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Even if you use a bassinet or cradle for the first few months after baby's born, you'll need to upgrade to a crib eventually. Buying your baby's crib is an investment no parent should take lightly. There are several questions to consider. How safe is the crib? How durable? How much does it cost?

Investing in a new crib is so important because safety standards are constantly being updated. There was a time when babies slept in their parents' beds, on their stomachs, wrapped in a blanket. Today, this is not advisable due to the high risk of suffocation. If you must use an older crib, avoid those built before 2000, about a year after the latest voluntary standards for slat-attachment strength were implemented.

Standard Cribs

Most standard cribs on the market today are built to meet or exceed the minimum safety standards. Baby cribs come with fixed, single-drop or double-drop sides.

Standard cribs generally come with an adjustable mattress height mechanism and a ‘drop' side. Both features become increasingly important as your baby grows taller and heavier. Drop sides also make it much easier to lift baby out of the crib, especially for taller parents. As soon as your baby is able to pull up, at around 6-8 months, you will need to position the mattress at its lowest level to prevent him or her from climbing out of the crib. At least one drop side is handy if your crib doubles as a changing station. Baby cribs with double drop sides are suitable if the nursery is big enough that the crib isn't against a wall. Most drop sides work by pressing your knee against the side of the crib.

Convertible Cribs

Parents may choose a crib that will convert into a toddler bed for its longevity, especially if they do not plan on having more children in the near future. Convertible cribs convert into a toddler bed, then into a “big kid” bed and sometimes, even into a day bed/full-size bed/chairs!

Many convertible cribs can be switched to a "big girl" or "big boy" bed simply by removing one drop side. Some parents feel their toddlers have an easier time adjusting to the crib-to-bed transition with a convertible crib. To convert some cribs, you may need to buy additional parts, such as bed rails, stabilizing rails, or support rails, for converting to a full-size bed.

Mini/Portable Cribs

Families are much more mobile today, so portable cribs are becoming an increasingly popular choice. These cribs are smaller and lighter than standard cribs and generally have casters for easy portability. Some portable cribs only fold in half, while others feature a handle and wheels. The portable crib you choose should be light enough for you to handle it comfortably. Only use the mattress provided by the manufacturer. 

Important note: Portable cribs are not required to meet the same safety standards as standard baby cribs.

Safety Checks for All Types of Cribs

  • A safe crib should have firm, tight-fitting mattress
  • A safe crib should not have missing/broken hardware or slats
  • A safe crib should not have cut-outs in the head- or foot-boards
  • Slats should be no more than 2 3/8" apart (the width of a soda can)
  • Corner posts should not be higher than 1/16"
  • A metal spring system to support the mattress--safer than straps
  • Always check the recalls on all cribs before you buy one
  • Check for tears, holes, loose threads, exposed nuts, bolts and screws
  • Tighten all nuts, bolts, and screws
  • Follow recommended height and weight limits
  • Make sure that there is no space between the mattress and the side of the crib
  • Check mattress support attachments regularly to make sure none is bent or broken
  • If you move a crib, double-check that all support hangers are secure
  • Check all crib hardware from time to time and replace anything that's loose. Hardware should only be purchased through the manufacturer of the crib. Missing, incorrect and loose parts are a leading cause of accidents and deaths because they can create gaps where babies can wedge their heads and necks, and suffocate or strangle.
  • Never place a crib near a window with blind or curtain cords; infants can strangle on curtain or blind cords
  • Routinely check nursery products against CPSC recall lists

Important Safety Updates for Infant Sleeping

  • Leading researchers today suggest that more than 2,000 babies die each year in unsafe sleep environments
  • Dress your baby in a one-piece sleeper or baby sack instead of using a blanket
  • If you do use a blanket, place infants with their feet at the foot of the crib and tuck a thin blanket around the mattress. The blanket should just reach the baby's chest.
  • Do not use old, broken or modified cribs
  • Never place a crib near a window with blind or curtain cords; infants can strangle on curtain or blind cords
  • Routinely check nursery products against CPSC recall lists

(Information compiled from consumerreports.org, babyproducts.about.com)

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