Buying goodies for your baby can be one of the fun parts of pregnancy and new motherhood, but it can also send you into a spiral of information. How do you cut through the noise to the helpful nuggets? Let’s make it easy and start with a big purchase that will support your child for years to come: a baby crib. We’ve created this guide to answer all your questions about crib types, pricing, safety standards and shopping secondhand so you know how to buy a baby crib that works for both of you.
Questions to ask when buying a baby crib
- When should I buy a baby crib?
- Do I need a bassinet or a crib?
- How much does a crib cost?
- What safety features should a baby crib have?
- Should I get a convertible crib?
- Is it OK to buy a secondhand crib?
- What additional supplies do I need to buy beyond a crib?
- Once I’ve found the perfect baby crib, how do I get my baby to sleep in it?
1When should I buy a baby crib?
It’s a good idea to plan sleeping arrangements before your baby arrives. Health Canada recommends room sharing with baby for the first six months of their life, which means having a separate sleep surface within arm’s length in your bedroom. But why?
“We think it’s because little ones hear our sleep sounds, we hear their sleep sounds, and there are multiple arousals throughout the night,” says Rosalee Lahaie Hera, CEO and certified sleep consultant at Toronto’s Baby Sleep Love. And these arousals may help to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). “We don’t want little ones to get into too deep of a sleep because that can be unsafe for them.”
In addition to room sharing, always follow the ABCs of safe sleep:
- A = Alone (without toys, blankets or parents in the same bed)
- B = Placed on their back
- C = In a crib or bassinet
2Do I need a bassinet or a crib?
You’ll need to decide if you want to start your newborn off in a bassinet, mini crib or standard crib.
- Bassinet or mini crib: With smaller footprints than standard cribs, bassinets and mini cribs are ideal for tight spaces. They can often be easily moved from room to room and tend to be more affordable. Both have height, weight and developmental milestone guidelines (such as baby rolling over or pushing up to their knees), so you’ll probably be able to use a bassinet or mini crib for up to six months.
- Standard crib: A full-sized crib can be used from birth up to age three—and beyond if you buy a model that converts into a toddler or full-sized bed.
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3How much does a crib cost?
Like all furniture, crib cost ranges widely—from $100 to over $5000—and many variables factor into the price like materials, extra storage and brand. You may pay more for:
- Organic or all-natural materials
- The ability to convert to a toddler bed or full-sized bed
- Extra storage or a built-in change table
- A designer brand
Unless you choose a luxury model, it’s likely that you’ll spend between $150 and $500 on your baby’s crib and another $75 to $200 for the mattress.
4What safety features should a baby crib have?
All infant products sold in Canada must meet certain government safety standards. Many Canadian items also have American safety certifications from organizations such as the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (JPMA). These certifications aren’t absolutely necessary but knowing that companies have voluntarily submitted their products for extra safety testing may offer peace of mind.
You’ll want to keep an eye out for a few more things:
- Baby-safe materials: Look for non-toxic paint and finishes that are safe for babies—not just for the crib, but for the mattress and bedding, too. You’ll pay more for organic or all-natural materials, but the splurge is worth it if it’s a feature that matters to you.
- Stationary sides: As of December 2016, the sale of drop-side or drop-down cribs is prohibited in Canada. A drop side is one side that lowers to help adults reach for the baby. They have been deemed unsafe due to the possibility of the side dropping while baby is sleeping or pushing against it.
- Locking wheels: Wheels can be handy for moving a crib between rooms. Make sure they lock securely and test them by pushing against the crib from all sides.
- Crib bumpers or bumper pads: Crib bumpers aren’t recommended by Health Canada due to the potential for suffocation and choking.
- Mattress support: A too-soft crib mattress can be a hazard for infants. “Some mattresses have a firm infant side and a softer toddler side,” says Lahaie Hera. “Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but a lot of them will say the firm mattress should be used for the first year and the toddler side can be used after that.” You want a mattress made specifically for infants that is firm and has no sagging or gaps around the crib frame. Check out our crib mattress buying guide to learn more about mattress size and safety.
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5Should I get a convertible crib?
It depends on your lifestyle. If you like the idea of making one crib purchase and eventually converting it into a bed as your baby grows, a convertible crib could work for you. Convertible cribs are so named because they can convert—usually to a toddler bed and daybed. This style of convertible crib is known as a three-in-one. There are also four-in-one cribs that can further transform into a double bed, but the conversion kits are usually sold separately.
6Is it OK to buy a secondhand crib?
Saving items from a landfill is a reasonable wish, but when it comes to cribs and infant mattresses, there are safety standards to consider before buying secondhand. Health Canada says a crib made before 1986 won’t meet current safety regulations. Otherwise, “as long it meets all the safety requirements, a secondhand crib can be OK,” says Lahaie Hera. “You need to have the manufacturer’s instruction manual so you can check when the crib was manufactured and if is it up to date.”
You should still proceed with caution, check that all parts are intact and secure and give it a thorough inspection. “I don’t believe that manufacturers can guarantee safety the second time around, so obviously, as with everything in parenting, you have to weigh the risks against the benefits,” Lahaie Hera says.
7What additional supplies do I need to buy beyond a crib and mattress?
A baby really only needs a few things to sleep comfortably: a fitted sheet, a snug sleeper and a night diaper. Everything else is unnecessary and could even be unsafe.
- A fitted sheet: The mattress’s sheet should fit tight with no bunching, tears or holes. Baby bedding costs range according to size, quality of material and brand, but your biggest priority should be a sheet that fits securely and won’t come loose. Wash it at least once a week. If baby spits up or has an accident, wash the sheet immediately.
- A waterproof sheet or pad: You may use a waterproof pad beneath your fitted sheet as long as it’s intended for infant mattress use. A good night diaper can help prevent leaks.
- Sleepers: Health Canada recommends only using clothing designed specifically for infant sleep because there are different requirements around flammability for baby pajamas than regular clothes. For example, cotton and cotton blends are often more flammable than synthetic blends. The sleeper should fit snug and have no loose buttons or snaps.
- Sleep sacks: A sleep sack is like a mini sleeping bag for babies. Usually zippered, it keeps them warm at night without the risk of loose blankets. A sleep sack can have different levels of warmth, so read all labels to be sure you choose one that suits your child. You can also find lightweight sleep sacks for summer months.
- Mobiles and sound machines: There are products that attach to cribs to entertain or soothe baby such as mobiles and sound machines. Always check your manual regarding these types of products. “Manufacturer’s instructions will usually say not to add [any parts after you buy a crib] because then they can’t ensure the safety,” says Lahaie Hera. “They’re great for keeping baby entertained during the day, but I wouldn’t specifically recommend them for sleep.”
8Once I’ve found my perfect baby crib, how do I get my kid to sleep in it?
Ah, an age-old question! Lahaie Hera recommends starting a sleep routine to help the entire family unwind. “Every baby is unique, so I always encourage families to find a few activities that calm everybody in the family and can be done in approximately the same order every night,” she says. “You’re signalling: When this happens, then [sleep] happens.”
She suggests singing lullabies, telling soothing stories, massaging your infant or even bathing them—but only if bath time is relaxing for you, not stressful. “Wherever you’re going to put them down, stay in that room to lead the routine,” Lahaie Hera notes. She recommends keeping lights soft and using a noise machine turned to a low volume, which can help some babies to sleep. “Static white noise can be annoying for room-sharing parents. You can also use pink noise, which is the sound of the ocean or the sound of rain. It’s often a bit more tolerable.”
Baby Cribs and Mattresses
- Health Canada. Is your child safe? Sleep time.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Room sharing with your baby may help prevent SIDS—but it means everyone gets less sleep.
- HuffPost. The ABCs of Safe Sleep for Babies.
- What to Expect. Moving Your Baby From a Bassinet to a Crib.
- What to Expect. 10 Tricks to Ease the Transition from Crib to Toddler Bed.
- CBC. Health Canada bans sale, import, advertisement of drop-side cribs.
- Health Canada. Cribs, cradles and bassinets.
- Sleep Reports. Secondhand Crib Mattresses: The Risk of Using a Secondhand Crib Mattress.
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