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Baby Gear

How to Choose the Right Type of Crib for Your Baby

A baby crib is one of the top priority items on your baby registry or checklist. (Need a master list to get started shopping for your new baby? See below!)

Are you a soon-to-be mama who is working on a registry?
Be sure to check out The Ultimate New Mom and Baby Checklist.

Like me, most new mamas are so excited to pick out a crib for their newborn! There are so many styles, colors, and even materials to choose from. I was torn between white, dark stain, gray, vintage-style metal….ahh! I saw the beautiful photos of people using what looks like vintage cribs, and many new cribs online that said they could convert 3 or 4 ways. Did I need the crib to turn into something else?? I wasn’t too sure where to start. Here are the basics.

Crib Safety

First things first. Vintage cribs can look super cool in photos, but to be safe you should only buy a crib with a manufacture date of 2011 or later. Cribs manufactured after this date are required to meet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standard. The date will be printed somewhere on the crib or packaging so that you can check this.

As with any baby items, if you’re choosing to buy or use a crib secondhand, in addition to making sure it is manufactured after 2011, make sure that you look up the specific brand and model for any safety recalls. Cribs with drop sides (sides that slide up and down) used to be very popular, but are no longer considered safe, so avoid those. Someone may, with the best of intentions, try to give you one, but you should avoid them.

Also avoid using a crib with cutouts or other detail work that your baby’s clothes might get snagged on. (You probably prefer smooth sleek lines for your decor anyway right??) And make sure the slats of the crib or no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. Though it should be safe, double check this even if you’re buying a new crib.

Crib mattresses are often sold separately from the actual cribs (though not always), so make sure your mattress fits very snuggly into the crib. Any gap is a gap your baby could potentially get stuck in.

Convertible Cribs

Cribs that convert into other types of beds are very popular and can save your money…as long as you’re willing to use that bed for some time. Paying more for a convertible crib rather than a standard one won’t save you money if you just end up buying a cute specialty toddler bed—say, a race car, or a castle—later anyway.

3-in-1 Convertible Cribs

3-in-1 cribs can typically convert from a crib into a

  • daybed
  • or a toddler bed.

A daybed has two side panels and a back panel but no front (like a small sofa shape).

A toddler bed setup is often similar to a crib, except the front panel is replaced by a shorter railing that prevents your toddler from rolling off the bed at night, but leaves an open space for them to climb into and out of bed on their own. Sometimes you have to buy the toddler bed rail separately, and sometimes they are included, so read closely when you are purchasing.

4-in-1 Convertible Cribs

There are also 4-in-1 cribs that convert from a crib into a

  • toddler bed,
  • daybed,
  • or a full-size bed.

In this case the large sides of the crib can be used as the headboard and footboard on a regular size bed. Or sometimes, just one side is used as the headboard with no footboard.

Any full-size crib you buy should have at least two possible height adjustments for your mattress. As soon as your baby can begin to sit up, and especially when they can pull themselves up to standing, you want your crib mattress to be set at the lowest level so that there’s no possibility cutie bum could fall over the sides if they stand. Typically this is around six months or later, but always judge by your own baby. You might have an early developer!

Some cribs have up to four height adjustments. While it is necessary you have the crib on the lowest setting once baby can stand, the other height adjustments are for your convenience.

Some mamas, especially soon after delivery, really need the mattress to be up at the highest level for their newborn so they don’t have to bend over so far into the crib. What is comfortable to you also depends on your personal height! I suggest a crib with at least three height adjustments if not four so that you will be set no matter what you find you need. They are usually easy to adjust.

In case you’re curious, I ended up choosing this Babyletto Modo 3-in-1 Convertible Crib in white and espresso.

It has 4 height adjustments and converts to a toddler bed and daybed. I decided I didn’t need a crib that converted into a full size bed. The Bloom changing table I bought (secondhand) was white with an espresso changing table top piece, and I liked how this crib matched it–mostly white with espresso accent feet. In my wood-floored nursery, I thought an all-dark crib would be too dark. I have no regrets, I love this crib! I decked it out with an adorable organic Burt’s Bees striped sheet, and I was done!

Crib Size

Obviously, you also need to consider the size of your nursery. There are mini-cribs that are designed to take up less space. As long as they follow all the safety guidelines outlined above, there just is safe to use as a full-size crib.

However, most mini-cribs do not convert to any other sort of bed, so you will likely have to buy a separate toddler bed when the time comes.

Crib Durability

The prices of cribs can ranges from a little over $100 up into the thousands! That is quite an array! One thing to consider as you’re choosing how much to spend on your crib is the durability of the crib you’re buying. While no crib should feel like it’s unstable or might fall apart, like every piece of furniture, some cribs are more heavy-duty than others.

Are you considering using the crib that you’re purchasing for more than one child? If you plan to, for instance, buy a convertible crib, use it for a crib and a then toddler bed, and possibly/probably use it all over again as a crib and toddler bed for a second or even third child, you might consider investing a bit more into a very solid piece…one that will hold up through all of those cutie bums!

However, you know yourself best as a mama. Another aspect to consider is your personal taste, and how often that changes. If you know you’re the sort of person that is going to want a different style for your second child, be real with yourself about that, and maybe don’t pay top dollar for a crib that you know you’re only going to use for a little while.

I hope this helps some new mamas out there who are looking to buy a crib for their new little one! If you have any thoughts on a crib that you particularly love, feel free to leave a comment below!

Everything New Moms Need
The Ultimate New Mom and Baby Checklist

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