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How to Buy a Crib and Setup Your Nursery

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Buying a crib is an important decision, especially since your baby will likely spend the majority of her time in her crib. With so many choices on the market today, it's easy to get lost in all of the sales hype. But in the end, when it comes right down to it, there are really only 2 non-negotiable points: Your crib should be comfortable and safe.  

Finding a safe, sturdy crib is essential for the obvious reasons. But also because it's not uncommon for a newborn to use her crib up to the age of 3 years old, when she'll move into a toddler or standard sized bed.

Buying a Baby Crib

Nursery Furniture Essentials

In the coming years, your baby's nursery will become an important room in your home. The 4 essential pieces of nursery furniture below will ensure that your baby is safe, well cared for, and comfortable, not to mention, it'll make your job as a parent a little easier. Let's take a closer look at each item: 

Baby Crib

We'll take a deep dive into cribs later, but for now, just know that your baby will need a safe place to sleep. If you're short on space, you might consider purchasing a mini crib or a combo crib that has a built-in changing table with storage.

Changing Table

It's highly recommended to have a changing table in your nursery since it'll give you a designated space to change diapers. Look for a changing table with plenty of storage space. Many have open shelves and/or a large drawer.

Delta Children Eclipse Changing Table, Black Cherry and Waterproof Baby and Infant Diaper Changing Pad, Beautyrest Platinum, White

Storage Area

Having storage space will keep your nursery clutter free. Whether you select an armoire or a large dresser to store your baby's things, you can feel comfortable with the investment you make, as you'll likely use it for years to come.

Many parents choose a  dresser combo with a changing table on top. They're not only cost effective, but they also maximize your space, and once your baby out grows the changing table, the top can be removed. 

Delta Children Lancaster 3 Drawer Dresser with Changing Top, Bianca White

Nursery Glider

A nursery glider help mothers' relax during nursing. They also help calm and sooth your baby. Be sure to find one that provides excellent back support. 

Babyletto Madison Swivel Glider, Ecru Microsuede

Crib Color

Wood Cribs are typically painted and are available in a wide variety of colors. They may be painted white or gray, or a darker color such as cherry. Some manufacturers will even paint to order, ensuring you have exactly the color to match your room décor. 

Another popular trend is cribs with two-tone colors. They may be white with a panel of cherry, white with navy blue highlights or a number of other combinations. When used properly, these can really add a nice designer's touch to the nursery.

Many new parents opt to select a neutral color for their crib, such as gray or white. With a neutral colored crib there's plenty of flexibilty when designing the nursery.

Another nice benefit of choosing a neutral colored crib when you're just starting your family is you'll be able to use the crib for your first born, and then redesign the nursery for your next child using the same crib. The nursery will have an individual and entirely different look, without needing to purchase a new crib!

Trend Lab Safari Chevron 3 Piece Crib Bedding Set, Black/White

Crib Price Ranges

Cribs for babies fall into 3 price ranges: Economy, mid-range, and high-end. However, it's important to remember that the most important criteria when selecting a crib is that it meets the U.S. Safety Standards. 

Economy Cribs

These cribs tend to have a simplier design. They are lighter in weight and use less expensive wood materials and hardware. As a general rule of thumb, any crib that's under $200 falls into the economy crib category.

Be sure that the crib doesn't wobble. If it's sturdy, it should be fine to use. However, it's a good idea to only use the crib for one baby, and purchase a new one when you have other children.

Dream On Me Addison 4 in 1 Convertible Mini Crib, White

Mid-Range Cribs

Any crib that falls into the $200 to $500 range would be considered a mid-range crib. 

These cribs tend to be heavier, have thicker slats, and are more sturdy than economy cribs. They're also more decorative. Expect to see a combination of solid wood and wood veneers.

It's common to find cribs in this price range that are designed to grow with your baby. They are made to convert into full sized beds by removing/adding panels and changing the mattress. The crib you put your baby down into for a nap could soon become the bed your teenager sleeps in!

Babyletto Hudson 3-in-1 Convertible Crib with Toddler Bed Conversion Kit, Grey

High-End Cribs

At a price range of $600 and up, you can expect to see solid wood cribs with hand applied finishes that sport unique detailing. In addition, you may have other material options available, such as acrylic and metal.

Nearly all of the high-end cribs can be converted into larger beds as your baby grows.

If you opt for an eco-friendly crib, sustainable woodsand non-VOCs finishes is generally used. 

Munire Portland 4-in-1 Convertible Crib Cherry

Crib Sizes

There are 6 main sizes of cribs on the market today. Each style has it's benefits, but ultimiately, the crib you select will depend on the needs of your nursery.

Standard Crib

Standard cribs are a regular full-sized crib. They're typically lighter and less expensive than other cribs.

They are not convertible and can only be used as a crib. However, they're an excellent choice if you plan to move your toddler directly from the crib into a toddler or twin bed.

You can expect your baby to be able to use most standard sized cribs until she reaches the age of 18 to 24 months.

L.A. Baby Deluxe Holiday Folding Metal Crib, White

Convertible Crib

The convertible crib is the most popular option because it has the ability to "grow" with your baby. It's also called a lifetime crib since it can be used thru all the stages of your child's life.

Convertible cribs can transform from a crib to a toddler bed and then into a toddler daybed. Many are even designed to convert into a full-sized twin bed. In most cases, you'll need to purchase additional rails and mattresses as you convert the crib to the next stage.

This can sometimes be the more expensive option, however, since the crib can be used thru each stage of your child's life, it's also very cost effective.

Graco Solano 4-in-1 Convertible Crib with Drawer, Espresso, Easily Converts to Toddler Bed Day Bed or Full Bed, Three Position Adjustable Height Mattress, Assembly Required (Mattress Not Included)

Combo Crib

Combo cribs, often called "all-in-one" cribs, are a great solution for apartment living or small nurseries. Many people find these to be the best crib for a small space because they have everything you need in a single footprint.

They're available as either a full-sized crib or a mini-crib, and both options have an attached changing table. Combo cribs tend to be more expensive than convertible cribs.

Many manufacturers have designed combo cribs to also be convertable. Some will only convert to a toddler bed, but others can become a full sized bed. Simply detach the changing station and convert the crib into a bed, and the changing station will even become a night stand! (A conversion kit may be necessary)

Storkcraft Portofino 4-in-1 Fixed Side Convertible Crib and Changer, Espresso, Easily Converts to Toddler Bed Day Bed or Full Bed, Three Position Adjustable Height Mattress (Mattress Not Included)

Round or Oval Crib

If you're looking for a unique crib, the round or oval crib is a poplular choice.

One of the main advantages of these cribs is that you can position it in the center of the nursery and your baby will have a 360-degree view of the room. 

Stokke Sleepi Bed, Mint Green

Mini Crib

Mini cribs are smaller than a full sized crib which often helps them be a better fit when space is limited, making them ideal for a small nursery or apartment. In addition, many parents of twins prefer to use 2 mini cribs.

Since a mini crib is smaller, it'll require a smaller mattress. Some manufacturers include a mattress with their cribs, but if they don't, you'll need to purchase one.

It's important for the mattress to fit snugly. There shouldn't be any gaps between the crib and the mattress. Don't forget, a smaller mattress will also require smaller sheets that are specifically designed for mini cribs.

Frequently, mini cribs are made to convert into a twin bed as your baby grows, and some fold-up so they can be stored when not in use. 

Depending on how fast your baby grows, these compact cribs can be used until she/he is 18 to 24 months old. Mini cribs are an excellent choice if you're looking for a small crib for a small space.

DaVinci Kalani 2-in-1 Mini Crib and Twin Bed In White Finish

Portible Crib

Portible cribs are another excellent choice if you're looking for a compact crib for a small space. Portible cribs are usually made from wood and can come in either a standard or mini size.

When not in use, these cribs can be folded away and stored. They're light weight and easy to transport. Many parents choose to own a portible crib for trips to Grandma's, in addition to their "permanent" crib in their home nursery. 

Dream On Me 2 in 1 Portable Folding Stationary Side Crib, Espresso

Crib Mattress

Since babies will spend up to 16 hours each day in their crib sleeping, a good mattress is essential. Keep in mind, that experts recommend using a firm mattress for babies.

Expect to pay up to $200 for a good quality crib mattress. Mattresses on the lower price range are often too soft and likely won't last as long. Many crib manufacturers have mattresses that are designed specifically to work in their cribs that can be purchased separately.


The least expensive crib mattress option is almost always a foam mattress. These mattresses weigh less than the inner spring style, which makes changing the sheets easier.

Higher-end foam mattresses use a high-density foam, although still lighter than coiled mattresses, they are typically heavier than lesser quality foam mattresses.

In most cases, foam mattresses are made from polyurethane foam, although some are made from latex foam and even soy foam

Colgate Foam Supreme II | Foam Crib Mattress | 51.8"L x 27.5"W x 5"H | Lightweight | Hypoallergenic | White Waterproof Cover | Made in the USA

Inner Spring

The use of coil inner springs give the inner spring crib mattress it's name, and you'll generally find anywhere from 80 to 280 coils.

There's 2 things to look for when selecting a inner spring mattress with a firm sleeping surface:

  1. The higher the coil count, the firmer the mattress.
  2. The closer the coils are to each other, the firmer the mattress.

Since coils provide extra support as your baby grows, an inner spring mattress will often out last a foam mattress. 

You can expect an inner spring mattress to weight around 15 to 30 pounds more than a foam mattress, they also tend to be more expensive.

Colgate Ultra II Crib and Toddler Innerspring Mattress | 51.6"L x 27.2"W x 6"H | Orthopedic | Triple-Layered, Tear-Resistant Cover| Rectangle with Rounded Corners Crib Mattress | Made in the USA


An organic crib mattress is made from organic cotton. Organic cotton is grown without fertilizers, GMO's or synthetic pesticides and it's considered the purest form of cotton. 

If you're considering a foam mattress, but are concerned about off gassing and other health worries, an organic cotton mattress is an excellent choice. Foams are chemically treated and latex can be a concern as it tends to be alergy prone.

Be aware, mattresses that are labeled "Eco" or "Green" may still contain toxic chemicals since they aren't regulated. True orgainic mattresses typically start in the 250 dollar range.

Colgate EcoSpring Ultra II - Organic Cotton Innerspring Crib Mattress with Waterproof Cover, Ecru


A 2-in-1 mattress is designed to work for both babies and toddlers. These mattresses have one side that's firm, for a baby, and the other softer for a toddler.

When you convert your crib to a toddler bed, or purchase a stand alone toddler bed, you'll simply flip the mattress over to the softer side.

Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer Dual Sleep Surface Crib Mattress - Waterproof, Hypoallergenic, and Antimicrobial Lightweight Crib Mattress with Extra Firm Infant Side and Plush Toddler Side

Crib Bedding

It might be tempting to set up your crib with cute pillows, blankets and stuffed animals, but these are all suffication hazards for children under 1-year of age. They should never be in the crib with your baby.

Even crib bumpers are discourgaed. In fact, there are only 3 things that should be in the crib with your baby: A firm crib mattress, a crib sheet and, a mattress protector pad.

We've already discussed the crib mattress, so let's take a look at the crib sheet and mattress protector pad:

Crib Sheet

The majority of crib sheets are made with fitted corners to securely keep them in place. The sheet should fit the crib mattress tightly and have no loose or bunchy spots. Never use a fitted crib sheet that doesn't fit your crib mattress like a glove.

Crib sheets are made with a variety of fabrics, such as lightweight flannel, woven cottons, or cotton blends. Take care to follow the manufacturer's washing directions, or you might find that the sheet shrunk and you'll need to purchase a new one.

Since you should plan on washing your crib sheets every day, you'll want to have at least 3 sets so you always have a clean one available.

Stretchy Fitted Crib Sheets Set-Brolex 2 Pack Portable Crib Mattress Topper for Baby Boys Girls,Ultra Soft Jersey,Full Standard,Elephant & Whale

Mattress Protector Pad

Using a mattress cover will not only protect your mattress, but it'll also help keep your baby as clean and sanitary as possible.

Crib mattress protector pads come in a variety of styles, and although most do, it's important that the it fully covers the top of the mattress.

Many have elastic edge corners that fit the mattress like a fitted sheet, others cover the entire mattress and have a zipper to secure them in place.

The protector pad should fit tightly and be washable. You may want to consider having a second cover to use as a backup during laundry time.

Although, not all mattress protector's are waterproof, it's a nice feature and worth seriously considering. 

Mattress pads come in a variety of materials. Some are made of cotton, synthetic cotton, flannel, and some are even plastic. 

Whichever one you choose, it should be thin enough so the crib sheet can snuggly fit over. Never attempt to make your own mattress portector out of a plastic bag.

COZYCUDDLES Premium Zippered Quilted Waterproof Crib Protector & Cover - Bedbugs Proof Fully Encasement Standard Baby Crib & Toddler Bedding (52" x 28")

Crib Safety

Keeping your baby safe is every parents number one goal. Whether you're purchasing and/or setting up your crib, here's a few things you should consider to make it a safe place for your child.

  • Drop side cribs are NOT safe and are no longer available to purchase. Since the safety standard changed in 2011, we recommend not using a crib that was made before 2012. 
  • The crib slots should never be more than 2-3/8" (about the width of a soda can) apart. This will prevent your baby from getting his/her head caught. 
  • The top of the crib's corner posts should not have any decorative knobs or other elements. These can snag your baby's clothing.
  • Always and frequently check for broken and loose screws and other fittings to the crib. This is especially critical if the crib has been reassembled.
  • Complete and return your crib's product registration card. Doing so will ensure that you'll be notified of any recalls and other important information from the manufacturer.
  • The crib mattress should fit snug with no more than 1" (or 2 fingers) of space between the mattress and the sides of the crib.

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