Your baby will sleep in their crib from the time they’re born until their second birthday. Here’s what you should do to keep your wee one safe while they’re sleeping in a crib.
1. Don’t use bulky blankets or pillows.
When your baby is little, they won’t have much muscle control. If babies roll over onto thick pillows or blankets, they could suffocate. If you’re worried about your baby getting cold, buy warm pajamas or a blanket sleeper. This way, the warmth will come from their clothing and they won’t get caught up in plush items.
2. Do make sure your crib is certified.
Kids can get caught and seriously injure themselves in poorly built cribs. Over the years, safety standards for cribs have evolved, and dangerous cribs and features have been recalled. If you don’t see CPSC, ASTM, or JPMA certification on a crib, don’t buy it.
3. Don’t be afraid to reuse . . . to a point.
If a crib is ten years old or older, don’t use it. The same goes for broken cribs. Modern cribs have safety features older versions do not, so keep your baby safer by using newer and undamaged cribs.
4. Do adjust the mattress height.
Once your child can stand or sit up, you’ll want to adjust the mattress height in the crib. This will keep your baby from falling over the edge of the crib and getting hurt.
5. Don’t use drop-side cribs.
CPSC standards no longer support cribs with drop sides. While the design allowed parents to reach babies more easily, drop sides have been linked to almost three dozen infant deaths. They’re dangerous and should be avoided.
6. Do follow directions.
Following directions while assembling a crib is crucial. If you miss a step or do something incorrectly, it could hurt your baby.
7. Don’t dangle danger.
Keep your baby’s crib away from dangling objects like curtains or blinds. They present a strangulation risk. If you use a mobile, make sure it’s installed high enough that your baby can’t reach it.
8. Do double check everything.
Once your crib is assembled, give it a thorough once-over. Check for jagged edges, loose materials, and defects. Not all products are perfect, so double-checking can prevent a tragedy.
Should I buy a new or used crib?
As a college student, I was all about saving a few bucks, so I bought a used crib for my first child. At the time, I wasn’t aware of the potential risks of slats with gaps that were too wide, dropping sides that could trap little arms or legs, or even the presence of lead paint. I was focused on finding something cute that I could afford.
When you’re looking at a piece of furniture that your child is definitely going to outgrow, it’s hard to justify investing in a brand-new bassinet or crib. Fortunately, my penny-pinching purchase didn’t result in any harm to my daughter, but looking back I would do things differently.
That’s not to say that it’s never okay to buy a used crib, but you need to make sure it meets current safety standards and hasn’t been damaged in any way.
Some things to look for if you’re thinking about a used crib include the production date of the crib, slats that are no greater than 2 3/8 inches apart, loose posts or knobs, exposed screws and nuts, and any sharp edges or rough wood. You should test the crib to make sure it isn’t wobbly, which could indicate weakened hardware and joints. Peeling paint is another hazard to watch out for.
What kind of crib mattress should I get?
Most cribs don’t come with a mattress, so this is an extra purchase you need to make. The safest (and simplest) way to decide on a crib mattress is to find out if the maker of your crib also produces a mattress. This guarantees the right fit, which is crucial to keeping your baby safe while they slumber.
Whether you buy a mattress designed for your crib or one sold by another brand, there are ways to determine a proper fit. Full-size crib mattresses are required to be 27 ¼ inches wide by 51 ⅝ inches long. The mattress needs to be no thicker than 6 inches. You should also manually check the fit once the mattress is inside the crib—if you can fit more than two fingers between the frame and the mattress, it doesn’t fit.
Also, check out materials used in the mattress. You’ll likely buy either an innerspring mattress or a foam mattress—both types are common for cribs and safe to use.
You also want chemical-free mattress construction, including any mattress supports. Watch out for use of MDF (medium-density fiberboard) boards, which contain a low level of formaldehyde. There is a permissible amount of formaldehyde that is considered safe, but if you want your nursery to be 100% nontoxic, this is one area where you should pay close attention.
You may also consider a double-sided mattress—especially if you have a convertible crib. These mattresses are designed to provide maximum safety and comfort as your baby grows from an infant into a toddler. The infant side is firmer to provide safe rest for your bambino. When they get older, you can flip the mattress to the softer side, which is more comfortable for a toddler.
What are the benefits of a convertible baby crib?
As noted earlier, it’s hard to invest in a piece of furniture that will become obsolete in as little as two years—even if it is for your darling baby. One way to extend the life of your investment is to purchase a convertible crib.
These cribs, also known as 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 cribs, let you convert your baby’s crib into different sizes of beds that can serve them throughout their childhood and sometimes into adulthood.
The most obvious benefit is the longevity of your initial crib purchase. Instead of having to get rid of outgrown furniture and buy something new, all you need to do is pick up a conversion kit and a bigger mattress. This also makes other purchases, like coordinating dressers and tables, last beyond the nursery and into an eventual teen bedroom.
Another nice thing about convertible cribs is that they’re usually higher quality because they are built to last longer than just a few years.
If you’re looking at going the convertible route, we recommend opting for a 4-in-1 crib that can work from infancy all the way up until your kid is ready for a full-sized bed. This type of convertible crib also has a daybed option between toddler bed and full size, which makes the transition easier for your child during each stage.
What types of crib accessories are safe?
It used to be that cribs were full of blankets, cuddly toys, and accessories like bumpers that protected little heads from getting bruised and kept small arms and legs out of crib slats. But it’s now recommended that all your baby needs to sleep safely is a mattress with a waterproof cover under a fitted sheet.
Aside from the fact that blankets, bumpers, and stuffed animals add to the aesthetic of your nursery, it can be tempting to disregard current advice when we all know babies that survived those hazards unscathed. But we believe it’s better to be safe than sorry, so we strongly advise following the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
That doesn’t mean the crib has to be completely devoid of personality. There are a number of cute, safe crib sheets that can add to your nursery’s charm—just make sure they are made to snugly fit the mattress.
Beware of hand-me-down sheets that may have lost their stretch. In place of blankets, use a swaddle wrap or wearable blanket to keep baby snug all night long. Instead of stuffed animals, try a night light that changes colors, projects stars or animal designs onto the walls, or plays soothing sounds and lullabies.