of mattress heights makes it easier to lower as baby starts to sit and stand

-It has large space that your baby won’t feel confined even as they grow

Cons

– Not as portable as other types

– Might be too big for small nurseries

-Can be difficult to assemble or disassemble.

Ideal For:

  • Families who plan on having multiple children or those who do not want to spend money on buying a new crib when their child outgrows it.

What to look for in a standard crib:

The best standard crib that is also the safest are new models that have basic designs with excellent design construction that adheres to the latest safety standards. When shopping for a standard crib, look for features like:

-Non-toxic finish

-Smooth edges and corners-no rough or sharp edges, corners, or points anywhere on the crib.

-Sturdy construction

-Easy to assemble and disassemble

As Consumer Reports noted, basic is best and you don’t need any extra frills or features that come with more expensive cribs. Avoid drop-side cribs as they are no longer safe and have been banned in the US.

Convertible Baby Cribs:

These are cribs that can be converted into a toddler bed and sometimes even a full-size bed. They usually have one or two side rails that can be removed to create a bed. These are great if you want to get more use out of your baby furniture and don’t mind spending a bit more upfront.

Pros:

-Will last longer since it can be converted into a bed for your toddler and sometimes even a full-size bed.

-You may be able to find one that converts into multiple beds which is great if you have limited space or plan on having more children.

-They come in different designs, colors, and finishes so you’ll be able to find one that fits your nursery perfectly

Cons:

-More expensive than standard cribs

-May be difficult to convert from a crib to a bed

-The full-size bed conversion may not be safe for young children as there are no side rails.

Ideal For:

Families who plan on having multiple children or those who want to get more use out of their crib.

What to look for in a convertible crib:

Get to understand the functions in different convertible models such as 2-in-1 or 3-in-1, and 4-in-1, among others.  This will help you know how the crib will grow with your baby. 2-in-1 models convert to a toddler bed, 3-in-1 models convert to a daybed and full-size bed, while 4-in-1 models will have all the features of the 3-in-1 plus a headboard only. 5-in-1 models will have all the features of the 4-in-1 plus a footboard.

2-in-1 are the most popular convertible cribs. You can use it as a crib for your baby and then convert it into a toddler bed when they outgrow the crib stage. The reason why this is the most popular choice is that it’s more affordable than the 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 models and it will last longer since it can be used as a toddler bed.

3-in-1 models will convert from a crib to a daybed and then into a full-size bed. The daybed mode is great for when your child is too big for the crib but not quite ready for a full-size bed. These are more expensive than the 2-in-1 models but they will last longer since they can be converted into a full-size bed.

4-in-1 cribs are the most expensive but they will convert from a crib to a toddler bed, daybed, and full-size bed. These are great if you want to get the most use out of your crib but they can be difficult to convert from one bed to the next.

5-in-1 cribs are the most versatile as they will convert from a crib to a toddler bed, daybed, full-size bed, and then into a headboard or footboard for a king or queen size bed. These are great if you want to use the same piece of furniture for your entire family but they can be difficult to convert and are very expensive.

Some models come with a conversion kit and it is important to check if it is included in the purchase or if you will have to buy it separately. Also,  check on how easy it is to do the conversion from crib to a toddler bed or full-size bed as some models will require special tools which you may not have.

Portable Cribs:

These are cribs that can be easily assembled and disassembled which makes them great for travel. They are usually smaller in size than standard cribs and some models even come with a carrying case. They are also called mini cribs

Pros:

-Great for travel as they can be easily assembled and disassembled.

-Some models come with a carrying case which makes it even easier to travel with.

-They are usually smaller in size which makes them great for small nurseries or if you have limited space.

Cons:

-They may not be as sturdy as standard cribs.

-Some models have a shorter lifespan since they are not made to convert into a bed.

-They may not have all the features of a standard crib such as storage or a changing table.

Ideal For:

Families who travel often or those who have limited space.

What to look for in a portable crib:

The most important thing to look for in a portable crib is how easy it is to set up and take down. You want a crib that is easy to assemble and disassemble as you will be doing this often. Also, check to see if the crib comes with a carrying case as this will make it even easier to travel with. Some models also come with a mattress which can be great if you are traveling by plane.

Ideal For: Families who travel often or have small nurseries.

What to look for in a portable crib:

First,  decide if you want a full-size portable crib or a mini portable crib. Full-size portable cribs will be the same size as a standard crib but mini portable cribs will be smaller. If you have limited space, then the mini portable crib may be a better option.

Next,  decide if you want a crib that can be used as a travel crib or one that is only for travel. Travel cribs are designed to be used both at home and when traveling. They usually come with a carrying case and some models even come with a mattress. If you only plan on using the crib when traveling, then you may want to consider a mini portable crib as they are usually lighter and easier to travel with.

Also, get the right type of portable crib. Choose from cribs on Wheels, Folding Cribs, and Travel Cribs.

Travel Cribs:  

For simple storage and transportation, travel cribs collapse more compactly and fold into a bag or a backpack and are made of poles/frames and mesh. Tal of Mommyhood 101 noted that “travel cribs are the most portable form of day trips, overnight stays, and holidays for babies.” The downside is that kids outgrow travel cribs quickly, so they are best for short-term use.

What to look for in travel baby cribs:

The best travel baby cribs should come with a sturdy bag and should have an easy folding mechanism. You should also check to see if the travel crib has a mattress as some models do not come with one. If you are planning on using the travel crib for long trips, then you may want to consider getting one that comes with a changing table or storage space as this can be very handy.

Cribs on wheels:

These are perfect if you plan on using the crib in different rooms or if you want to move it around easily. Most models come with locking wheels so you can keep the crib in one place if you need to. Ensure you get a model with lockable wheels and insist on a strong and durable brand. You should note that some cribs on wheels do not come with a carrying case and may not work perfectly on carpeted floors. They are also more expensive than other types of portable cribs.

What to look for in a crib on wheels:

To avoid cases where the crib accidentally moves, ensure the wheels are lockable. As a safe measure, also, ensure the brakes are in good working condition. The baby crib should also have a sturdy frame and be made of high-quality materials. If it comes with beddings, make sure you go for models with organic crib sheets. Another thing to consider is the size of the wheels as larger wheels will make it easier to move the crib around.

Folding Cribs:

Folding mechanisms for easy storage, and travel are great. If you live in a limited-space home, or frequently travel, a folding crib might be perfect for you. They come in handy when traveling as some models even come with a carrying case. Folding cribs are great if you have limited storage space as they can be easily folded and stored away. They are also usually lighter and more affordable than other types of portable cribs. One downside is that most models do not have conversion capability.

What to look for in a folding crib:

I like models with a folding mechanism that is easy to use and comes with a carrying case. If possible try a folding model at a store and pay attention to what triggers the fold, how easy it is to trigger the fold and if possible time how long it takes to fold and unfold. A good model should take less than a minute to both fold and unfold.

Also, make sure the dimensions of the crib when folded fit your car trunk or desired storage space. If you are considering a used folding crib, ensure all the parts are there, that it hasn’t been recalled, and that it meets the current safety standards.

Round crib:

A round crib is a great choice if you want something different and unique. They are also perfect if you have limited space as they take up less space than a traditional rectangular crib. Round cribs usually come with a mattress and some models even have a conversion kit so you can use it as a toddler bed.

Pros:

  1. Unique and stylish, perfect for limited space,
  2. Comes with mattress
  3. Takes less spaces
  4. Lack of corners means no injuries and makes it easy to have it as a nice nursery decor

Cons:

  1. More expensive than traditional cribs,
  2. They are not as widely available.
  3. Some models lack conversion capability

What to look for in a round crib:

If you are considering a round crib, make sure you choose one that is made of high-quality materials and comes with a mattress that snugly fits the oval crib.

Crib Combo or Multipurpose Crib:

This type of crib is perfect if you are looking for versatility and value for your money as they come with attachments such as changing tables, drawers, and storage space. They are perfect for small nurseries as they help you save space. Some combo cribs even come with a built-in dresser which is great if you have limited storage space.

Pros:

  • Value for money as they come with attachments,
  • Perfect for small nurseries as they help save space,

Cons:

  • Falling risk of babies: If a baby is able to climb out of the crib, he or she might fall and get injured when trying to reach for something on the changing table or dresser.
  • The changing table area enclosed with rails is really small and some parents noted that it is difficult to change a diaper of a wriggly baby in such a small space. It is important to consider if the changing table attachment is something that you will actually use as it takes up a lot of space.
  • Most models have limited storage space as well.

What to look for in a combo crib:

When choosing a combo crib, make sure the changing table attachment is something that you will actually use. It is also important to choose a model with ample storage space. If possible, try to find a combo crib that comes with a built-in dresser. Makes sure it also meets CPSC safety standards.

Factors to Consider when Picking the best Baby Crib:

Once you have decided on the type of crib, there are several factors that you need to consider before making your final decision. These include:

Dense, firm mattress:

A dense, firm mattress is essential as it will provide the proper support for your baby’s developing spine. It should also fit snugly in the crib so that there are no gaps in between.

Inner springs that are too soft or bouncy may cause a mattress to have too much “give,” leaving gaps around the edges. If tiny hands or feet, or worse baby’s face, get trapped between the mattress and crib rails, this can be dangerous.

It is essential that you pick a brand with firm, high-quality inner springs. You should also avoid using secondhand mattresses as they may not meet current safety standards. Dual-sided crib mattresses that are firm on one side and softer on the other are great as they can be used for both infants and toddlers.

Crib height:

The crib should be tall enough so that you can reach your baby without having to lean over too much. This is important as it will help prevent back pain.

Most cribs have adjustable heights, so you can lower the mattress as your baby starts to sit or stand. Crib height is also important when determining if the baby will be able to climb out.

This 1997 Study found that 26 inches from the bottom of the mattress to the top of the crib rail is the ideal height that you should aim to maintain as this was determined to be the right height that kids will not try to jump over. Heights below 26 inches were too easy to jump over and anything over 30 inches put the child at risk for serious injury if they did manage to get over.

Considering that the mattress height could be 5 to 6 inches, depending on the brand, this would put the crib rail at about 21 to 22 inches above the top of the mattress, which is a good target height.

Adjustable cribs have different levels which are;

  1. Highest level setting
  2. Middle-level setting
  3. Lowest setting

Get cribs that give you the highest setting adjustment capability if your baby is less than 5 months. The highest level setting means the mattress is closer to the top rail. Use this setting at all times for infants of this age. Cribs with a middle-level setting will work best if your infant is 6 to 8 months.

Use the lowest level setting for any kids that are more mobile from age 9 to 12 months. The lowest setting will ensure that you are aiming for any height closer to the 26 inches recommended in the Study I referred to above.

To ensure that your particular crib meets the required safety guidelines, use this checklist developed by North Dakota’s Department of Health.

These New York County guides are also helpful.

Crib weight limit:

Most cribs have a weight limit of 50 pounds. This is the weight at which the crib is no longer considered safe and your child will need to be moved to a bed.

Some convertible cribs have a higher weight limit of 60 or even 80 pounds. These are great if you want a piece of furniture that will grow with.

Don’t go for decorated headboards:

It’s a good idea to avoid cribs with painted or decorated headboards that have items, as they may cause entrapment. Instead, choose plain headboards for your baby’s bed.

Make sure the crib meets CPSC safety standards:

Consider the crib’s convertibility:

If you are considering a convertible crib, make sure it comes with a conversion kit. This will allow you to use the crib as your child grows. For non-convertible models, make sure the crib has solid sides to prevent your baby from climbing out.

For convertible models, make sure the conversion kit is included and do your research on your preferred model’s ease of assembly and disassembly.

Avoid drop-side cribs:

Drop-side cribs have been recalled by the CPSC due to entrapment and suffocation risks. If you are considering a used crib, make sure it does not have a drop-side.

Check for recalls:

Before making your final purchase, check for any recalls on the model of crib you are considering.

Choose a color and style that match your nursery:

The color and style of the crib should match the overall theme of your nursery. There are a wide variety of colors and styles available, so you should have no problem finding one that suits your taste. Avoid bright colors that easily get dirty.

Some parents prefer gender-neutral colors such as white, while others want something more playful like pink or blue. There are also a wide variety of themes available such as princess, sports, or nature-themed cribs.

Size of the crib:

Make sure the crib is the right size for your nursery. There should be enough space around the crib for you to walk and move around easily. Crib sizes vary, so make sure to measure the dimensions of your nursery before making your purchase.

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