There’s so much to keep in mind when you’re preparing for a tiny new arrival. Formula, clothing, toys, and maybe most important of all, where will your new baby sleep?
You might remember the big recalls of millions of cribs over the last few years, when they were pulled off the market for being too unsafe. With so many rules and regulations over the safety and construction of baby beds, it can be hard to know where to start. Here’s a simple breakdown of the dos and don’ts when you’re picking your baby’s first bed.
We’ll start out by narrowing down your search a little. Here are four things you should absolutely steer clear of when you’re shopping for a baby crib.
- Avoid antiques and hand-me-downs. Maybe you found a beautiful woodworked crib in an antique mall. Maybe your mom’s first bed is still in Grandma’s attic. They’re tempting, but they also pose a few risks. Since an antique may be older than modern safety standards, they may contain lead-based paint or toxic varnishes you don’t want baby exposed to. Older cribs may also have less safe construction. For example:
- No drop-rails. Drop-rail cribs were the main cause of that big crib recall in 2011 and 2012, and you may still run across them in thrift stores or antique malls. Those sliding walls that lowered down were convenient, but they could also easily give way to a toddler leaning on them. Avoid any older cribs with this kind of construction.
- No decorative cutouts. Another common bit of decoration on older wooden cribs are those elaborate cutouts in the headboard and footboard. They’re beautiful, but they also have sharp edges that can snag a hand or pull the back of a nightie. Stick to two-dimensional decorations!
- No baby bumpers. Crib pads or bumpers may seem like a logical safety feature, to keep baby from rolling over into the edges of their crib, but they may be more risk than reward. There’s very little evidence to show that babies can hurt themselves just by bumping their edges, but bulky pads like bumpers can pose a suffocation risk. You’ll be better off with a simple, flat mattress.
Now that you know what to avoid, here’s some important safety features you do want in a crib. As recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (or AAP) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, make sure the crib you buy includes:
- The right slat spacing. AAP recommends that the slats on a crib should be less than 2 and 3/8ths of an inch apart, too small for a baby’s head to fit through. A good rule of thumb: if you can slide a soda can between the slats, they’re too far apart.
- Low corner posts. Like cutouts, high corner posts on a crib can be a snagging hazard. Look for a crib with posts flush with the edges: they shouldn’t stick up more than 1/16th of an inch above the top of the crib walls, to prevent anything from snagging on them.
- Firm, tight-fitting mattresses. Soft blankets and stuffed toys are cute, but they can also be a smothering hazard when your baby is alone to sleep. Find a crib with a firm mattress that doesn’t sag under their weight, and that has no spaces between the edges and the crib walls. You don’t want any edge that could be pulled up and crawled under by a curious kid.
- Consider an adjustable mattress. According to the AAP, the top of the crib should be at least 26 inches above your child’s head when they’re standing upright. Since babies do tend to grow occasionally, you may want to look for a crib with an adjustable mattress that can be lowered as your child gets taller.
Our Baby Crib Recommendation:
The Honest Company produces some great baby cribs and childcare products, and we specifically love their 4-in-1 baby cribs. In addition to a lovely, classic design, it’s right up there as one of the safest cribs on the market. Solid, sturdy, with smooth edges and a thick, heavy mattress, it meets all the standards you look for in a safe bed. It also goes one step beyond having an adjustable mattress: it’s fully convertible. Easy to lower the mattress to keep the rails at a safe height, and when your kid has outgrown it as a crib, in converts to a toddler bed with a safety rail. In addition to meeting the AAP’s safety standards with great construction, that’s a lot of bang for your buck: a convertible bed that will see your kid out of diapers and all the way up to their first years of preschool.