Baby Crib and Nursery Furniture Buyer’s Guide
January 31, 2010
The baby crib and nursery furniture is certainly one of the most exciting purchases you will make for your new baby. Your baby will have their furniture for most of their childhood, so you want to select the best crib and furniture set your budget can afford.
Of course, a crib’s safety is the number one consideration when you’re making a purchase – especially in light of the massive crib recalls that have been making news lately.
When shopping for a new crib, look for one that meets or exceeds JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association) standards and is JPMA-certified. The JPMA has certified more than 2,000 products in 17 different categories.
Safe baby cribs meet the following criteria:
- Crib slats or spindles should be no more than 2 3/8” apart. (You should not be able to fit a soda can between the slats). Spindles or slats should not be loose or missing.
- Hardware is sturdy, not bent or rusted.
- The crib mattress should fit snugly, with no more than one inch between the edge of the mattress and the side of the crib.
- No “cutout” areas on the headboard or footboard, where an infant’s head may get trapped.
- No splinters or rough edges.
- Crib should not have corner posts taller than 1/16 of an inch, as a baby’s clothes can get caught on these posts, posing a strangulation hazard.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission recommends that parents should not use secondhand cribs manufactured prior to 1978. The CPSC safety standards for cribs changed in1974, while standards for lead paint use changed in 1978. You can find out more about secondhand crib safety here.
Type of Crib
Most people decorate their baby’s nursery in a style that matches the rest of their house, whether that is modern/contemporary, traditional, shabby chic, French Colonial, etc. Once you decide on a style, you can select from many different crib designs.
Some popular styles of cribs include:
- Jenny Lind
- Flat slats
- Canopy crib (Posts should be over 16” high).
Another factor to consider is convertibility: Do you want a crib that will turn into a toddler bed and, later, a day bed or full-size bed for your child? Or do you plan to use the crib for a second child and buy a new toddler bed and, finally, a twin or loft bed? Convertible cribs cost a bit more, so if you plan to use the crib only as a baby crib, it makes sense to buy one that doesn’t convert.
Additionally, some people say that less expensive convertible cribs, even converted into full-size beds or day beds, still look like cribs. For this reason, if you can’t afford a higher-end convertible crib, you may decide against buying convertible at all.
A Word on Dropside Cribs
Dropside cribs – cribs which have sides that drop down for easy access to baby – have been cited as safety hazards lately, following the recall of two different popular brands from two manufacturers.
Toys R Us has stopped selling drop-side cribs in Suffolk County, New York. The CPSC is calling for a nationwide ban on drop-side cribs. For that reason, we cannot, in good conscience, recommend drop-side cribs as a buying option.
When you pick a finish for your wood crib, keep in mind your nursery’s décor. Conventional wisdom says not to use darker woods in small spaces, but today’s designers say this is no longer true. You can go with a chocolate, espresso, or classic cherry finish in a small nursery, providing you use light, bright colors on walls and carpeting to open the space.
What nursery pieces will you want in addition to a baby crib? Barbara Rogers of LaJobi, manufacturer of brands such as Nursery 101, Graco, Bonavita, Babi Italia, Europa Baby and ISSI, says, “The three main pieces of furniture you need are a crib, a place to change the baby, and a place to store the baby’s clothes.”
Do you like the looks of the matching dresser and changing table? Does the product line come with a variety of options? Does the set come with a matching nightstand, chest of drawers or armoire, so the furniture really will grow with your child?
Will the crib, plus changing table and dresser or armoire, fit well in the nursery? Measure before you buy. Don’t squeeze more into a small space than you really need. Many dressers can double as changing tables. You can also get additional storage space with a trundle drawer under the crib.
A rocking chair is a nice addition to a nursery – if it fits. If not, consider putting a rocker/glider in your own bedroom or in a den or living room.
Since baby cribs can range in price from $100 to thousands, it’s important to decide how much you want to spend. Price is not necessarily an indicator of quality or safety. For instance, Rogers of LaJobi says, “All our cribs, from the less expensive Nursery 101 line to La BonaVita models, exceed JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association Standards.) You can get perfectly safe, well-made cribs for $200 or less.
So what’s the difference between less expensive and more expensive baby cribs?
- Less expensive cribs usually require assembly.
- Less expensive cribs may have fewer options for different finishes and styles.
- Less expensive cribs may have fewer choices for matching furniture pieces.
- The coordinating furniture for more expensive cribs may look more like “adult” furniture, and will last into your child’s teen years – or beyond.
- The detail work on more expensive cribs may be nicer.
- More expensive cribs may be manufactured from solid wood and be sturdier.
Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Crib
- What is the décor of your home?
- What colors will you decorate your nursery?
- Do you want a convertible crib or do you plan to use the crib for a second baby?
- What other furniture pieces do you need for the nursery?
- Would you like a trundle drawer beneath the crib for additional storage?
- What kind of wood or materials is the crib made of? Is it a less expensive, ready-to-assemble crib, which may use pressboard instead of solid wood? If it’s solid, what kind of wood is it?
- How many height adjustment levels does the crib have? Some cribs allow three different height adjustments for the mattress – a higher, “bassinet height” for infants who can’t yet roll over, a mid-height for babies who can roll over but not yet stand, and the lowest height, for toddlers who can stand (and climb!)
- How sturdy is the crib? Does it pass the “shake test” in the store? Denise and Alan Fields, authors of the book Baby Bargains, share a tip in the 8th edition of their book. Sometimes, retailers will actually leave screws loose in the less expensive crib and changing table models, so they appear to be less sturdy than their pricier counterparts.
When you’re looking at cribs in a retail store, it pays to check the hardware. You might even bring a small Phillips head screwdriver and tighten loose screws, that way you can get a fair comparison between cribs of different price points.
- What is the company’s reputation and recall history? Has the crib you are looking at ever been recalled? What was the problem and how was it fixed?
Special thanks to Barbara Rogers from La Jobi for the insightful information she provided for this article.