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I Never Used a Normal Crib. Here’s What I Recommend

Though a crib is the most traditional baby bed, a lot of parents choose alternative options. If you want something other than the typical crib, keep reading to discover 4 alternatives, compared by cost, space, safety, and freedom of movement.

sleeping baby

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Of all the adventures that come with parenting a baby, sleep can be one of the hardest. New parents find themselves asking…

What is safe sleep?

Should we sleep train or not?

What bed should we buy?

Today I want to help you answer that last question. While there’s no single right answer for everyone, a crib isn’t always the best solution. So in this blog post I want to explain what alternatives you and your baby have to cribs.

Why You May Want an Alternative to a Crib

Generally, there are 4 reasons parents may want an alternative to a crib:

  • Cost,
  • Space,
  • Safety, and
  • Freedom of movement for the baby.

Cribs can cost anywhere from $100 to $1000 or more. Depending on the features you want and how fancy you’d like it to be, your baby’s crib might be one of your biggest expenses. The alternatives I’ll share in a moment, on the other hand, are usually under $100. 

A lot of cribs are also large and bulky. They take up a significant amount of space in a room and they are often hard to store or move. Most alternatives to cribs are small, easy to move, and easy to store.

Safety is an important aspect when it comes to infant sleep. We all want our babies to be safe. But sometimes our gut feeling doesn’t agree with common advice. Cribs can be safe. But so can many alternatives.

Finally, cribs are one of the most restrictive bed options for young children, in terms of them being able to get in and out on their own. That may be exactly what you want. But some parents prefer to allow their children, even babies, to have freedom to move how and where they want.

Alternatives to a Crib

Overall, there are 4 alternatives to a traditional crib. The first one is specifically for newborns. The others can be for babies of any age. Let’s look at each option in terms of the reasons we just talked about: cost, space, safety, and freedom.

Crib Alternative 1: Bassinet (for newborns)

You’ve probably heard of a bassinet. It sounds like an old-fashioned thing but they are still used today, albeit in a more modern form.

A bassinet is a small bed made specifically for newborns (up to about 4 months). Many are designed to go right next to the parents’ bed.

bassinet

Cost

Bassinets, like cribs, can range from affordable to unreasonable. Some good options are as little as $50.

However, a bassinet is not a long-term solution. No matter what you spend on a bassinet, you’ll have to choose another option once your baby gets a little older. For that reason, a bassinet isn’t always the most cost-effective choice.

Space

Usually, bassinets are much smaller than cribs and take up very little space.

Safety

If set up and used properly, bassinets are safe. The sides are almost always breathable mesh. The frames are usually metal for sturdiness. They are fully enclosed so there’s no chance of the baby falling out.

Freedom

Freedom of movement doesn’t really apply here since newborns cannot move on their own. That said, if we include rolling over in freedom to move, a bassinet falls short. Most are too small to allow a baby to comfortably roll over, so once your baby is to that stage, it’s time for a bigger bed.

Product Recommendation

I didn’t buy a bassinet with my first baby. If I were to buy a bassinet next time around, this is the one I’d buy. I like how affordable it is, and the reviews say it’s sturdy, safe, and super portable.

Crib Alternative 2: Pack ‘n Play

The most common alternative to a crib is a Pack ‘n Play, or “playard” to be general. They are often used as travel beds, but why not use it as your baby’s bed all the time? You can even buy one with a bassinet-height insert so you can use it with a newborn and an older baby.

pack n play

Cost

Pack ‘n Plays are pretty cheap, compared to cribs and other beds. I got mine brand-new, with the bassinet insert, for $80. 

Space

Pack ‘n Plays are about the same width as a typical baby crib but are usually shorter, so they take up a little less space than most cribs. The main benefit of Pack ‘n Plays is how easy they are to move and store. They’re easy to break down and they always come with a nice storage bag.

Chances are you’ll buy a Pack ‘n Play anyways, for travel, so if it’s your everyday crib too, you get a two-for-one!

Safety

Pack ‘n Plays are recognized as safe for babies to sleep in. That said, you’ll always hear the caveat that you can’t add a mattress or it becomes unsafe.

To be clear, I am not a sleep expert or doctor so this is not professional advice. BUT. I am a mom. Here’s what I did.

The “mattress” that comes in the Pack ‘n Play is not soft at all and I wanted my baby to be comfy. Of course, I also wanted her to be safe. My biggest concern was that a mattress can be a suffocation hazard if it is too soft. So I found a mattress that has a firm side meant for young babies.

I felt comfortable with that. It was noticeably firmer to the touch than a typical soft mattress and it didn’t allow my baby to sink in or make an indent.

In addition to mattress safety, two other things can be a concern if you use a Pack ‘n Play instead of a crib.

First, they usually have a weight limit of 30 pounds and a height limit of 35 inches. (For reference, most babies reach these limits at about 2 years old.)

Second, Pack ‘n Plays can tip over once babies are big enough and can stand. This can be remedied by anchoring the Pack ‘n Play to the wall.

Freedom

Like a crib, a Pack ‘n Play doesn’t provide freedom to your child. There is more space than a bassinet for your baby to roll around, but they can’t get in and out by themselves. 

Product Recommendation

I like Graco’s Pack ‘n Plays. This is the one with the bassinet insert that I bought.

Unfortunately, the mattress I bought for our Pack ‘n Play isn’t available anymore. But I spent some time looking around and found a few I would be comfortable buying. This one from Dream On Me seems firm enough. And this one from hiccapop also looks good.

To be absolutely clear, I haven’t tried either yet. But when I need a replacement, I’ll be buying one of those.

Crib Alternative 3: Floor Bed

The floor bed is a Montessori idea. And it’s exactly what it sounds like – a mattress directly on the floor.

baby on floor bed instead of crib

Cost

A floor bed is typically cheaper than a crib because all you need is a mattress. That said, if you choose to get a twin mattress (for older babies) rather than a baby mattress, that will raise the price.

A frame is usually unnecessary, but you can find floor bed frames that raise the bed just barely off the floor. Those can get expensive if you choose to buy one.

Space

The amount of space a floor bed takes up will depend on the mattress you buy. If you buy a crib mattress, it will take up the same amount of room as the crib (though of course the wall will feel much more empty).

If you buy a twin mattress, you’ll need more room than you would for a crib.

Safety

Floor beds are generally safe. If your baby “falls off,” they’re only a few inches off the floor so they won’t get hurt, especially if they’re on carpet.

As with a Pack ‘n Play, you’ll want to find a firm mattress for young babies (about 9 months and under) if you choose to use a floor bed that early.

Apart from those things, floor beds do present two unique safety challenges. 

First, it’s possible that your baby will roll off their bed and end up somewhere on the floor. If someone comes into the room in the dark, that could be dangerous. Of course, with a night light or extra caution taken, this won’t be a problem.

Second, because babies can get out of a floor bed on their own, the room they are sleeping in needs to be totally babyproofed. Don’t put any soft things like pillows and blankets in the room. Put covers on outlets and hang cords up and out of the way. Make sure all furniture is anchored.

Freedom

Floor beds are, obviously, the ideal when it comes to freedom of movement for your child. He or she will be able to get in and out of bed safely by themselves.

Crib Alternative 4: Co-sleeping

The final alternative to a crib isn’t actually a baby bed at all. It’s your bed!

Co-sleeping (also called bed-sharing) is a hot topic. Some love it. Some are absolutely against it. I happen to fall somewhere in the middle. I won’t make an argument one way or the other. This is just the information as I have been able to discover it.

baby co-sleeping instead of in crib

Cost

Because your baby will be sleeping in your bed, this is usually the cheapest option. It costs nothing. That said, some people like to use a baby lounger to keep the baby contained and elevated above pillows and blankets. Those can cost anywhere from $30 to over $100.

Space

Again, co-sleeping takes the cake in terms of space. If your baby sleeps in your bed, no extra space is needed.

Safety

Safety is the big question. Let’s look at it from a few angles.

First of all, more parents co-sleep than you probably think. Because it’s so frowned upon by big organizations, a lot of people don’t publicly share that they choose to co-sleep. But lots do, and they do it safely and happily.

Second, a few specific risk factors make co-sleeping dangerous but don’t apply to everyone. Those factors are 1) alcohol consumption, 2) smoking and using other drugs, and 3) sleeping on a couch or chair. Outside of these three situations, co-sleeping can be a safe option.

In fact, a study done in 2014 stated that “there was no significantly increased risk for SIDS associated with bed-sharing [co-sleeping] in the absence of sofa-sharing, alcohol consumption and smoking.”

And because of that, they concluded that “to give blanket advice to all parents never to bed-share with their infant does not reflect the evidence.”

Finally, an adult bed is much higher off the floor than a child’s bed or flood bed. If a baby were to be left unattended or sleep near the edge, there is a risk of falling off. For this reason, it’s a good idea to put the baby in between you and your husband or partner or in the center of the bed while sleeping.

Freedom

Co-sleeping is a tricky one when it comes to freedom of movement. Older children can get in and out safely on their own. But babies will need help to do so safely. So co-sleeping doesn’t really allow for freedom of movement until kids are older.

My Recommendation

I like to make recommendations to you, my readers, because I always wanted straightforward recommendations when I was pregnant. I wanted to know what the people and sources I trusted really recommended.

So my recommendations aren’t meant to convey that my way is the right way. But I hope they’re helpful to you in making your decision. 

My recommendation is to do what I did: get a Pack ‘n Play.

With your first kid, especially if you’re not established in a home yet, you’ll likely want a smaller, cheaper option that travels easily. And if you get the bassinet insert, a Pack n’ Play can last from day 1 until you’re ready for something new.

The weight and height limits likely won’t matter until your baby is about 2 years old, which is right around the time they’ll be ready for a toddler bed. The main concern will be tipping. And to avoid that, you can anchor the Pack ‘n Play to the wall.

That said, if you need or want to transition sooner, you can, of course, choose from the other alternatives on this list.

To be real, I’m right here in it with you, mamas. What worked with my first may not work with my second. If that’s the case, I’ll keep you updated!

The important thing to remember is that you are your child’s mom for a reason. Trust your intuition and do what you feel is best for your family. That’s the best recommendation I could give you.

Until next time,

Allison

READ MORE:

The Baby Registry List I Wish I’d Had

How to Prepare for Postpartum: The Ultimate Guide

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