Considering the amount of time that your baby will spend in a crib, it’s important to consider safety as well as comfort. Children will use their crib until they move into a bed, (typically 2-3 years old), so you will want something durable. The first step is to make sure the crib meets all mandatory and voluntary safety standards and that no features have been recalled.
Frame & Mattress:
Stability is an important feature when buying a crib. Give it a good shake – whether you’re at the store or already set up at home. If put together properly, a sturdy crib shouldn’t rattle or wobble.
With the mattress in place, the sides should be tall enough to keep your baby safely in place. The crib should snugly accommodate a standard crib mattress (minimum 51 3/4 inches long x 37 3/4 inches wide). The mattress is too small if you can fit more than two fingers between the side of the mattress and the crib. The right size mattress is important – too small and a baby can get trapped in the space.
The mattress should be firm. Too soft and you increase the risk of suffocation. Foam mattresses are generally the least expensive and
lightest options. They are usually between 3-6 inches deep. The better foam mattresses are high density (1.5 pounds per cubic foot). Weight is a good indicator of mattress density. Check for resilience before buying. Press down on the mattress – how quickly does it regain its shape? Faster is better. It can be difficult for a baby to change position if the mattress retains their shape.
You can also opt for an innerspring mattress. They are more expensive, but typically more durable than foam. If you do, look for a mattress with 135+ coils and a gauge of 15.5 or lower.
A growing number of parents are strong advocates for the organic or all-natural options. These are usually in cotton or wool and come
in either foam or innerspring options. Piece of mind is more expensive, but it may be worth the price. The contention is that substances used to make the mattress and flame retardants (like PBDE, vinyl, polyurethane foam) emit toxic gases and can harm the baby. Some also argue a risk of allergic reaction to materials like latex. If you opt for organic, look for an Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification to be sure that PBDEs and heavy metals were not used to make the mattress.
Get a good mattress cover for water resistance. You want one that is resistant to soggy diapers, tears and holes. Look for a cover that is double or triple-laminated and reinforced with nylon. Organic mattresses usually have cotton covers.
The crib’s slats should be close enough to prevent your baby’s head from slipping through or getting stuck. They should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart.
Corner posts should be no higher than 1/16 of an inch apart. If higher, clothing can catch on them and injure or choke the baby.
What to Avoid:
Air Mattresses can deflate in the night and smother a baby. Even if it’s partially deflated, it could collapse and the baby could roll or become trapped in a small space. Even when fully inflated, the air mattress is too soft.
Drop Sides: While a common feature for years, movable railings pose a serious hazard to babies. The drop sides can becomee loose or detach and the baby can get strangled, trapped or suffocated in the space between the side and the mattress. Since 2011, there has been a widespread ban on cribs with this feature.
Bumpers: The padding that attaches to the inside railings of the crib pose a hazard, increase the risk of SIDS and are no longer recommended. They are still a pretty standard feature and you may find them as part of crib bedding sets. However, many organisations including the American Academy of Paediatrics now discourage their use.
Old Cribs: Cribs made before federal guidelines went into effect, (before 1973) are more likely to have safety problems. Secondhand cribs may have splinters, slats that are too far apart, lead pain or discontinued features. Even models made more recently can be unsafe. Look out for sharp edges, peeling paint, and any protruding metals and materials. Used cribs are responsible for about 50 deaths a year – so go for the newest option you can and check for all safety concerns.
Setting it up:
When to set up your crib is completely up to you. Some parents prefer to have completed a baby room before the baby arrives. But don’t sweat it if the baby arrives before the crib does. A bassinet for the first few weeks or months is fine.
Choose a spot away from the window, any blinds, drapes and chords. Avoid any strangling hazards or chances of a baby pulling htemself up and falling down or through a window. Absolutely all chords should be out of the baby’s reach – including chords on the baby monitor. Use a wireless monitor or one away from the crib instead.
The key thing to buying a crib is to do your research, stay informed and take your time. Happy shopping!