Cribs don't come with a guarantee that your baby will sleep soundly through the night, as much as sleep-deprived parents wish they did. Cribs do, however, keep your baby safely contained while she sleeps (or doesn't).
When the Consumer Product Safety Commission's new requirements went into effect in June 2011, drop-sides were banned. The standards also called for improved hardware and better supports for mattresses, according to Jonathan Lee, product safety and compliance manager for Land of Nod.
Now that manufacturers have adjusted to the updated safety requirements, they are turning their attention back to the appearance and style of cribs, said Sara Walker, hard goods product manager for Land of Nod.
"In the last few years, they've had a lot more liberty to add the design element back in," Walker said. "We're seeing more creativity, color and different materials. It's becoming more fun" to shop for a crib.
1. Ask questions. All cribs have to meet federal safety standards, so ask retailers what sets their cribs apart, Lee said. Find out if the manufacturer does extra testing or if it goes beyond the minimum safety requirements, he added.
2. Think about how it fits into the room or your house. Make sure what you are buying will fit in with the general style of your home, Walker said. "You don't want the furniture to scream 'kid furniture,' " she added. "It's supposed to fit with the aesthetics of your house. People should shop for a crib just like they are shopping for other pieces of furniture."
3. Consider future needs. Lee suggests that parents look for a crib with adjustable mattress heights that provide easy access to your newborn but can be lowered to keep an older baby or toddler safely inside. Also consider models that convert to a toddler bed, Walker said.
• Buy new if possible. To make sure your crib meets the updated standards, it's best to buy new, said Julie Vallese, managing director of government and public affairs for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. Don't get a used crib unless you have all of the parts and the assembly instructions, and make sure it doesn't have a drop-side. Drop-sides were banned because the moving parts presented a risk of strangulation or suffocation, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
• Check the crib often to make sure nothing is loose or broken. Tighten any loose screws or parts and use only replacement parts from the crib manufacturer, JPMA advises. Broken cribs should be discarded.
• Don't use any pillows, blankets, quilts or stuffed animals in the crib. Keep the soft bedding and toys out of the crib until your child is at least a year old, Vallese said. Fitted sheets should wrap around the mattress securely. The JPMA recommends that if you use crib bumpers, they should be thin and tightly attached to the crib.
• Placement matters. The crib should not be near windows or window cords, Vallese said. Parents should also place cribs at least three feet from baby monitors, and out of reach of products that a curious baby could get his hands on, such as diaper cream. Mobiles should be high enough to be out of baby's reach.
• Color. More retailers are offering cribs in nontraditional colors, Walker said, allowing parents to bring color into the nursery with the furniture instead of just the bedding or a rug.
• Smaller profiles for small spaces. Land of Nod is contemplating offering a mini-crib, Walker said, for urban customers who live in small spaces. Mini-cribs, which are about two-thirds the size of a standard crib, "were previously very institutional and used mostly in day cares, but with the current housing market, people are staying in places they wouldn't have thought they would be staying in," Walker said.
Low, medium, high
We asked Land of Nod's Walker to recommend three cribs at different prices. All of Land of Nod's cribs are made in the United States. Here are Walker's suggestions. (Mattresses are sold separately.)
Straight-Up crib: This is Land of Nod's top-selling crib, Walker said. It costs $699, adjusts to three heights and can be used as a toddler bed with the addition of a crib conversion kit, which is $99. It is made of solid maple and comes in white, espresso and natural.
Low-Rise crib: The Low-Rise ($900) comes in gray or white, with an option to have maple or espresso legs, Walker said, for a sleek and modern look. The lower profile is designed to make it easier to get your baby in and out of the crib. It adjusts to three heights and changes into a toddler bed with a $120 conversion kit.
Andersen Walnut Crib: The Andersen comes in natural walnut with no finish and costs $1,099. It is also available in maple, espresso or white for $749. It adjusts to three heights and changes into a toddler bed with a $149 conversion kit.
Cribs: By the numbers
800,000 plus: Cribs sold in the U.S. in 2011.
16: Minimum height, in inches, of corner posts, if your crib has them. Anything lower could present a strangulation hazard if a baby's clothes get caught.
1: Inch, maximum, between the crib mattress and the sides of the crib, to keep baby from getting trapped.