Baby Cribs: Buying Guides
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The crib you choose will be part of your household for a long time. Your baby will probably be in it just about every night (and for naps, too) until it's time to move on to a bed, around age 2 or 3. And of course, if you have more children, the crib will probably be passed on.
Order your crib well before your due date, since stores don't keep many in stock and shipping can take weeks. Once it arrives, you'll need time to assemble it. And you'll need a mattress and sheets as well.
Tip: If a crib seems like an expensive space-hog, consider having your baby sleep in a play yard (what your mom called a playpen) instead. Today's play yards are easy to store, they're safe for babies to sleep in, and they serve double-duty as a secure play area for your infant as she becomes a curious crawler and then an upright toddler. Some even have a detachable bassinet for the youngest babies.
A basic crib is all you really need, and prices for those start at around $125. But add extra features, fancy finishes, and designer canopies, and the price of a crib can jump over the moon more quickly than the nursery-rhyme cow -- up to $1000, or much more. Let your budget and your personal style be your guide.
- Drop-sides: Save your back -- these make it a lot easier to pick up your baby. Lower the side so you don't have to bend over too far, but raise it the rest of the time to keep your baby safely enclosed
- Adjustable mattress height: Lower the adjustable mattress as your child grows. It's easier to pick up your newborn when the mattress is at its highest level, and safer for your escape-artist toddler when it's is at its lowest
- Mattress support: The area underneath the crib mattress must be sturdy and securely attached to the crib sides. Metal supports will bear the weight of a jumping toddler better than wooden supports
- Rolling casters: Wheels make it easier to clean the floor or rearrange your baby's room. Locking brakes keep the crib stationary the rest of the time
- Storage drawers: A convenient place to keep bedding, pajamas, and other supplies. Some are built into crib, while others are trundle drawers on casters that roll underneath
- Optional colors and finishes: Choose pure-white paint for a clean and bright look, a dark mahogany finish for a traditional effect, or anything in between
- Sturdy construction: Lower-priced cribs are often made of "engineered" wood -- a combination of hardwood and softwood materials, treated with heat and pressure to bond them. But many cribs today boast solid-wood construction, which makes for a sturdier piece of furniture. You can also buy metal cribs. Wrought-iron frames provide elegant looks but carry a higher price tag
Most of these are not necessities but practical or fun add-ons that you might want.
- Bumpers: Here's one accessory that you should consider a must-have. These lightly padded cloth panels line the inside of the crib to prevent your baby from hurting himself on the slats, and help keep arms and legs inside the crib where they belong
- Crib light: For a soft glow that lets you check on your baby at night, but isn't so bright that it wakes your little sleeper
- Teething rail: A plastic guard that covers the crib's top railing so your child can't chew on the wood
- Monitors: Sound monitors attach to the side of the crib and let you hear what's going on from other areas of the house. Movement monitors fit underneath the mattress and alert you if your baby is on the move -- or hasn't moved enough
- Mesh bug nets and tents: Light mesh nets stop mosquitoes and other insects from bothering your baby. Slightly heavier mesh tents keep your climbing child inside the crib -- and keep pets and curious older kids out
- Attachable toys: An amazing variety of toys can hook to the crib and provide stimulation, comfort, or entertainment. Options include mobiles, mirrors, activity centers, shape sorters, and toys that play music or provide gentle light
A safe crib is vital to your baby's health and your peace of mind. Any new crib sold in the United States must comply with modern safety standards, but some older cribs are unsafe. If you're getting a secondhand or discontinued-model crib -- whether from your older sister, a garage sale, or a buy-and-sell web site -- be wary and make sure it has the essential features below. In addition, the crib should have bumpers -- padded panels that line the crib to prevent injuries among newborns. Remove them when your baby can stand and start to use them as steps. And there shouldn't be any pillows, quilts, sheepskins, comforters or plump stuffed toys in the crib, as these are suffocation hazards.
- Slats are less than 2 3/8 inches apart (about the width of a soda can), to keep your baby's head from slipping through
- The top of drop-sides is at least 26 inches above the mattress (9 inches above the mattress when the sides are lowered)
- Drop-sides latch securely to prevent accidental release
- The mattress fits snugly, with no more than two fingers' width between the mattress and the side of the crib.
- Mattress is firm and meets federal fire-safety standards
- Mattress support is firm and securely attached to the crib sides.
- Corner posts are flush or no more than 1/16 inch high, so the baby's clothes won't catch on them and cause strangulation
- There are no decorative cut-outs in the headboard or footboard that could trap the baby's head
- There are no splinters, loose or peeling paint, or paint containing lead
- There are no missing, broken, loose or poorly installed screws or other hardware
- The crib has not been recalled
A classic, rectangular crib provides practical, safe, and stylish comfort. The headboards and footboards may be decorative or plain, level or rounded. Sleigh styles are standard cribs with taller, curved headboards and footboards. A crib with a rounded base acts like a cradle, allowing you to rock your baby. A well-made standard crib can be handed down to younger brothers and sisters.
A convertible crib starts out as a crib for your infant, converting over time to a toddler bed, a daybed and/or a full-size bed. A convertible model may be more expensive, but your growing child will use it for years.
A canopy crib works like a standard crib but has a distinctive look that you might like. Tall posts on each corner of this type of crib hold up a metal frame for a decorative fabric canopy (which is often sold separately). Usually the canopy frame is built in to the crib, but some can be fitted onto a standard crib.
Folding or "collapsible" cribs -- available in wood or metal -- take up less space, tend to be less expensive, and are easy to take to or even keep at Grandma's house. Many lack convenient features found on bulkier cribs, such as drop-sides, rolling casters, and an adjustable mattress height. Look for one that's easy to put up and take down but locks securely when set up. The most convenient portable cribs require no tools for folding and unfolding.
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