Are you among the many new parents who are looking for an alternatives to cribs? If so there may be quite a few reasons why you have made this decision.
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Why Baby Crib Alternatives Make Sense
I wasn’t sure if buying a traditional crib was a good idea for my newborn baby. I did some research and discovered quite a few reasons why this kind of bed was not going to work for my situation.
Traditional Cribs Are Heavy Furniture
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requires full size baby cribs to have a standard width of 28 inches and a standard height of 52 inches. This makes the usual wooden or metal crib too big for most apartment or condo spaces.
The CPSC also requires all full-size baby crib mattresses to be at least 27 and ¼ inches in width by 51 and ¼ inches in length, with a maximum thickness of six inches, which of course adds even more weight to the crib.
These massive cribs are quite heavy, even if they do have casters to help wheel them around. This is because they are usually made of metal or wood, and take up an entire room.
Fumes From Baby Crib Mattresses
Baby mattresses, like all mattresses, can be a safety issue due to off-gassing. Look for a mattress that is GreenGuard Gold certified, which indicates that the mattress has low chemical emissions.
The GreenGuard certification makes sure that the mattress does not contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pollutants, phthalates and formaldehyde.
It is important to keep the baby sleep area free of indoor pollution as a study published in Lancet concluded that VOC emissions from crib mattresses may possibly contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Cribs May Pose Dangers to Newborn Babies
Researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital conducted a NIH study over a period of 19 years. Researchers announced that 10,000 children a year land in the emergency room due to an injury caused by their crib, bassinet, or playpen.
One third of the injuries were due to babies somehow hurting themselves on the crib rails, with 20% of these blows resulting in a concussion. Two thirds of these babies, who also suffered fractures and bruises, were under six months old.
According to a National Institutes of Health article about SIDS, the term “Crib Death” got its name because a disproportionate number of babies suddenly pass away in their cribs. SIDS has been the leading cause of death in babies between one month and four months of age since 2017.
These sleep-related infant deaths often occur because of a hand-me-down mattress that is too soft, or because too many “bumpers”, pillows and blankets. This was enough information to inspire me to try and find a crib alternative that would also fit into my smaller space.
Safe Crib Alternatives
Here are some suitable safe crib alternatives that I have found that are also in agreement with the updated 2022 Safe Sleep Recommendations for Infants released by the American Academy of Pediatrics
You will be able to find a suitable crib alternative amongst the safe crib alternatives suggested here.
1. Baby Bassinets
Bassinets are round baby beds with soft sides that are an excellent safe crib alternative for an infant. They can easily be placed next to your bed, so you can watch and comfort your baby any time you like.
A removable baby bassinet has a handle allowing you to take it off its frame and use it as a travel bed.
- Fits small spaces such as condos and apartments.
- Allow the baby to be at your bedside.
- Removable bassinet allows easy transport.
- Most bassinets don’t require assembly.
- Babies grow out of them after four months.
- Tend to be expensive.
2. Bedside Co Sleeper
Bedside co sleepers are simply bassinets with one removable side. They are slightly lower than the edge of your bed, so you can easily reach over and touch your child.
The idea is to shove the bassinet side without a wall so that it is flush with the sides of your mattress. Of course you must be quite diligent about fastening this type of bedside bassinet to your own sleeping quarters or the baby could roll out onto the floor.
As this type of bassinet has one removable wall, it is quite risky to transport it anywhere.
- Good for small spaces like condos.
- Allows close contact with the baby, without it actually being in your bed.
- The baby bed’s lower position allows you to easily see him from your own position.
- Moms do not have to leave their bed to breastfeed as the baby is right within reach.
- Failure to fasten the open side securely to the side of your bed could result in a fall for the infant.
3. Baby Baskets
Baby baskets are long narrow woven carriers for babies that can double as a baby bed for almost three months. They are also sometimes called Moses Baskets, after the tale from the Bible.
Baby baskets are most certainly the most inexpensive of crib alternatives. They work well in small spaces, because they are small and light.
However, they can be a bit flimsy if they do not have a thick bottom, and if the baby rolls, so might the basket. It is highly recommended that you buy a baby basket specifically meant to carry a baby rather than any type that is used for shopping.
The other issue with baby baskets is that they come with tall looped handles that could possibly be a choking hazard for a very active baby.
It shouldn’t be used for a baby that is more than two months old and if the baby is in it, it should be set down on a very level surface.. Preferably, it should be set down on a carpet.
- Baby sleeps safely.
- Functions well as a travel crib.
- Can be used as a co sleeper by placing it in your bed.
- Woven fabric is not as stable than other baby crib alternatives.
- For small infants only or the bottom of the basket could break through.
4. Baby Loungers
Baby loungers are crib alternatives that are boat-shaped firm cushions. They are also called Snuggle Nests. It is basically a portable safe crib mattress.
They are essentially a floor bed with extremely low rise sides made from foam and covered with fabric. The nest’s slightly raised walls hold the baby tightly and prevent it from rolling over.
These types of loungers are bedside co sleepers that can easily be set on a bed between a a wall and a parent. It can also be placed in the middle of two parents.
You can also use it as a floor bed, if your floor is clean, but never on a table. This travel crib sits nicely on a soft carpet, but be sure to keep the infant company if you are going to set it where there is any human traffic. Think of it as a portable covered baby mattress that you can easily transport from place to place.
Some breastfeeding mothers use the lounger to assist them. They set the lounger on their lap, and use it to help support the baby’s body. This can help relieve strain on the mother’s arms, shoulders and back.
- Your baby feels cuddled but it is raised high enough to prevent smothering.
- You can reach out and attend to the baby who is at the same level as you on the bed.
- This type of bedside sleeper usually has a removable cover that can be washed.
- May assist with physical support for breastfeeding.
- You can use it as a travel crib.
- No assembly required.
- You need a big queen or king-sized bed to accommodate the infant..
- As your child grows it will eventually roll off out of the sleeping space unless you buy a larger one.
5. Montessori Floor Bed
Instead of a crib, you can opt for Montessori floor beds. The reason the bed is on the floor is because the Montessori childcare method teaches parents, caregivers and teachers that a child develops faster when everything is at their level. Even using just a mattress qualifies as a floor bed.
Montessori floor beds have no legs, a very firm mattress and detachable panels that keep the baby safely inside its enclosure. These vented walls can be removed as the child gets older and the mattress becomes a toddler bed.
Another positive aspect of using the Montessori floor bed is that if for some reason your baby does roll out of bed, it does not have very far to fall.
- Encourages child development.
- Children have their own sleeping space.
- Very firm mattress.
- No crib rails.
- May be set up in your room.
- Can be kept as the baby grows.
- Baby could still roll out of bed.
- Harder for mothers to reach out to the infant.
- Not practical if you have a pet or pests.
- Requires assembling of the panels to the bed’s floor frame.
- Room must be baby proofed as it is at floor level.
6. Travel Cribs
A travel crib, also known as a play yard crib looks like a playpen with netted sides. A firm mattress is set at the bottom of the boxy bottom of the crib.
It is hard for a baby to smother in this type of crib as the side panels are made of very thin breathable netted fabric. The baby has the entire bottom of the crib as a sleeping area and a side panel that has a zipper.
Travel cribs have folding legs and sides that allow them to pack up into a carry-all sized bag. This is one of the best crib substitutes for traveling.
- Light weight portable crib.
- Folds up into a compact bag with a handle.
- Soft walls prevent injury and smothering.
- Sheer fabric allows you to see the baby sleep.
- The foldable legs can be unstable if a baby is very active.
7. Cardboard Box
It may seem odd to put your baby in a cardboard box but this has long been an alternative crib solution in Finland..
It’s a tradition dating back to the 1930s. when the Finland government would issue each new mother box that is 39” (70 cm) x 16.9“ (42,8 cm) x 10,6“ (27 cm). This stiff cardboard box is excellent for small spaces
This baby box would initially be filled with useful items for expectant mothers such as bathing products, bedding and a small mattress. Insert the mattress in the box and it is then transformed into the baby’s first bed.
- Inexpensive or free.
- Baby lies flat and securely in a box.
- Portable baby bed.
- If the box gets wet, its cardboard bottom or sides may weaken and collapse.
- There is no handle on the box, so it may be a challenge for some mothers to pick up.
- It may be difficult to find a sturdy box of similar dimensions anywhere but Finland.
2022 Safe Sleep Recommendations for Infants
In 2022, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a summary of their latest findings related to sleeping related infant deaths. It is a good idea to follow their suggestions to help minimize the chances of SIDS.
Here is a summary of their recommendations to reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths.
Bed-Sharing or Co Sleeping
Babies should never be placed with or without a person on a couch, armchair or cushioned place and instead be placed on a firm mattress by itself for sleep.
The Baby’s Bed Must Be A Flat Surface
The AAP study did a biomechanical analysis of baby’s sleep surfaces and found that any surface for sleeping slanted more than 10 degrees from horizontal put babies at risk for SIDS.
Bedding and Pillows
It is much better to swaddle infants rather than try and keep them warm with blankets. Any soft objects such as pillows, stuffed animals or bumper pads must also be removed from cribs, or bassinets. In fact, remove all of this from the baby’s nursery.
In some places, such as Maryland, bumper cushions have been outlawed for sale as of 2020 because of how they increase the risk of SIDS.
Weighted blankets are also claimed to be a cause of SIDS by the AAP. Often sold with the claim of calming a baby that is displaying anxiety, weighted baby blankets pose a smothering risk.
Swaddling Does Not Prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
The new AAP study also found that there was no evidence to support the idea that tight swaddling can prevent a baby from SIDS.
This means that swaddling your child, and walking away does not assure its safety, and that you must always check on a sleeping baby.
What are the best crib alternatives for smaller spaces?
A bassinet, bedside sleeper or baby lounger are the best of the sturdier choices for a condo or an apartment with tiny rooms.
A woven basket or a cardboard box will also do for the first two months or so, but they are likely to degrade fast if they get wet, or are used all of the time.
What are the best crib alternatives for babies over three months old?
Travel cribs, play yards and Montessori beds with a waterproof foam mattress are the best crib alternatives for a baby over three months old.
What is the physical cause behind sudden infant death syndrome?
According to a Healthline article, the exact cause of SIDS has yet to be discovered.
Biologically it is thought to be caused by a form of sleep apnea that halts breathing or a brain abnormality that affects breathing
The most significant risk factors are laying your baby to sleep on their stomach and smoking during pregnancy.
The best crib alternative is a bedside sleeper, which is a mobile bassinet that can be rolled up right beside the bed and allows the mother to keep an eye on the baby’s sleeping area.
The next best is a snuggle nest, which are light weight fat nests that are lightweight and can be placed on the bed beside you, followed by a travel crib, which gives your infant space, without any hard walls.
Finally, keep in mind that these suggestions may not work as well for a baby that is more than 3 months old, and are meant to be healthy, safe crib alternatives for infants.