- Sleep Culture: Carefully consider what you’d like your family sleep culture to be for the first few months and then afterwards. Are you open to co-sleeping? Bed-sharing? How long do would you like (I use “like” here instead of “plan, because this is oftentimes where planning doesn’t always go…well as planned!) your little one to stay in your room (or your bed for that matter)? Even if you aren’t co-sleeping, it is recommended that babies stay in their parents’ room for the first 6 months, whether that be next to you in a side sleeper, in a bassinet, or in a crib. Every family’s sleep culture is different and sometimes what you think you want changes once baby is around, which is totally fine! I was terrified of having Kara in bed with us (I actually woke up with nightmares thinking I’d smothered her in my sleep!) so she slept in a crib in our room. She started off in a rock-n-play next to our bed for the first 3 weeks, but I quickly transitioned her for fear it would get too hard to transition her later.
- Timing: Depending on what you decide will be your sleep culture, you might have more time to find the perfect crib than you thought so don’t stress out if the nursery remains cribless for a while. Yes – it definitely is easier to get things done before baby’s arrival, but if you’re tight on budget, space, or time AND you’ve already decided on another sleep solution for the first few months (i.e. side sleeper, bassinet, pack-n-play), then you could definitely wait. A crib is a “big ticket” item when it comes to baby stuff, and many mamas I’ve talked to never even used their crib! In fact, Kara’s crib was passed down to us in nearly mint condition. The two babies prior (yes, it wasn’t just passed down once, but TWICE) NEVER slept in the crib! My tip: just wait, especially if you’re already set on another sleep solution in the meantime. However, if you’re not sure yet about a bassinet, the minimalist in me (along with how hard it was to transition Kara out of her rock-n-play) would say just stick to a crib as the only sleeping surface (if your bedroom allows it). In which case….think about…
- Safety: Check out the current crib saftey guidelines (https://www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/cribs). These don’t drastically change all that often, but when they do – it’s extreme. I think the last major regulation change resulted from infant deaths caused by drop-side down cribs. If you’re in the market for a used crib, make sure it’s NOT a drop-side crib. It is also now illegal to sell these cribs. Also – check the manufacturer date (found stamped somewhere on the bottom of the crib) to make sure it’s AFTER June 28, 2011. That was the date of the last major regulation change and cribs manufactured after that date had to comply with a new set of safety standards (https://onsafety.cpsc.gov/blog/2011/06/14/the-new-crib-standard-questions-and-answers/).
- All-In-One (Convertible) Cribs: These seem like a great idea because they “grow” with your child, but considering you should buy and stock away all your transition pieces until you’re ready to use them (and let’s hope you don’t lose them, I’ve had friends who had to just buy new beds because by the time they needed the parts, the manufacturers did not sell the parts to that specific model anymore!), it’s probably not worth the “cost savings.” Also – by the time your baby converts to a toddler room – you’ll likely change the decor anyways.
- Size: It goes without saying that the space you have will largely dictate the size of your crib! If you have limited space and/or think you’ll be transitioning baby to a toddler bed sooner than later – consider a mini crib that takes up less space. I used to think these were too small, but Kara naps in a mini-crib at daycare and she seems to like the coziness of it more than her full-size crib at home!
- Cost: Just like everything else in baby-land, costs will range drastically! Quality, workmanship, and materials play a huge part in varying crib costs. And let’s not forget the biggest cost differentiator – brand. You can get beautifully modern designs by Stokke, more rustic looks at Restoration Hardware, or the all-time-favorite Pottery Barn, but at a pretty penny. To me, quality in terms of workmanship isn’t a huge concern (I can’t imagine how much “wear and tear” a crib gets in the few years it’s actually used), but quality in terms of the types materials (toxic vs. non-toxic) used is always a concern. Some cribs cost more because of the additional certifications these manufacturers go through such as Greeguard Gold Certification….which brings me to my last thought.
- How Green Are You?: For the hippie in me, this is a HUGE consideration in many of our purchases. We try to be mindful of what we buy and what we can re-use in order to do our part to keep this earth beautiful and safe for Kara. When we can’t buy used, there are things we consider in terms of toxicity levels in paints and furniture we introduce into her environment. Since her crib was handed down to her, we made sure the mattress she would be spending a bulk of her life on was Greenguard Certified. (http://greenguard.org/en/CertificationPrograms.aspx). There are plenty of crib manufacturers that offer Greenguard Certified products.
For more information, the following Consumer Reports guide is really useful: