As a professional Bay Area maternity and newborn photographer, I speak to dozens of new parents every year, and I’ve learned that a crib is definitely one of the must-have items on the list of things to get before the baby is born. Even if you plan on a co-sleeping-style arrangement with your baby, cribs can serve as an essential “safe space” throughout your baby’s infancy, babyhood and up into toddlerhood.
Make Sure it Meets Current Federal Standards of Safety
First and foremost, safety should always be the #1 priority when selecting a crib. If you’re offered a hand-me-down crib, make sure to check the make/model/serial number online to verify it is up to current safety standards and that there haven’t been any recalls. The JPMA is a good place to start, and Consumer Reports is another great online resource.
Bring a Ruler With You
Believe it or not, even “new” cribs can fail to meet current, recommended safety standards because the large majority of cribs are manufactured overseas, where quality control and assurance may be translated more loosely than we’d like.
In order to protect your baby from getting trapped or slipping through, the spaces between the crib slats or various junctures accessible to your baby should be 2 and ⅜-inches wide or less. If they measure more than that, choose another model. The corner posts should not be more than 1/16-inch high or your baby’s clothing can get caught on them. Once you get the mattress (more on that below) in place, you shouldn’t be able to fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib frame.
Give the Crib a Shake and a Wiggle
While it’s true that store models aren’t always put together as well as the home version, there should be the sense that the crib is well-constructed and structurally sound. Look underneath the crib for stabilizer bars. These are metal rods that are fastened underneath the crib at each end. If the crib doesn’t feel solid or anything about it feels flimsy, look for a more stable model.
Purchase the mattress at the same time
You need a firm mattress for your baby in order to minimize the risk of suffocation. As I mentioned above, it also needs to be a solid fit, so you’re best off purchasing it at the same time as the crib so you know the two are compatible. Currently, the law requires that crib mattresses by 27 ¼-inches wide, by 51 ⅝-inches long, and no more than 6-inches thick.
Buy sheets designed for the mattress
The only way to ensure crib sheets fit snugly, preventing your baby from getting tangled, is to buy new, crib mattress-specific sheets. Hand-me-downs may be fine here, but make sure the elastic is still in great shape, and that the seams are snugly hemmed. In order to test a crib sheet’s soundness, put it on the mattress and then pull straight up on each corner. They should remain firmly in place.
Ditch the “bumper” and all the cute crib fixin’s
Get rid of any of the decorative extras such as the bumper, which increase the risk for suffocation. As a newborn photographer, I completely understand the attraction to adorable baby props, but a minimalist crib is a safer crib. There shouldn’t be any stuffed animals, pillows, quilts, or extra blankets inside the crib. Instead, your baby should be put into the crib in a swaddle wrap or a wearable blanket to remain warm. Avoid placing the crib directly under a window or near a heater vent so the crib climate is stable.
Consider paying extra for professional assembly
I know that all the TV shows and movies consider “putting the crib together” as a rite of passage. In reality, unless you have serious DIY know-how, putting the crib together is more like a recipe for argument disaster, or poses the inevitable potential for having it all assembled - only to find there are a few extra screws or bolts left over. Whoops!
Instead, I highly recommend paying the extra $70 to $100 or so to have the delivery professionals assemble it for you. OR have a handy, DIY friend do it for you. You’ll benefit from more time, a more romantic relationship, and peace of mind. Once the crib is assembled, give it the multiple-times-over with your hands (and the wiggle-jiggle test) to make sure it feels strong, sound, and that there are no loose screws or pokey parts.
Interested in having once-in-a-lifetime images of your precious newborn? Contact me here at Lemonshoots to schedule a consultation. (510) 747-9019.