How to choose a crib? Select the prettiest, coolest, most stylish one in your budget, right? Wrong! While all parents do want a beautiful crib—and you deserve one!—there’s more that goes into picking the best crib for your baby than looks. Here’s how to choose a baby crib…that’s safe, sturdy…and stylish!

What are my baby crib options?

Just like car seats, strollers, and diaper bags, there are several different types of baby cribs available. So, before you fill up your baby registry or hightail it to the baby store, it’s a good idea to become familiar with your choices, which are:

  • Standard Crib: This is a traditional full-size baby crib that serves one purpose: to be your baby’s safe sleep spot until they are roughly 3 feet tall and ready to graduate to a toddler bed.

  • Play Yard: A play yard is a portable or travel crib that features non-rigid, fabric, or mesh sides. These come in a range of sizes.

  • Mini Crib: A mini crib is a smaller alternative to a standard crib. They’re usually less portable than a play yard and have rigid sides. While mini cribs come in various sizes, your child may outgrow a mini crib faster than a full-size crib.

  • Convertible Crib: This type of crib is almost exactly like a full-size crib…but it can be easily and safely changed into a bed for toddlers and preschoolers, too.

What are standard crib safety features and rules?

No matter what type of crib you buy for your baby, always place your baby to sleep on their back for all naps and night sleeps until their first birthday. And learn these across-the-board crib safety musts:

  • Proper Mattress: The crib mattress needs to be firm and tight-fitting. There should be no gaps larger than two fingers between the sides of the crib and the mattress.

  • Pristine Condition: There should be no missing or broken hardware or slats. And all crib parts and hardware need to be from the manufacturer. Keep in mind that Consumer Reports advises against using secondhand cribs.

  • Safe Construction: The crib should not feature any decorative cutouts on the headboard or footboard. And crib slats need to be no more than 6 centimeters apart. (That’s the width of a soda can.) If your crib has corner posts, they need to be flush with the end panels—or they need to be very tall, like the posts on a canopy bed, so Baby’s clothing can’t catch and cause injury.

  • No Drop-Sides: The sides of the crib need to be stationary—no drop-side cribs!

  • Empty Crib: Keep Baby’s crib free of crib bumpers, loose bedding, pillows, sheepskins, stuffed toys, wedges, and nests for their first 12 months.

  • Decorate Safely: Don’t hang anything over the crib that your baby can pull down. If you use a baby mobile, securely attach it to the side rails, wall, or ceiling high enough so that you’re little one cannot reach it. (Remove the mobile when Baby can get up on their hands and knees or they’re 5 months old.)

  • Crib Placement: Situate your baby’s crib away from radiators and windows—and ensure strings from blinds or curtains are out of reach.

  • Check for Recalls. Always check for crib recalls before bringing a crib home—and immediately stop using any crib that has been recalled.

Baby Crib Must: Premium Material

Wood is a popular choice for cribs for good reason: It’s sturdy, strong, and naturally hypoallergenic. But not all wood cribs are created equal. If sustainability is one of your top priorities, then you’ll want to narrow your crib search down to those made of New Zealand pine, which is one of the most sustainable and renewable woods around.

Baby Crib Must: Non-Toxic

It’s a no-brainer that parents would want to buy a non-toxic baby crib…but what makes a crib non-toxic? The safest, non-toxic cribs available today are made of 100% solid wood, they feature a water-based finish, and they’re free of lead, formaldehyde, BPA, phthalates, VOCs, and other toxins. (VOCs is short for volatile organic compounds. Certain Baby cribs can off-gas these toxic chemicals that can irritate little one’s eyes and respiratory tract.) Finally, look for a crib that meets or exceeds Greenguard Safety standards. (More tips on going green for your new baby.)

Baby Crib Must: Convertible

Convertible cribs are often more expensive than other cribs, so you may be wondering: Are expensive baby cribs worth it? The answer is yes…if it’s a convertible crib! If you’re looking to extend the life of your crib—and spend less money in the long run—then a convertible crib is for you. That’s because convertible cribs transform into a toddler bed by simply removing one side of the crib and using a specially designed converter kit to install a toddler rail for safety. Bonus: Because your child’s familiar crib becomes a bed with only a minor tweak, the crib-to-bed transition often goes more smoothly than if you’d transitioned to a whole new toddler bed!

Baby Crib Must: High-Quality Mattress Support

You know how a lot of adult mattresses sit on a box spring? Baby cribs don’t. Instead, baby mattresses are perched on the crib’s mattress support that’s either a one-piece board, a wood-slat grid, or a spring-wire grid frame. Both What to Expect and Baby Bargains encourage parents to go with the metal spring base. It’s thought that a spring base is better able to withstand the inevitable jumping up and down of your growing tot! Plus, a spring-wire grid frame makes the entire crib that much more breathable.

Baby Crib Must: Max Adjustability 

Most cribs available today allow you to adjust the mattress height. That means you can steadily lower your baby's mattress as they continue to grow, keeping your sweet bub from catapulting out of the crib and onto the floor! Some cribs have just two or three levels to choose from, but if you really want to get the most out of your crib, look for 4-level adjustment. This helps to keep your baby safely in the crib longer.

Baby Crib Must: Strong Base

Good quality baby cribs feature one or more stabilizer bars. These are the strong rods that stretch from one end of the crib to the other in order to make the crib frame rigid. But you know what’s even stronger and sturdier than stabilizer bars? A solid wood base that forms an ultra-strong box. You can feel the difference when you give the crib a good two-handed shake and it stays put!

Baby Crib Must: You Gotta Love It!

Your crib—especially your convertible crib—will be a part of your family for years to come! So, you want to make sure that you love looking at it from babyhood to toddlerhood…to beyond. That means it’s smart to sidestep trends, like acrylic or oval cribs, that can look dated quickly. A better move: Pick a crib that’s clean, elegant, and minimalist…that’ll not only stand the test of time, but will beautifully adapt to nearly every parent’s style.  

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.