PARENTING GUIDE | THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CRIBS | HEALTHY AND SAFE CRIBS
You’ve got the wonderful news and you cannot contain your ear-to-ear smile. Congratulations and Welcome to the club! There will be some sleepless nights, some “holy crab” situations but this is the most amazing journey of life. Those tiny feet will make huge prints on your heart and will take you on the highest peaks of emotions, “Oh the places you’ll go, there is fun to be done“…
Nursery shopping is also an adventure: diapers, baby bottles, pacifiers will be on your mind and they are all important but the most important of all your purchases, what your baby will use it for the longest of time is your furniture. Let’s start by assuring you that we are not proclaiming to know it all; we’re students in the art of furniture-making but, over the years, we’ve learnt a few things about baby cribs. Children will sleep in their cribs for many hours and many days and years so there are a few things we want you to know.
A newborn will sleep in her/his crib for 16-18 hours for the first couple of months and then for 10-14 hours as they grow up and are more active. There are some exuberant stages, toddler (we shall not say “terrible 2s” because children are terrific not
terrible) so brace yourself for it. Your child will touch the crib, breathe the air in that nursery, some will chew on the sides to alleviate some of the teething discomfort so what’s on the INSIDE of your crib is equally important to what’s on the OUTSIDE.
STANDARD CRIBS AND CRIBS STANDARDS
The US Government, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to be more specific, regulates most baby products sold in the United States, including the crib category. The CPSC is organized by the Government but it only employs inspectors and code enforcement bureaucrats, the actual terms of the standard and testing methods are defined by the American Society for Testing and Materials in short ASTM.
Considering that there are hundreds of brands and designs and cribs may come in many flavors, it is a great thing to have Standard Regulation. Full-size baby cribs must comply with 16 CFR 1219 which stipulates specific dimensions and component spacing: the interior space ANY full-size baby crib should be 28″ by 52 3/8″ (+/- 5/8″ tolerance margin). There are other types of cribs (smaller, portable, oval or round) which fall under the incidence of different standards and, if tested and certified, are generally safe to use. You will likely find some products being advertised as CPSC compliant, some also as ASTM compliant which is the same thing but well, it sounds better to say the same thing twice.
The CPSC standard is certainly great. This establishes basic safety requirements and eliminates a lot of guessing or questions for new parents. Another added advantage is all these standard cribs will need mattresses which, as you had guessed, they are also regulated and fall into some standard specifications… Duh
CPSC requirements are very important BUT the standards stop short of looking into what the product is MADE OF. You will be happy to know what’s on the outside but very surprised (we won’t say shocked) to find out what may be on the inside of your child’s furniture. We strongly advise that you stay away from products who have VOCs, Formaldehyde, or use Benzen-based glues. Yes, you may easily spot some of these mass-produced cribs for they share a few traits: they are generally very cheap, they have very shiny finishes and they all smell very bad. CPSC does not establish any requirements pertaining VOCs, Formaldehyde, Glues content or general requirements for material types and chemical composition so you’re on your own (sort of…). Don’t panic there are many things that you can do and the most important thing of all is RESEARCH.
When you start looking in depth and finding out what’s INSIDE these products, no website shall be left un-browsed, no blogger-mommy experience will be left unread and no retailer and brand un-scrutinized so you’ll need to navigate and filter all the claptrap.
YOU GET WHAT YOU GET, AND YOU DON’T GET UPSET
There is a lot of information available online. When I say a lot, I mean saying “way too much”. You’ll find many “instant-experts” who can swear by some statement then you’ll find other experts who preach precisely the opposite. As a parent myself, discovering inaccurate information on established consumer reports websites, that was the awakening moment.
TOP 5, SAFEST 10 or ABSOLUTELY WOW 15 baby cribs, those are all out there. There’s nothing wrong about a low price, quite the contrary but, if any of these “best cribs” costs as much as a bag of peanuts, just take a step back and let is all sink in. Can the best product (any product for this matter) be the cheapest in the respective category? I know my ALDI receipt looks way different than the one from Whole Foods…
No shallow assumptions here but I strongly advise Research: there is a lot of material, labor, packaging and shipping. And then there is marketing, product compliance testing, retail cost and service cost; be it solid wood, or be it made of whatever material it shall be made, could BEST also be Cheapest? If you guessed “NO”, then you are probably on the right track. You generally get what you pay for and, when it comes to safety of your children, this ain’t a child’s game.
I read on a safety advocate website that one of these “top cribs” is made of “renewable New Zealand sturdy pine wood” and could not help but crack a smile. Pine is a softwood and whether is grows in New Zealand or in Lake Tahoe, it’s still pine for otherwise would be called something else. Mass harvesting and for cheap mass-produced cribs and New Zealand don’t really go well so that’s another flag for me. And then I get to “sturdy” and let it all out. Anybody can say anything about anything and even proclaim themselves to experts therefore, research is important.
Some other parenting expert chose a $149 crib as their top 5-in-1 convertible option. I figured that I can skip dining out for 2 days this week to get this awesome crib so I clicked on the link but surprise: all retailers and even the manufacturer calls this as a 4-in-1 convertible crib. Wait, is it 5 in 1 or 4 in one? Alright, I figure that even safety experts can sometime mistaken a 4 for a 5, so I am still very interested in this $149 wonder product. I read thru the description to see what makes this the best and I find that its “size” makes it great, has a “universal design” and it is “meticulously tested to meet or exceed all applicable ASTM and CPSC safety standards; made with high-quality pine wood and composites“. I admit that I am falling for the “meticulously” part but hold on a second: the Experts just said that this is “100% solid sturdy New Zealand pine“, the manufacturer says “and wood composites” what happened to that New Zealand pine thing? And then we already established that CPSC regulates the size and slat distance of ALL Cribs sold in United States and ALL are tested to meet CPSC requirements for spacing of components. To make matters even more interesting, if I go on Consumer Product Safety Commission and search for “Recalls by Company“, surprise, surprise, these same best brands seem to have an interesting recall record. So what exactly makes these crib models “best choice” of anything after all?
I am still struggling to answer this question but I’ll let you make this determination for yourself. Moving on.
CRIBS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL
Cribs can be made of many materials in different fashions and finished differently too. You can find solid wood cribs, Particle Board, MDF (aka Medium Density Board), Styrofoam, Plywood, Metal or a combination of these. Yes, there are many cribs on the market where intricate decorative mouldings are made of high-density foams but you will never get to see this because they are painted so beautifully. Most of the cribs are made either exclusively from a type of material, or a combination of wood solids and wood byproducts. Consumer Product Safety Commission and ASTM experts have done a terrific job is setting up the general guidelines for structural specifications of baby cribs but their requirements stop at dimensional specifications. It is fair to state that a majority of these cribs sold in the United States do meet these Federal codes but it is equally fair to state that, unless there is an incident or a complaint, C.P.S.C. does not have actively investigate product quality consistency and never looks at what’s inside these products. Here are some terms you may want to know:
- SOFTWOOD. Yellow Pine, Fir and Spruce and in general all conifer essences are called Softwoods. These trees and forests are found primarily in the northern hemisphere. They have a fast growing rate but very low fiber density which makes them lighter and much easier to cut and bend. While this may be a good thing during the manufacturing stages, it makes these softwoods unsuitable for products with extended usage expectancy such as furniture, cabinetry or flooring. Pine can be easily scratched, it expands and shrinks extensively and does not tolerate environmental variations. See that “sturdy New Zealand pine” it’s still pine and it’s as light as soft as a feather.
- HARDWOOD. Beechwood is considered one of the finest common hardwoods for furniture manufacturing scoring higher than its siblings, red oak, birch and maple. While all woods have certain applications that may excel at, Beechwood exhibits a great tolerance to environmental changes, superior resistance to mechanical impact and excellent finishing properties. You may hear about “fine hardwoods” also referred to as rare essences like Mahogany, Walnut and Cherry but these are generally used for very high-end adult furniture products and not utilized for baby furniture.
- PLYWOOD. This material is made of thin layers of wood or veneers, glued together in boards or blocks thru a process that requires mechanical pressure and thermal acceleration. There is a substantial amount of glue used in making plywood but due to consumer awareness (thank you), there is also an increased number of plywood products which use water-based and non-toxic glues. If less than 3 plies (sheets of wood) plywood is actually considered solid wood and more suitable for large decorative surfaces like the backing of dressers or drawer elements.
- medium density fiberboard also known as MDF it is an engineered product made from wood leftovers. Wood residuals like saw dust or small pieces are processed into very fine particles which are then mixed with certain resins and glues and other components into a fluid mass. The mixture is poured into the shape of boards or panels and with the help of pressure and temperature agents, it dries off into solid boards which are used for a vast number of building applications.
- particle board is also an engineered product made from wood leftovers and the process is very similar to the MDF with the major difference being the size of the particles which are used to comprise these boards.
- styrofoam and other types of synthetic foams are generally based a polystyrene product which expands through a chemical or thermal reaction after which is dries of and solidifies retaining the particular shape of a cast, moulding or else. Generally used for thermal insulation or craft applications, the foam has good water-proofing properties.
The use of small caps for the last 3 material options listed herein is not an accident. There is nothing particularly exciting about these materials when it comes to baby furniture. While there are some types of byproducts which are generally safe to use around babies, the safest way is the natural solid wood way.
~ 100% Solid Wood is 100% Healthy and 100% awesome for your Baby. It is a fact! ~
THE INSIDE IS WHAT MATTERS THE MOST (MY MOTHER SAID THIS)
We try to be an objective judge and so we apologize if some of our comments are too blunt; beyond the design forms, beyond the look or color of a crib, there is a wealth of things to be discovered. Health is the greatest wealth and good health is something that you can support and promote by consistently selecting good products. Furniture’s only long term side effect on your children should be great memories and dreams and all the smiles that get tattooed on your heart. Do care to look inside and scrutinize what you’re getting for your child. Dare to shake the crib and smell the drawers. Do care to ask questions and question labeled statements.
Here’s what you should be looking for :
- Solid Wood – the more, the merrier. If you cannot afford hardwood (durability, longevity and inner strength) look for solid wood of any kind. Beechwood, Birch and Oak and Maple are the most common hardwoods you will find in in furniture but if you cannot find room for it in your budget, Pine or Poplar are alright. You may have to do a lot of touch-ups when they scratch, it may not last you till the teenage years but solid wood of any kind is a better option.
- Glues – Few manufacturers talk openly about glues for your don’t get to see these, but glues contain the highest density of toxic VOCs within the furniture. Look for water-based glues or our organic tree-sap based glues which are mighty healthy. If the furniture smells like rubber or gasoline, it’s probably a good cue to stay away from it.
- Finishes. Well of well. We’ve gotten to the inconvenient segment called finishes. Quality and long lasting finishes take time for application, refinishing and curing. A $179 crib, you don’t have the ability to apply the finish in multi-layers,wait for it to dry, re-apply and wait for it to cure, etc. You mix the stain, accelerator and sealant agent, spray it over and done. Stay away from polyurethane or extra shiny finishes. Ask questions. Water-based finishes are awesome, they are generally more durable than oil-based finishes and super healthy. There are a lot of organic vegetable-oil based options and those are great as well. Organic Oils are generally porous in nature which may make them a bit high-maintenance but some have a wax ingredient which increases durability. Our oil-based finishes contain bees-wax and they are mighty healthy.
- GREENGUARD Gold Standard. GREENGUARD is a 3rd party voluntary certification meaning that manufacturers are NOT required to get their products tested but do so on their own. Managed by UL Laboratories, during the GREENGUARD certification process a product is placed into a sealed evaluation chamber from where air samples are collected and evaluated. Trained specialists look for, and measure certain chemical elements such as Benzene or Formaldehyde so one GREENGUARD Gold certified product is probably much healthier than one which is not tested. Yes, some manufacturers only certify a single product model or category but then slap a big banner on their entire website to mislead their audience; others stretch their certification pedigree to the maximum but all in all, the GREENGUARD certified cribs provide for a much healthier product. At Romina Furniture, ALL our convertible and classic cribs as well as ALL dressers and accessories, are GREENGUARD Gold Certified for parents’ peace of mind. This is the SPOT UL Portal where you you should find any Greenguard certified product.
FINAL WORDS AND RESOURCES
Talking about baby furniture may not be as exciting as demonstrating some household gadget; or going on an African safari. We apologize for this. Safety is not meant to be fun but you can have a lot of fun when Safety is at work. You might find some of these comments harsh and preachy but this is exactly how this post is intended and more importantly it is highly objective. The main goal is to raise awareness, provide accurate information and help you navigate the ocean of disinformation that is created in today’s online environment. We invite you to scrutinize our statements and find out for yourself how the Best Baby Crib looks like. We invite you to scrutinize all other experts who make claims of safety and quality and ask questions. You are about to embark on the most important journey of your life and we want to make sure that you are packing the best tools you can find and making the best decisions for you and your family.
Having a baby is lot of responsibility. Raising a child will also cost you some financial resources. You will spend thousands in diapers and milk formula and a lot more on childcare and education. These may go into the Expense section of your budget but they are actually an Investment. They are an Investment in your family and your future and help you convert material form and into emotional treasures, priceless memories that will fill your heart and mind and will travel with you wherever life takes you. Good enough is never enough, we hope you will shoot for the best.
Consumer Product Safety Commission: https://www.cpsc.gov/
GREENGUARD Program, General Information : http://greenguard.org/en/index.aspx?mobile=true
GREENGUARD Gold Certified Products Database: https://spot.ul.com/main-app/products/catalog/
16 CFR1219 Crib Standard: https://onsafety.cpsc.gov/blog/2011/06/14/the-new-crib-standard-questions-and-answers/
General Wood information: https://en.wikipedia.org/
Top Baby Cribs | Best Convertible Cribs | Solid Wood Cribs | Safest Baby Cribs | Non-Toxic Baby Cribs | GREENGUARD Certified Cribs | Eco-Friendly Baby Furniture | Good Life from Day 1