What the best baby cribs have

  • The latest safety upgrades. We can't emphasize this enough: Buy a new crib. Unless the crib was manufactured after June 18, 2011, there's no guarantee that it meets current federal safety standards that took effect on that date.
  • No recalls. Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to see if the crib has been recalled. Read carefully to determine whether it's the crib you're considering or a previous version.
  • Sturdy construction. Make sure the crib doesn't wobble when you shake it. Wooden cribs should be well sanded with no splinters or cracks. Buy the crib far enough in advance that you can return it if necessary.
  • A standard-size mattress frame. Cribs don't usually come with mattresses, but regardless of whether it's included or costs extra, there should be no more than two fingers' width of space between the mattress and the side of the crib. Any more space can pose a suffocation hazard.

Know before you go

What are the dimensions of your nursery? You should know how much space you have for the crib before deciding between a full-size crib and a compact model.

Will it be in an uncarpeted room? If so, and you plan to buy a crib with wheels, make sure they have a locking mechanism so the baby can't scoot it across the room when he or she is big enough to stand.

Do you plan to move the crib from room to room? Measure your doorways to see if the crib will fit through. Mini cribs usually do. Full-size cribs don't, which is important to remember before assembling them. Put it together in the room where baby will sleep.

Do you want it to grow with your child? Most new cribs are convertible, and can be turned into daybeds, toddler beds or even full-size beds. Sometimes you pay a premium for more configurations. If you think you want your crib to be just a crib or just a crib and toddler bed, look for cribs with fewer conversions that cost less.

Value expectations: The dollars and cents of it

Buying a crib doesn't have to break the bank. Some cribs cost less than $100 while others may set you back thousands. And it's not just the crib that costs money. Most cribs don't include mattresses, which could add several hundred dollars to your bill. Bedding and conversion kits also add to the price, and the conversions often need additional mattresses and bedding. Cribs with unusual shapes have even pricier accessories that are often hard to find.

One last caveat: When a crib does include a mattress, the mattress often gets panned for quality. Many experts advise spending a bit less on a crib and splurging on a great mattress. Current federal safety regulations apply to all cribs; a lower-cost model is just as safe as a crib made of solid gold.

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