The best portable or travel cribs have

  • The latest safety upgrades. It's very important to purchase a new portable or travel crib. Unless the crib was manufactured after June 18, 2011, there is no guarantee that it meets the new federal safety standards that took effect on that date. For families using play yards as cribs, be aware that as of Feb. 28, 2013, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is requiring more rigorous testing for play yards. The CPSC is also in the process of updating its safety standards for "bedside sleepers," which includes bassinets, which may impact some travel cribs.
  • No recalls. Check the CPSC website to see if the crib has been recalled. Read carefully to make sure it is the crib you are considering and not a previous version of it.
  • A well-fitting mattresses. When you place a mattress in any crib, make sure there is no more than a two-finger width of space between the mattress and the side of the crib. Any more space can pose a suffocation hazard. If you buy a mattress upgrade, be sure it conforms to the size recommended for that crib.

Know before you go

Where will you use the portable or travel crib? You need to know how much space you have so you don't buy a crib that's too large for the room.

Will the portable crib be in an uncarpeted room? If so, and you plan to buy a crib with wheels, make sure the wheels have a locking mechanism so the baby can't scoot it across the room when he's 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.

Will you use the travel crib outside? Check to see if the crib's fabric is waterproof and if the crib comes with a fitted top that protects the baby from the sun's rays and bugs.

How big is your baby? Check the weight, height and age limits listed for a crib. Putting an oversized child into a portable or travel crib could lead to the product's failure or become a safety hazard.

Value expectations: The dollars and cents of it

Buying a portable or travel crib can be a wise investment for those who do not want or need a full-size crib. Some cribs cost less than $100, while others cost more than $300. Many smaller cribs are rated for newborns to age 3, so a child who is not in the upper percentile size-wise can feasibly use a portable crib for the entire time he or she needs a crib, making it a great choice for those in smaller spaces.

Be sure to factor in other costs as well. Even when a mattress comes with the crib, some owners recommend buying a thicker mattress. The cost of bedding can add up quickly as some mattresses are irregular sizes. For safety's sake, use a crib sheet that is made for that particular mattress. Babies can become entangled in sheets that are too big.

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