Guide to Decorating Kids' Rooms

Tips for Buying Cradles and Cribs

For the first several years, a baby sleeps a lot of the time, so a cozy, comfortable, and safe bed is just as important for these little ones as for older kids and adults. Many parents skip bassinets or cradles because babies outgrow them in just a few months, after which they're unsafe. If you must have a cradle, choose one with the highest sides possible, and make sure the rocking motion is slight so baby can't fall out. A model that lets you lock the cradle into a nonswinging position is ideal. If you like a bassinet, make sure it has a stable base to avoid tipping over.

While they won't stay in a crib for more than a few years, you'll want to buy one that's sturdy, with smooth, snag-free surfaces and safely rounded corners. You'll also want to be sure the crib's slats or bars are close enough together to prevent the baby from getting his or her head caught. Many old cribs have bars too far apart, so if you're using an heirloom hand-me-down, be sure to retrofit it with extra bars.

If the crib's sides can be raised and lowered, be sure the locking mechanism that keeps the side up works well, and remind everyone to use it faithfully. (Babies don't always tell you when they're ready to make a grab for support in an attempt to stand up, and you don't want the crib side to let them down.)

See the next section for tips on choosing a bed when your child grows up and out of that crib.

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