This might seem rhetorical, but it really isn’t. How do you choose a safe crib for your baby? SAFE is the operative word here. And this particular little 4-lettered word should always drive your choices in picking up anything for your little one. Especially a product that your baby is going to spend most of her days in for several months.

With the hundreds upon hundreds of crib models in the market, finding, choosing and buying a crib can quickly devolve into a very stressful experience. And with a baby on its way or already in arms, that is the last thing you need. That having been said, it need not be a stressful process. With a little bit of homework and due diligence, you can make the process simple. Here’s a handy little cheat-sheet of the top safety-related points to consider when you go crib hunting.

  • Look for solid wood construction with thick, solid posts and rails
  • Look for mattress supports made of heavy gauge steel and offer the firmest sleep surface

  • Hardware should be steel and not made of plastic
  • Glues and adhesives should be water or soy based and stains, finishes and paints should be child safe and low on VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds).

  • Make sure that the crib bears the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association safety certification seal.

  • Bars should be spaced no more than 2 3/8 inches apart.
  • The headboards and footboards should be solid, with no decorative cutouts. Corner posts that could cause injury or snag clothing should be removed.

  • The top of the crib rail should be at least 26 inches from the top of the mattress. Periodically lower the mattress as your child gets taller.

  • The mattress should fit snugly, with no space between it and the crib walls. It should also be very firm and not sag under your baby’s weight.

  • DO NOT buy or use hand-me-downs. Safety standards are updated periodically. And unless you are absolutely certain that the second-hand crib you want to use meet the latest standards, don’t use it.

  • DO NOT buy cribs with drop-sides. It is now illegal to manufacture, sell, or even donate drop-side cribs.