Watching your baby sleep peacefully is one of the greatest joys for a new parent. These days, cribs are available in many sizes and shapes. How do you know which cribs are safe for the baby and which should be avoided? Health experts have specific recommendations to ensure the baby stays safe during sleep. This article covers everything you need to know before buying a crib, and other tips to keep your baby safe during sleep.
According to health experts, a crib is one of the safest places for a baby to sleep. Other safe options are a bassinet or play yard.
Cribs come in many sizes and shapes and their costs vary from one model to another.
To ensure safety, parents should choose a crib that conforms with safety standards.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers additional recommendations about how to choose a crib and other measures that can be taken to ensure the baby stays safe during sleep.
Types of cribs
There are four main types of cribs:
- Traditional or standard cribs. Typical full-size cribs with four sides. The crib measures 28 inches (0.71 m) by 52 inches (1.32 m).
- Convertible cribs. These are also called 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 cribs. They can be converted to a toddler bed or even a standard-sized bed frame. They are a great option for those looking to save money, as they can be used from birth to adulthood. Special kits are required to convert these cribs, and these kits may have to be purchased separately, at additional cost.
- Mini cribs. A smaller version of the full-size crib, measuring between 24–28 inches by 36–43 inches. They are larger than a bassinet, and they can be useful if space is limited.
- Travel cribs. Typically, lighter and can be easily set up when the baby is away from home.
The style of the crib varies from one model to another. Some have a modern design, while others resemble vintage furniture. The cost of the crib varies greatly. For example, a budget crib costs around $150–$200 while high-end, luxury cribs cost several hundred dollars.
The mattress has to be purchased separately. It is important that it matches the size of the crib.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend a specific type of crib, it does emphasize the fact that the crib should meet certain safety standards. The baby can start sleeping in a toddler bed when it is 3 feet (0.91 m) tall. Most babies make the move from a crib to a toddler bed between the age of 18 months and 3 years.
What do health experts recommend?
According to the AAP, the safest place for the baby to sleep is a crib, bassinet, or play yard that has been evaluated and conforms to the safety standards set by Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). All cribs manufactured after 2011 are required to meet CPSC standards. Buying secondhand cribs is not recommended, especially if the crib is several years old, because overusing the crib could affect its integrity and safety. In addition, some older cribs have been recalled due to safety concerns. The CPSC website provides information for models that have been recalled.
Before using a crib, it should be inspected to ensure that all components are intact and in good working order and that no parts are broken or damaged. You should choose a crib without decorative cutouts — the head and footboard should be solid. The AAP recommends that slat spacing be less than 2-3/8 inches, and the raised crib sides should be 26 inches (0.66 m) or more above the mattress. Avoid cribs with drop rails, as they are not safe for babies.
When you pick a mattress, it is important to ensure that it fits snugly in the crib. There should no space between the mattress and the crib walls. In addition, the mattress should be firm and not sag under the infant's weight.
Ensure that all sleepwear, bedsheets, and fabrics in the baby's room are flame retardant. Your baby should sleep alone in its crib, bassinet, or play yard, and the sleep surface should be kept clutter-free. Do not put blankets, pillows, stuffed toys, or other items in the baby's bed, as they increase the risk of suffocation. Avoid bumper pads, which increase the risk of entrapment.
Place the crib away from the windows to avoid direct sunlight, and ensure the baby does not have access to curtain or blind strings. Keep the crib a safe distance from radiators or heating systems.
If you are in need of financial assistance to purchase a crib, contact your local Social Services agency.
Other ways to keep the baby safe during sleep
The AAP recommends placing the infant on its back during sleep. Some babies roll from back to tummy and from tummy to back on their own, but others need help from the parent to return to their back. Other recommendations include:
- Keep the crib in the parents' room. The baby’s crib should be kept in the parents' room for the first six to twelve months, as sharing the room may reduce the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Additionally, it is easier for parents to feed, comfort, and watch the baby if the crib is in their room.
- Only bring the baby to your bed when needed. Parents can bring the baby to the adult bed when they require feeding or for comfort, and bring the baby back to the crib for sleep.
- Only allow the baby to sleep in a crib, bassinet, or play yard. The infant should not sleep in the parents' bed, on sofas, couches, pillows, water beds, or other areas.
- If possible, breastfeed the baby. Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of SIDS, in addition to providing optimal nutrition for the baby and helping to bond with the mother.
- Do not smoke. The baby should not be exposed to smoke or other environmental pollutants.
- Keep the room cool. Room temperature should be comfortable to avoid overheating.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Tips for Keeping Infants Safe During Sleep From the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Healthy Children.org. Choosing a Crib.