Cribs 101

Crib prices start at $100 for an inexpensive crib at a discounter like Walmart. The mid-range for cribs is probably best typified by what you see at chain stores such as Babies R Us and Baby Depot—most of their cribs are in the $250 to $600 range (the physical stores seem to be a bit more pricey while their online sites offer more lower price options). Specialty stores and catalogs tend to carry upper-end cribs that run $400 to $1000. And what about the top end? We’d be remiss not to mention the modern-design and solid hardwood cribs, which run $1000 to $2000.

Surprise! The vast majority of cribs don’t come with mattresses; those are sold separately ($60 to $350). Bedding is also extra ($100 to $500). We discuss mattresses here.

What’s the difference between a $100 crib and one that’s $1000?

Here’s a little secret expensive crib makers don’t want you to hear: ALL new cribs (no matter what price) sold in the U.S. or Canada must meet the same federal safety standards. Yes, the governments of both the U.S. and Canada strictly regulate crib safety and features—that’s one reason why most cribs have the same basic design, no matter the brand or price. So, whether you buy a $150 crib special at a discount store or a $1500 wrought iron crib at a posh specialty boutique, either way you get a crib that meets federal safety requirements.

Now, that said, when you spend more money, there are some perks. The higher the price-tag of the crib (generally), the fancier the design (thicker corner posts, designer colors, etc.). That’s nice, but is it really necessary? No—a basic, safe crib in a simple finish is all a baby needs.

The biggest sales pitch for cribs is convertibility: more expensive cribs are convertible. They morph into beds for older kids: toddler bed (basically, a crib with one side removed and a short rail), day bed (no rail) and (finally) full-sized bed. That latter uses the sides of the crib to become a headboard and footboard—some cribs even transform into queen-size adult beds.

Convertible cribs are pitched to parents as “lifetime cribs” (your child will take the bed to college with them, we suppose) and smart investments, because they “grow with your child.” Here’s what the pitch leaves out: to convert the crib, you often have to buy a conversion kit (sold separately, naturally). And think about the SIZE of the average kids’ bedroom these days: most can barely squeeze in a TWIN bed and dresser . . . a full or queen size bed is often impossible.

Some crib extras also have dubious value—take the under-crib storage drawer. Often seen on cribs that run $500 or more, this feature appeals to parents who have a storage crunch in their home (you can put blankets, extra clothes in the drawer). The problem? The drawer usually doesn’t have a top. So, anything inside will be a dust magnet.

Ok, so now you know the typical prices of nursery furniture . . . and what more money really buys you. How do you decide what is best for your baby’s nursery? Next we’ll give you our Three Golden Rules of Buying Nursery Furniture.

Three Golden Rules of Buying Nursery Furniture

• Don’t over buy—think about your needs first. Here’s a common first time parent mistake: rushing out to a local baby store and falling in love with that fancy cognac finish on an expensive chiffarobe. Instead, think about what you really NEED. Start with the size of your baby’s nursery—most secondary bedrooms in a typical suburban home are small (10’ x 12’ is common). That barely leaves room for a crib, dresser and rocker. Don’t let a baby store sell you on a double dresser PLUS an armoire when you don’t have room. For urban apartment dwellers, space is at a premium. Closets need to be tricked out to provide max- imum storage. Expect furniture to do double duty.

• Three words: set a budget. Don’t waste your time with designer furniture if you haven’t done the math. As you saw from the discussion on the last few pages, a three-piece nursery set (crib, dresser, rocker) runs anywhere from $600 . . . up to $3000. Pick a budget and stick with it. Again, it pays to think outside the box: can you re-purpose a dresser from another room? Get a hand-me-down rocker from a friend or off Craigslist?

• Decide on nursery style. There are two theories of nursery design: either a baby’s room should look, well, babyish . . . or it should be more adult-looking, able to adapt as the child grows. There is no right or wrong answer. If you subscribe to the baby-theme, then go with a simple (non-convertible) crib and dresser that you will later swapped out for a twin bed and computer desk/hutch. If you prefer the other path, then buy a convertible crib (which converts to a full size bed) and dresser that can do double duty. Some brands have dressers that are first a changing area for diapers . . . and then convert to a computer area complete with pull out keyboard drawer.