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New, stringent safety standards make cribs safer than ever

Cribs are one of the most important pieces of nursery furniture that prospective parents will buy.

Buying a new crib, or one made after June 28, 2011, is crucial. In 2011, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) strengthened its rules on crib safety, banning the use of drop-rail sides so all cribs now have stationary sides. The regulations also call for stronger wooden slats, more durable mattress supports, stronger hardware and tougher testing. The space between slats can be no more than 2 3/8 inches. Older, noncompliant cribs aren't supposed to be resold, given away or donated, but to be on the safe side, buy a new crib since not everyone may know or understand the new regulations.

Some new cribs can run into the thousands of dollars, but there are plenty available in the $100 to $200 range. Regardless of the price, any crib bought after June 2011 will be as safe as any other. After that, it just comes down to what other features you want and what style you like. Some parents want a more traditional full-size crib, while others may prefer a modern or minimalist look. Parents with less space may want to consider the large variety of compact cribs.

Most new cribs convert to a toddler bed or daybed. Even compact or mini cribs are usually convertible to allow for years of use. For some models, you must buy a conversion kit with a bedrail to prevent toddlers from falling out of the bed. Other cribs convert to twin- or full-size beds with optional conversion kits and mattresses. And speaking of mattresses, they're usually a separate purchase.

Once you buy a crib and know it's safe, be careful what you put in it. To prevent suffocation, the Consumer Product Safety Commission urges parents never to put pillows, quilts, comforters, stuffed toys or cushions in a baby's crib, bassinet or play yard. Do not use crib bumpers. Use a firm, tight-fitting mattress; there should be no gaps larger than two fingers between the sides of the crib and the mattress. And don't forget to place your baby on his or her back. Yes, there are a lot of rules, but they've been proven to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and are worth following.

ConsumerSearch.com analyzes expert reviews and owner feedback to evaluate the safety, ease of use and top lifestyle features of full-size and compact baby cribs. The result is our picks for the best baby crib for your nursery.

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