Finding the perfect crib can be tough. You want it to be cute and match the style of the nursery, conform with all current safety standards, be versatile and transition easily to a toddler bed, and be comfortable, well-built, affordable, and easy to assemble. We totally get it, and we've been there! Purchasing a crib and mattress (we review those here) can be a big investment, and hopefully will last your baby for many years. Since convertible cribs are designed to transition all the way into the teenage years, make sure you get something you like looking at for several years! Here are the most important things we considered when making this best cribs of 2016 list:
Safety. Here at Mommyhood101 we take safety very seriously. And cribs have come a long way with regard to safety. Many cribs used to feature a drop-down side to help parents reach their baby: these were banned for good reason in 2011. We won't get into why they were banned here, but suffice to say you should never purchase a drop-side crib online or at a yard sale! Older cribs can also have unsafe gap width between slats. Current standards call for 2-3/8" (2.375")maximum distance between slats, but older cribs have wider gaps leading to little heads getting stuck between slats. Some cribs also have decorative cut-outs, maybe of a cute animal or character, but these should also be avoided as there is a risk of getting a little arm or leg caught. Finally, never get a crib with decorative rail posts that stick up on the corners; these are a snag hazard and need to be avoided. Fortunately cribs have come a long way, but so have parents' needs: fast forward and there are many new safety criteria we're all looking for. First, Greenguard or other certification for lead, phthalates (BPA), and other chemical emissions. Second, you want the crib to be strong with high slat load strength, good stability, and low frame flex. Third, you want to make sure the company does not have a bad recall history for things like lead paint use (like this one), and ensure that it does not have any recent recalls. Finally, you want to make sure you get a mattress (usually sold separately) that is high quality with squared corners (we review those here). So as you can see there are a lot of safety considerations when selecting that perfect crib for your baby. Don't worry, we did the work for you. Our best crib list only includes cribs that meet these stringent safety criteria. We don't want to freak you out, but here are some of the most common questions we get, with one consistent answer: NO! Are crib bumpers safe? Are pillows safe? Are thick blankets safe? Are sleep positioners safe? No, no, no, and no! They are all unsafe due to suffocation risks: see here and here for details.
Versatility. Convertible cribs have become the norm. Like a convertible car seat (we review those here), convertible cribs accommodate a much wider age range by converting to suit developmental stages. For infants, the convertible crib starts as a basic crib with four sides. These always have adjustable mattress height, so you start with the highest setting with a newborn and then gradually move the mattress support lower as your baby gets older. This makes it easy to reach in when you have a newborn, and then you move it lower to ensure your newly mobile baby (crawling, pulling up) cannot climb or fall out when standing. About a year after getting to that lowest setting, maybe when your toddler is about 2 years old, you convert the crib to a toddler bed. This happens by removing the front side and replacing it with a (typically included) toddler rail. This is designed to give your toddler some independence but also keep them from rolling out of bed in the middle of the night. Then when you think your growing child (maybe around 4 years) is ready for a day bed you can remove that partial rail. Finally, many convertible cribs will also convert into a full-size bed for the "tween" and teenage years, using the back and front sides as a headbard and footboard. A convertible crib saves you from purchasing multiple different beds along the way, keeps the style consistent for many years, and gives your growing baby easier transitions with the familiar look and feel of their own crib. All of the cribs we review below convert from infant to toddler and beyond. Here is a great example of a convertible crib that goes from infant all the way to teenager, the DaVinci Kalani convertible crib:
Comfort & Convenience. There are a few things to look for here. Now that there are no drop sides, you want to make sure the mattress height is adjustable between at least 3 levels. Like we said above, you want to start an infant at the highest level and then move it down as your baby becomes more mobile and there's a risk of crawling/standing/climbing. Second, you want to pick the right mattress for comfort and safety. We review and rank the best crib mattresses here, but to summarize you want one without harmful emissions, with even and firm support, with squared off corners, and with dual firmness. If you get a good quality mattress, it will fit snugly into the crib and provide many years of comfortable and safe sleep. You also want the crib to be low profile, without really tall legs that make it difficult for you to reach in and out. Finally, for convenience you want a crib that doesn't take 5 hours to assemble! You basically only want it to have the 4 walls and mattress support. You attach the 4 sides together then put on the matress support. If it's more complicated than that, then it's worth paying a lot more at a specialty store and having them assemble it for you. Most parents buy cribs online nowadays and report assembly taking about a half hour to an hour. Modern cribs include not only the intructions and parts, but also all necessary tools. All of our best cribs are easy to assemble.
Here are the best cribs of 2016!
1. DaVinci Kalani 4-in-1 Convertible Crib. This convertible crib has been around for several years now and has seen substantial improvements along the way. It is an awesome, handsome crib made by a company with a great reputation for quality, safety, and convenience. This crib has it all: Greenguard Certification for lead, phthalates, and emissions, 4 mattress height adjustment levels, a low profile to help you reach in and out, an included toddler rail for easy conversion, and it surpassess all current safety standards. It also uses New Zealand pine sourced from sustainable forests, which makes you feel good about your purchase. This crib has won several awards for its great features and quality, including from BabyCenter, National Parenting Publications, and Babble. It comes in several finishes including Cherry, Espresso, Black/Ebony, White, and Chestnut. It converts from an infant crib, to a toddler bed with rail, to a day bed without the rail, all the way to a full-size bed (but of course you will have to buy the full size mattress and frame). This is an outstanding convertible crib with high build quality, placing it securely at the top of our list! Cons? Well, with the white version we didn't like that the dark colored screws stood out visually. Overall, this is a reasonably priced crib option with all the best features. Usually sells for about $220-250 online.
2. Stork Craft Valentia 4-in-1 Convertible Crib. This convertible crib has a beautiful traditional styling, and we think it looks fantastic in white or grey. It is a great crib made by a company with an excellent reputation for build quality and customer service. Like the DaVinci, this crib has several great features: solid wood construction, meets or exceeds government safety standards for construction and finishes, has 3 mattress height adjustment levels, a low profile to help you get your baby in and out, an included toddler rail for easy conversion, and a long reputation for great build quality. It comes in several finishes, including Cherry, White, Brown, Espresso, and Gray. The gray is a nice soft-looking modern gray finish. We also liked the solid sides with the wainscoting style wood. It converts from an infant crib, to a toddler bed with rail, to a day bed without the rail, all the way to a full-size bed (but you'll need to buy the full-size mattress and rails). Cons? Well, it has only 3 rather than 4 height adjustment settings. It also does not hold GreenGuard Certification for finish quality and emissions. It also doesn't have the great selling point of the DaVinci that it uses wood from sustainable forests. Overall, this is a competitively priced crib and you can't really go wrong with it. If you prefer the style over the DaVinci, we say go for it! Usually sells for about $250 online.
3. DaVinci Jenny Lind 3-in-1 Convertible Crib. This high quality convertible crib uses the popular spindle style slats, bringing back nostalgia from the cribs of yesteryear! Parents tend to either love or hate this style, so it's solely a matter of personal preference. If you like the style, you're getting an excellent crib, though not quite as versatile as the 4-in-1 options above. This is another DaVinci crib, with one of the most solid reputations in the crib industry. This crib has Greenguard Certification for lead, phthalates, and chemical emissions, it also has 4-level mattress height adjustment, a medium-height profile to make things not too difficult for getting your baby in and out (for lower profile, don't attach the included wheels), and it includes the toddler rail for converting to a toddler bed. Like the DaVinci Kalani it is made with solid wood sourced from sustainable forests. It has also won several awards, including from BabyCenter, Baby Bargains, and National Parenting Publications, so it has a great following and reputation. It comes in several color options including White, Cherry, Ebony, and adorable baby blue "Lagoon" and yellow "Sunshine." It converts from an infant crib to a toddler bed with an included toddler rail, and then to a day bed if you remove that rail. It does not have the capability to convert to a full-size bed (thus the "3-in-1" rather than "4-in-1"). Cons? Well, like we just said, it's not a 4-in-1, so that's a bit limiting for some parents. Usually sells online for about $250.
4. Union 3-in-1 Convertible Crib. This is a relatively basic, no frills crib that still has great build quality and a solid reputation for safety and reliability. This crib is relatively lightweight, easy to assemble, and complements a minimalist nursery style. The crib is made with sustainable solid New Zealand pine wood, and uses a non-toxic finish that is lead and phthalate free. Like the best on this list, it has 4 adjustable mattress heights, accommodating a wide range of baby height and mobility. When we assembled it, it only took about 20 minutes using a battery powered screwdriver. We found that at first it was a bit wobbly but we tightened down the bolts and it became much sturdier. It has a low-profile height to make it easy to put baby in and out. But it's important to note that it doesn't include the rail to convert to a toddler bed, which surprised us when we received it. You can either buy their recommended DaVinci toddler rail (which we thought was way too small), or you can buy a better universal toddler conversion kit for only about $20. This crib comes in several great colors, including traditional White, baby blue "Lagoon," cute yellow "Sunshine," Espresso, and light Gray. Cons? Well, it doesn't come with the toddler conversion rail which is unfortunate, and some customers report that it's not as sturdy as they'd like (but see our note above about assembly). Overall, this is a great, no-frills option that is also the least expensive on our list. We found it online for about $110-130.