Choosing the Best Baby Crib
Cribs are such an important purchase for new parents since babies spend so much of their time sleeping. Consumer reports notes that cribs are by far the safest place to settle your little one as they are the most widely regulated sleep surface as compared to bassinets or bedside sleepers.
There is no need to purchase intermediary sleepers as a newborn can sleep safely in a crib from their first day home. For this reason purchasing the crib before the arrival of your new bundle of joy is ideal. Your baby will use the crib for the first two years, and then be ready to move to a toddler or twin sized bed.
Experts recommend buying cribs new. Legislation and standards change regularly with a major change in standards in 2011. Buying new is the only way to be certain that the crib you have is up with the most current findings and regulations.
The federal government regulates the manufacture and sale of all cribs and many are also certified by Juvenile Products Manufactures Association (JPMA). The law states that cribs must have the production date displayed on both the crib and the shipping carton; check to be sure they are posted and for even more peace of mind, look for a JPMA-certified safety seal.
Here are a few of the current recommendations and regulations for safe cribs and safe sleep environment for babies:
- No drop-sided cribs – while convenient, they have been found to be the cause of serious harm and death to babies, they have been banned since 2011.
- Close slats – slats must be closer than 2 3/8 inches apart, with no decorative cut-out areas.
- Tight fitting, firm crib mattress – there should be no space between the edge of the mattress and the walls of the crib, and the mattress should be very firm, with no sagging under the weight of your baby.
- No bumpers, stuffed animals or pillows or quilts – the Consumer Product Safety Commission notes “to prevent the risk of entanglement or suffocation Bare is Best.”
- Keep cribs away from windows and also away from with blind cords, curtain cords, baby monitor cords and any other cords that could strangle a baby.
- Lower the mattress setting as soon as your baby can push up onto their knees or sit up.
For more information on crib safety and recall notices check:
While some stores will deliver assembled cribs, the majority of cribs come boxed, requiring some assembly. Many models are designed to be assembled relatively quickly and easily with steps including connecting three sides of the crib, attaching the mattress springs or support slats, and then attaching the fourth side. If you are handy, expect many styles to take thirty minutes to an hour to complete the assembly. Some more complicated models can take longer to assemble.
When assembling your crib, be sure to follow all manufactures directions carefully. Be sure to use all appropriate hardware, and check that if you have left over pieces that they are intentional extras or are supplied for future conversion to a bed (see below). If any hardware or parts are missing, be sure to get replacement parts from the manufacturer rather than substituting in other parts. Home fixes can cause serious risks.
Inspecting your Crib
Both in the store and after you’ve put your purchased crib together, thoroughly inspect your crib:
- Make sure all slats are firm and sturdy.
- Corners must be flush with the end panels. Corner posts were once a popular design on cribs, but have been found to be a hazard by catching on babies clothing, tangling and becoming a strangulation hazard. Regulations now require that corner posts be no more than 1/16 inch high.
- There should be no sharp or rough edges around the crib, check all wood surfaces and hardware.
- Check all hardware to be sure it is secure and properly installed, no pieces should be loose or all together missing.
- Paint and finishes should be in good condition and not be cracked or pealing in any location.
- Make sure the mattress support, springs or slats are safely and securely connected to the frame, and put the mattress in the proper height setting for the age and ability of your baby.
Many cribs have adjustable settings for the height of the mattress. Newborns have not yet developed muscle strength and need to be lifted with extra care, also frequently parents are putting them to bed already asleep and would like them to stay asleep. Parents often find it much easier to lift and lower babies with care when the mattress is set on the highest setting in the crib. As the baby grows and begins rolling over and moving around, a lower setting is better. Doctors and government agencies recommending putting the mattress at its lowest setting once the baby can push up on their knees or sit, at this stage, the babies are likely to start trying to climb out of the crib which can lead to dangerous falls.
When placing your baby’s crib in the room, there are several reasons to be sure to keep it away from windows. Any window with blinds or draperies needs to be at least 3 feet away from the crib because of entanglement and strangulation risks. There is also danger of an older baby climbing out and falling out of open window. Additionally, windows can create problems with sleeping comfort, being either drafty locations or sources of excess heat from sun. A final note on cords because they are serious safety hazards, be especially diligent to ensure there are no cords, cables, lamp cords, extension cords, or baby monitor cords anywhere near the crib and are completely beyond the of reach of babies.
Some cribs convert to toddler beds and even become the headboard for a full sized bed. Often you will see them described at 3-in-1 cribs or 4-in-1 cribs, offering some combination of these options crib, toddler bed, daybed and full sized bed. These cribs grow with your child. Some cribs will come with conversion kits, but some manufacturers will sell that kit separately. If it is something you are interested, we recommend you buy the conversion kit at the same time as the crib to avoid the potential of products being discontinued and unavailable at a later date. When shopping and comparing pricing check to see what is included and what you will need to buy separately in order to determine the final total price of the crib.
Typically, when converting to a toddler bed, the very lowest setting for the crib mattress will be used and the front side panel of the crib will be removed. This will then look like a small low daybed. Some will have a low, partial guard rail that can be installed across the open side to keep your toddler from rolling off, but still provide them space to get in and out of bed on their own. The daybed without the rail would be the third configuration stage. And finally, as your child grows, some convertible cribs have conversion kits to use the back side of the crib as a headboard for a full sized bed, and others include the front face of the crib as a footboard.
To protect babies from the risk of entanglement, suffocation or strangulation be sure that the fitted crib sheet is properly fits the mattress. Only use fitted crib sheets designed for use on crib mattresses and be sure the sheet fits snuggly and securely.
And as stated above, soft bedding can be hazardous to babies. For this reason doctors and government agencies recommend removing bumpers, quilts, comforters, pillows, soft stuffed toys and other soft products from the crib while baby is sleeping. Crib skirts that rest completely below the mattress have no way to interfere with the baby and are fine to use.
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