Our third child was in our bed so often that we started wondering if we could just skip the crib altogether and transition him to a regular bed a little differently. When I researched this question, I realized that there were a lot of reasons to have a cribless nursery.
Parents might want to skip the crib to save money, enjoy the benefits of co-sleeping, avoid the potential dangers of using a crib, and foster more independence in their children.
Let me share my personal story of how we didn’t use a crib at all with my son after having done so with my twin girls previously. Then we’ll walk through a bunch of reasons why you might want to make the same choice!
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Our story about skipping the crib
Most people consider a crib to be one of the essential items to include on your list of baby stuff, and my wife and I were no different.
When our twins were born, we had the crib set and ready in their nursery, and we transitioned them from bedside bassinets to the crib at about the age of six months. It was at this time that they were starting to sit up and we could no longer trust them to be safe in the bassinets. Since there were two and we worried about them rolling into each other and waking up we actually put one in the crib at night and another one in a pack and play right beside it.
Don’t worry. We switched out who was in the crib each day to make sure we were fair!
Anyway, this system actually worked pretty well for us, but just before the girls turned two years old, one of them started to climb out of the crib, so we had to transition them to toddler beds at that point.
Flash forward nine years, and I took the same care to assemble, paint, and position my son’s crib in the nursery as we prepared for him to arrive in our home. This time, however, we’ve used the crib precisely zero times, and he’s 18 months old.
It’s not because we didn’t want to use it, mind you, but our son breastfed exclusively up until the age of one. This meant he was nursing during the night and it was much easier for him to get to sleep and stay that way if he was sleeping in the same bed as us. For us, it just made sense to let him sleep there and everyone was happier and got more sleep.
At this point (18 months), our son no longer breastfeeds and he takes naps on a pallet on the floor. We can also lay him down to sleep on the floor at night if we aren’t planning on going to sleep yet ourselves. Once we go to bed, we just pick him up and put him in bed with us. Very soon, we will be transitioning him to sleeping on the pallet or his own mattress throughout the night so that he can learn to sleep independently of us even if he is in the same room.
Since we have another baby on the way (due in March!), we have to make sure that he is out of the bed before that point so that my wife can breastfeed her the same way.
Overall, it has been a very positive experience for me, my wife, and our son. We had some reservations early on about whether or not it was the ‘right’ thing to do but, ultimately, I know that we made the correct choice for us. Maybe it’s the right choice for you as well!
Reasons to skip the crib with your baby
Without further ado, here are seven reasons why you might want to skip the crib with your baby. This list includes many benefits of skipping the crib with your baby that you might not have considered previously. They aren’t necessarily in any particular order, but some of these reasons might connect with you more than others. As always, I will be here with my personal experience to give you a real parent’s perspective on this issue.
1. Save money by skipping the crib
This is one of the most obvious reasons and potentially a very big reason for many of you reading this now. Cribs are one of the most expensive items that you can buy for your baby so you stand to save a lot of money by skipping it altogether.
According to What To Expect, the cost for a crib and mattress combo ranges from about $130 to over $1,000.
Although you will still probably want to purchase a mattress, saving all of that money on the crib itself can go a long way towards paying for diapers, clothes, and other necessities that your baby will most certainly need. It could also go towards toys and accessories that help stimulate your baby and help her develop both mentally and physically.
Keep in mind that the $130 quote is also for a very barebones crib with the cheapest mattress available. While most every crib that you can buy today should be safe (their safety standards are highly regulated), it probably won’t look that great and the cheapest mattresses might have issues you aren’t aware of yet.
2. Cribs can include dangerous chemicals
It’s no secret that baby stuff often includes dangerous chemicals and cribs and mattresses are no exception.
Chemicals in the crib wood itself
Baby cribs are often made from processed wood such as plywood, MDF, chipboard, or other non-solid wood options. When wood is processed, layers are often heat-pressed together with adhesives and other chemicals to form a hard material that is cheaper than solid wood. There is often a ‘real wood’ veneer topcoat added as well to make it look more natural. Unfortunately, these materials can emit chemicals known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) as well as formaldehyde which has been shown to cause health issues in humans.
Choosing a solid-wood crib that has been designated low or no-VOC can help mitigate these risks, but the cribs can be quite expensive. Do not trust a manufacturer to alert you to these dangers as they are often motivated to hide this information rather than share it with consumers. Responsible vendors that care about this issue will pursue certifications such as the Greenguard Gold standard which shows that they have tested their products extensively for these chemicals.
Chemicals in crib paint and coatings
Like the processed wood, pretty much all off-the-shelf paint is going to off-gas some form of VOC or other chemicals during and after their application. Especially with the lower-cost options, crib manufacturers often don’t pay much attention to what kind of paint they are using in their products. Clear coats and other polyurethane products also include a harmful chemical called isocyanates along with other potentially dangerous ingredients.
Check for similar safety standards as you would for the crib itself to be sure that the manufacturer is trying to provide the safest product possible.
Chemicals in crib mattresses
Like many baby items, crib mattresses are required to have some kind of flame retardant chemicals applied to them to reduce any fire-related risks for your baby. Many of the foams, especially polyurethane foam, and plastics used to make baby mattresses, can also release VOCs. The majority of these chemicals are off-gassed shortly after the mattress is opened and exposed to the air. The smell of chemicals off-gassing is familiar to many people although they might not know what it is they are inhaling. Note that just because a mattress is organic doesn’t mean that it is completely safe.
A pediatric doctor affiliated with St. Louis Children’s hospital recommends that parents purchase a firm, breathable mattress that is made from organic materials and has all chemical ingredients plainly indicated by the manufacturer. Look for safety certifications that prove the product is safe for use and avoids unnecessary, dangerous chemicals. This recommendation should help reduce the risk of SIDS in newborns as well as provide the safest overall mattress for your baby.
3. Babies can fall out of cribs or get stuck
It’s completely normal for babies to want to wiggle around, crawl, and eventually start climbing out of wherever they find themselves as soon as they are able to do so. This results in babies getting their legs and arms stuck in crib slats as well as babies crawling out of cribs and falling onto the ground. I’ve already discussed this issue in more detail here, but I’ll run through some quick statistics.
According to WebMD, falls are the number one cause of nonfatal, accidental injuries that send babies to the emergency room each year. This means about 170,000 falls happen each year and the number one cause of those falls is beds and cribs. Of course, a baby’s reason for injury will change a lot as they grow and develop, but once they become more mobile, falls are always a concern for parents.
By avoiding the crib, you won’t have to worry about your baby falling out and hurting herself or bruising her arm if it gets stuck between the slats. Using a floor bed made from a short mattress, for instance, eliminates all of these risks. Assuming that you have a completely baby-proofed room, this is likely a much safer option.
4. Breastfeeding at night is easier when bed-sharing
This one is a no-brainer.
For you moms out there that have chosen to breastfeed (good for you!), it probably feels like a chore to breastfeed your baby at night if you are constantly having to go get a crying baby, sit her down and nurse, and then put her back to bed. However, I won’t shy away from the fact that bed-sharing is a bit of a controversial topic these days.
On the one hand, the AAP endorses co-sleeping (babies sleeping separately in the same room) but recommends against bed-sharing because there is a link between infant deaths and bed-sharing.
On the other hand, you have many doctors and research studies that show bed-sharing can be very safe if the right conditions are met for safety. In fact, there are many places throughout the world in which bed-sharing is incredibly common and has even been linked to a reduction in infant sleep-related deaths in those countries.
To practice safer bed-sharing:
- Use a firm mattress without soft bedding. Move all pillows or toys away from the baby. Choose a bed without headboards or railings attached.
- Ensure the room is at a comfortable temperature and the baby is dressed appropriately.
- Place the baby on her back to sleep.
- Ensure the baby is positioned so that she can’t roll off the bed (such as between parents).
- Neither parent is a smoker, impaired by drugs or alcohol.
- Neither parent is extremely tired before going to sleep.
At the end of the day, the decision to bed-share or not is yours to make. If you feel the risk outweighs the rewards then make the best choice for you!
5. Co-sleeping is beneficial for you and your baby
Regardless of whether or not you choose to bed-share, co-sleeping is always recommended for babies and parents because it provides several benefits.
According to the AAP, co-sleeping can help reduce the risk of SIDS among infants by as much as 50 percent which is pretty staggering. To clarify, co-sleeping means that your baby is sleeping in another bed, crib, or bassinet separate from her parents but still in the same room. This can also be called room-sharing to make things a little less (or more?) confusing!
6. Skipping the crib encourages independence
This reason is a little more anecdotal, but it makes perfect sense if you think about it.
For newborns and early infants, this isn’t really a factor because they aren’t old enough yet to understand what is happening around them.
As a baby gets older, however, he is going to start to understand the idea of napping, sleeping, and having his own bed. In most cases, parents will have to pick up the baby and put him inside his crib or bed and, once inside, he is trapped there until the parents get him back out. Usually, this results in crying or other indicators that the baby isn’t happy for some reason.
If your baby has his own bed that is accessible to him (such as a floor with a short mattress) then he will quickly be able to get in and out of bed safely whenever he wants. Now, this could be a bad thing if you are trying to keep your baby in bed to sleep, and you will have to be very aware of how baby-proofed the room is that your baby is sleeping in to be safe. It does, however, basically allow you to skip the whole transition period into a ‘big boy bed’ because he is already completely comfortable in this arrangement. As he gets a little older and unlikely to roll out of bed you can then add a frame, and he will be good to go for the rest of his life!
7. Cribs can become a crutch for parents
I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve had this issue a few times in the past.
Parents can get desperate for a little break from their baby sometimes when they are overly tired or they have things to get done around the house. This can create a bad incentive to leave your baby in the crib even after she wakes up if she isn’t pitching a fit yet. While a little downtime in the crib probably isn’t a bad thing, at least one sleep expert says that you should limit this ‘downtime’ to about 30 minutes before naps and 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
I hope that you have found some reassurance that it is perfectly okay to skip the crib in many cases if you have another plan in mind. Personally, I wish that I had saved some money on our crib and spent it on something that I know we would use – like diapers!
Remember that skipping the crib is your choice, but you should consider all of the factors for your personal situation before you decide. What works for one person might not work for another and you may have unique risk factors that you need to worry about.