How To Choose A Baby Crib

A buyers guide for the modern mom.

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Knowing how to choose a baby crib makes all the difference in preventing the worst from happening. A beautiful, well-made crib is the focal point of any room or nursery. There are countless models to choose from, especially if you are browsing online or looking through a catalog.

It may be tempting to buy a crib solely because of the way it looks. However, if it does not meet safety standards, it is a potential death trap for your infant.

There is a reason why cribs have federal manufacturing regulations under US law. Every year, over 2,000 babies aged 12 months and younger die in their sleep from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). While some deaths are unexplainable, most are due to an unsafe sleeping environment.

For some parents, learning that a crib must be completely bare comes as a surprise. Other than a mattress and tightly-fitted sheet, nothing else should be inside but your baby. An empty sleeping area might seem like a harsh environment for an infant. However, it is the best way to ensure that they do not suffocate while they sleep.

Once your baby starts to grow, cribs could indirectly lead to harm as well. When toddlers figure out how to climb out of their beds, they can fall and injure themselves. Other concerns include manufacturing recalls and potential hazards that exist in the crib, even in those that meet federal regulations.

Safety considerations do not take away from the experience of buying a new crib. Once you know what to look for, it is easier to narrow down the best choice. We will cover the basics of crib shopping and how to enhance the safety of your baby’s sleeping area. With the right information, you will know how to choose a baby crib that is best for your child.  

Why Buy a Crib Instead of a Bassinet or Moses Basket?

A crib is the best choice between bassinets and Moses baskets. Cribs are more durable, and they can later convert to a toddler bed or even a full-sized bed as your child grows. A bassinet is the second-best choice but is only useful for the first few months.

A Moses Basket is not an ideal choice for a baby to sleep in, and a child should never be left unattended in one. A basket also should not be carried while the baby is inside because they are not durable enough and could break. A crib is the safest option among the three and the one that lasts the longest.  

When Should You Buy a Crib for a Baby?

A baby should sleep in the same room as its parents for the first six months of its life. Even if you have a separate nursery, it is safer for the baby to be near you during this time. When it comes to when you should buy a crib, there are some pointers to keep in mind:

  • Wait until the first trimester is over: Buying a baby crib as soon as you learn that you are expecting might seem like a good idea. However, waiting after the 16-week mark to start shopping is often best. The risk of miscarriage is the highest at this time, so your rest and health are the priority, not the crib
  • Consider the time it takes to deliver the crib: Some parents choose cribs made to order. Even commercial cradles might need weeks or even months to reach your home. It is best to buy the crib well before your due date, making it easier to plan or return it if it has missing parts or malfunctions
  • Do not leave it until the last minute: At the end of a pregnancy, moving around is difficult, especially if you plan on assembling the crib yourself. If you have help, this may not apply to you, but we recommend buying the crib once you are four months along. That way, you have ample time to set it up before the baby comes or you are too tired 

Note: If you cannot afford a full-size crib or your bedroom is too small for one, you still have options. You can purchase a mini crib if your space is too tight. You may also opt for a bassinet for the first six months, and then you can move your baby to a crib once she starts to sit up by herself. You can also buy a co-sleeper that fits between two adults inside of their bed. Although some doctors advise against it, some parents prefer to co-sleep with their infants. 

Can I Use Any Type of Mattress in a Crib? 

A crib mattress may not seem like a priority. However, the way it fits, and its features are just as important to consider as crib safety. To choose the best mattress, keep the following points in mind:

  • Test it in a crib: Do not buy the mattress online if possible and test it inside a crib at the store before you buy it. The ideal scenario would be to purchase both the crib and mattress from the same store and place it in the baby crib to gauge if it fits
  • Always select a firm mattress: Firmness is essential to keeping your baby crib safe. Although you might want to buy the softest and plushest mattress for your baby, it is a health hazard. If it sinks under the weight of your baby’s head, it increases the likelihood of suffocation
  • Know the measurements: The federal government regulates mattresses just like cribs. They should be 27 ¼ inches x 51 5/8 inches and cannot be over 6 inches thick. Something else to look out for is how the edges fit with the crib. You must not be able to place more than two fingers between any side of the mattress and the crib. If you can, this is not safe for the baby
  • Quality over price: Invest in high-quality mattresses for your peace of mind and the safety of your baby. You do not have to buy one that costs hundreds of dollars. Bear in mind that a good quality mattress will not sink, whether it is foam or innerspring. It also means that the material and other safety considerations are premium quality, discourage bacteria buildup, and allow your baby to sleep comfortably.

The same rules apply to mattresses that fit into a bassinet or Moses Basket. They must be firm, of good quality, and you must test its fit with two fingers.

How do I Know if My Crib is Safe?

Many types of cribs that were popular in the past are no longer considered safe for your baby. One example of this is drop-side cribs. Although they are more comfortable for new parents to remove their baby from, these cribs were associated with at least 32 infant deaths in the US.

When determining the safety of your baby’s crib, make sure that you have checked the following:

  • Abides by federal regulations: The crib should comply with safety regulations and must be new. Never accept a used crib because it might not have the required safety features that keep your baby safe
  • Its interior is smooth: The safest cribs do not have intricate designs, carvings, or knobs on the inside. It is easy for the fabric of your baby’s clothes to get stuck on them, leading to injury
  • There isn’t too much space between the bars: The maximum amount of space between crib bars should be 2 3/8 inches. If there is more space, it is risky to buy it because your little one’s head or body can slip through
  • Head and footboard are clear: They should not have any decorative items on them, and its best to keep them bare, especially ribbons. When your baby starts standing, they could harm him or cause strangulation
  • It is firm and stable: After assembling your baby’s crib, shake it to test how firm it is. A safe crib should never wobble and must be securely stable. If it is not, that means that the assembly was not correct, it is missing a part, or that the crib is faulty/defected
  • There are no protruding parts: Check every inch of the crib for screws, sharp nails, or any protruding material. Even if you assembled it yourself, recheck it before putting in the mattress to make sure that everything is smooth and secure

What Size Crib do I Need?

There are two crib sizes to choose: a standard crib and a mini crib. Both of these cribs have safety regulations. It is up to you to determine the crib size that suits your home or nursery.

Standard crib

This is the regular-sized crib that measures 28x52 inches. There are several advantages to these cribs, and manufacturers are coming up with ways to keep them useful for a long time. Today’s standard cribs can change with your child’s development. You can convert a crib to a toddler bed once she learns how to get out. Later, when she gets older, the same toddler bed becomes a full-sized bed. Although a standard crib costs more upfront, it saves the most money down the line due to its many functions.

Mini crib

These are small and are the perfect choice if you cannot fit a standard-sized crib in your nursery or bedroom. Mini-cribs also have mini-mattresses, and in terms of their function, they work similarly to the standard crib. Another advantage is that these beds are cheaper than standard cribs, and you can use them more than once if your family grows over time. They may even come with wheels, so you can move them around the house when you need to. The downside to mini cribs is that they cannot be converted to beds in the future.

Note: Although some cribs have different and non-conventional shapes, it is unclear whether they are safe. If you are looking for the safest cribs, avoid these types because their mattresses and accessories are different. They may not have undergone the necessary safety screening measures.


With these tips, you are on your way to knowing how to choose a baby crib for your growing family. Whether you are into elaborate, custom-built styles or want something traditional and straightforward, always look for high-quality, durable models. They ensure your baby’s safety and your peace of mind.