Ah, cribs. Your child is going to spend much of hs or her first couple of years in one for nap time or bedtime. And with babies and toddlers spending more time in that one place than just about anywhere else in the house, a crib quickly is seen as perhaps the most important baby item - and perhaps the one item that you need to get right.

Cribs have become safer over the years, but there has always been a risk, so it is good to check on several things when going crib shopping. And yes, we advise that you do get a new crib, as new safety regulations have deemed most prior models as dangerous to use, especially with babies.

Here are some things to look for in your crib:

  • Keep the design very simple. Fancy finials or other scrollwork could be a hazard if babies get their clothing caught.
  • Check spaces. The distance between slats, for example, should be 2 1/4 inches or less.
  • Other protrusions. Look for screws sticking out, sharp edges or any other protrusion that your child's clothing could get caught on, especially around the neck.
  • Check strength and workmanship. A slight shake of the crib can tell you if it's solidly made. Check for any cracks in wood.
  • Buy the mattress too. Find the mattress that gives a snug fit in the crib. If you can put more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib frame, then the mattress is too small.
  • Get the right sheets. Use crib sheets especially made for cribs and crib mattresses; you really shouldn't try to convert regular bed sheets. The sheets have to fit tightly around the mattress.

Following these guidelines will help you find the most comfortable and safest crib for your little one.