Crib Feature Checklist

With so many makes and models of cribs on the market, each with their own set of convenient and easy-to-use features, it is hard to figure out what you really need. Use the following descriptions of the most common crib features available to help you decide!

Drop sides - Cribs with drop sides are no longer considered safe to use, and are now illegal to sell. One side of the crib is equipped with a lift and press bar, a foot release, or a two-handed release mechanism that lets you slide the side of the crib up and down. Cribs equipped with a single drop side can easily be pushed up against the wall saving space in the center of the nursery for travel and play, but the safety issues with drop sides override the convenience.

If you are unable to replace your drop side crib, you will need to get an immobilizer to firmly secure the sides. Contact the manufacturer or the retailer that sold you the crib to see if they can provide one for free, or else look around for an appropriate immobilizer kit for your crib.

You must be comfortable with operating the crib you bring home, and stationary cribs don't have any extra parts to complicate things. All sides are stationary and there are no moving parts that could entrap or pinch your baby. These cribs are designed so one side of the crib is set at waist level allowing to you easily tend to your baby without having to bend over and strain your back.

Crib mattress height - All models of cribs allow you to change the height of the crib mattress by raising or lowering the mattress support. This prevents your baby from pulling themselves up on the side of the crib and falling out as they grow. When your baby is an infant, the mattress support can be raised to the highest setting. When your baby begins to sit or pull up, usually around 6-8 months, the mattress support must be lowered. The mattress support hardware should fit snugly and securely into the crib; you surely don't want your baby's jiggling and playing to loosen the mattress support. You should be able to push on the mattress from the top and bottom without dislodging the mattress support.

Style - The sides and end of the crib may be slatted or spindled so you can see inside the crib and your baby can see out. Some cribs are solid at the ends with spindles at the top as a decorative feature. Slat and spindles fit into holes in the top and bottom rails and are secured with wood glue or metal fixtures. Check the slats and spindles in your crib periodically. You should not be able to pull the slats or spindles out of their holes and they should not spin around in their holes.

Teething rail - A teething rail, made of a non-toxic plastic, should cover the tops of the crib railings. All babies need to bite down on something hard when teething — you don't want your baby chewing on wood! The voluntary industry standards state that teething rails should stay in place and not crack or break.

Casters - Many cribs are equipped with metal or plastic casters. Casters make it easier for you to move the crib when cleaning or changing the crib bedding. Casters may be standard round rollers, multi-directional, or ball-shaped casters which swivel to make it easier to move the crib around the nursery.

If your crib is going to be on hardwood, tile, or linoleum you will want locks on your casters. Locks prevent the crib from slowly rolling across the room, which is a risk in older homes where the floors are uneven. Locks can also prevent other children from taking your baby on a joy ride around the nursery when you run off to change out of a shirt covered in spit up.

Drawers - Some cribs are equipped with a drawer or two underneath the mattress support to use for storage. Drawers under the crib are not typically attached to the crib frame. They are usually stand-alone drawers on casters that make rolling the drawers out from under the crib and back again quite easy. Other cribs have a set of drawers attached to one end of the crib.

If you like the idea of extra storage, inspect the drawers before you buy. The floors of some drawer units are made from a thin, flimsy boxboard-like material. Thin board easily bows and slips out of the groove meant to hold it in place when filled with crib bedding or clothing. Drawers constructed from a harder wood material will last longer and hold up under the weight of all those blankets.

Cribs today have many standard features and many more bells and whistles. Think about what you really need to make these early years as easy as possible and still fit your pocket book. At the very least, you will want:

  • a solid hardwood construction with a nontoxic finish to ensure a sturdy and solid crib frame.
  • a 4 position mattress support height adjustment to accommodate your growing baby.
  • metal ball-shaped swivel casters to easily move the crib around the nursery and locking brakes to prevent unexpected movement.
  • a non-toxic plastic teething rail for your baby to chew on.
  • metal hardware and springs to keep the crib safe and comfortable.

Keep these features in mind, but regardless of the price, always buy with safety in mind.

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