When choosing a crib, there's more to the idea of raising the
bar than just considering a single or double-drop railing. In the
first three years of life, babies will spend more unsupervised time
in their cribs than anywhere else. Though this major purchase can
be daunting considering all the features and models currently on
the market, safety should always trump style.
Whether you have 100 or 1,000 bucks to burn, don't head to the
store without this list of useful check points, many courtesy of
Andrea Garces, coordinator for Safe Kids Chicago, a part of the Injury
Prevention Research Center/Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine
at Children's Memorial Hospital:
- User-friendly side rails, and at least one that lowers, makes
access to baby convenient-especially for shorter parents. Before
buying, practice releasing them to determine which are the easiest
to use while holding baby. Yet if they're too easy, baby might
learn to release them himself.
- Drop-down sides that are at least 9 inches above the mattress
support when lowered. When raised, the top of the drop side must be
26 inches above the support at its lowest position.
- Slats that are no more than 23/8 inches apart (about the width
of a pop can) to avoid entrapment.
- Avoid corner posts that are more than 1/16 inches high so
baby's clothes can't get caught.
- The crib's interior perimeter should securely hold a standard
crib mattress (513/4 inches long by 273/4 inches wide). You should
not be able to slide two fingers between the side of the mattress
and the crib. If you can, baby could suffocate in the extra
- Adjust mattress height by simply raising or lowering the
mattress support. Lower it when baby starts sitting up, then again
when he can stand, and make sure the support locks in place so
baby's jumps and thumps can't knock it out of position.
- Casters are handy when a linen change is required. Look for
locking casters to avoid unnecessary rolling.
- Conversion cribs that turn into a toddler or even full-size
bed. Check to see if conversions will be easy to carry out and
whether or not an additional conversion kit is needed.
- Ensure non-toxic, child-friendly paint and materials that are
free from lead or other harmful chemicals.
- Avoid embellishments that can break off and pose a choking
hazard. Cutout designs could inadvertently trap baby's arm or
- Read crib and SIDS safety tips from the American Academy of
Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- Avoid cribs made before 1973 since hand-me-downs may not
conform to current safety standards.
- Check for recalls at cpsc.gov.
- For multiples: Some cribs offer a twin feature with two
attached cribs in one for co-sleeping. Other space-saving cribs for
twins are stacked vertically or attached in an L-shape to fit into
- For the neatnik: a built-in shelf or drawer to hold diapers,
creams, extra pajamas and a toy or two can be a convenient
Don't forget the mattress
An equally important, if less exciting purchase is the crib
mattress. There are two major types to choose from-one made from
lightweight (and less expensive) polyester foam and the other from
innerspring coils. Both will keep baby well supported, so when
buying, consider cost, comfort and longevity.
Choosing a mattress is really a matter of personal preference,
but these are good rules of thumb to follow:
- Be firm. Push down to determine how much pressure it takes to
sink into the mattress. The more resistance you get, the firmer the
mattress. In an innerspring, a firmer mattress will have a higher
number of coils along with border rods that provide better weight
distribution over the surface, reducing saggy or soft spots. Keep
in mind that baby won't have the ability to lift his head from a
soft bed, so a firm mattress is best.
- Look for layers. Multi-layer covers-some of which are
anti-microbial-can add durability and germ-repellent power against
diaper blowouts or spit-up.
- Money matters. A higher price tag doesn't necessarily mean
better quality. Exceptions include allergy-reducing or 100
percent-certified organic specialty mattresses that can be worth
the money if they suit a medical need.
- Members only. Check to see if the manufacturer is a member of
Products Manufacturers Association.