alternatives to cribs

With the latest crib safety standards that came into effect this summer, a lot of used cribs are being taken off the market. All drop-side cribs are now considered unsafe, and there are a lot of other new standards as well. If you bought a crib before June 28, 2011, chances are good that it doesn’t comply with the new safety standards. So much for reusing and recycling. If you want your baby to sleep in a crib that complies with current safety standards, you pretty much have to buy a new one.

And you can’t even resell your old one to offset the cost.

Fortunately, cribs are actually a very recent invention in human history. They are not the only place where babies can sleep safely, and they’re certainly not the most environmentally-friendly place for babies to sleep, either. There are a lot of places where your baby can sleep that don’t require you buying a brand-new piece of expensive furniture.

1. Cosleeping. You’ve probably heard plenty of criticism of cosleeping–it’s hard not to. Plenty of people (including experts) will tell you that cosleeping will kill your baby. But the reality is that a lot more babies die from SIDS (which, frighteningly, used to be called crib death) than while cosleeping. Practiced safely, cosleeping has a lot of benefits. It promotes breastfeeding, usually means better sleep for everyone, and helps regulate your newborn’s temperature and breathing. It’s usually least safe in families who do it as a reaction to poor sleep instead of planning intentionally to do it. So even if you don’t plan to cosleep, it’s a good idea to know the cosleeping safety guidelines and to have your room and bed ready if you find yourself lying down with your baby out of desperation in the middle of the night.

If you’re planning to cosleep, I recommend getting rid of your bed frame and just sleeping on a mattress on the floor. And spend the money you saved by not buying a crib or a bed frame on a nice organic latex or foam mattress. Ours has spoiled me for any other bed.

2. Baby Hammock. The Amby hammock was recalled a couple of years ago, resulting in a furor of concern about baby hammock safety. However, hundreds of crib recalls over the years haven’t caused us as a society to ditch cribs, and one hammock recall shouldn’t cause us to ditch hammocks. (Also, Amby did manufacture a replacement part to correct the defect, so if you get one, be sure you get the additional part.) Many babies love hammocks because the cradle position, combined with the rocking and bouncing of a hammock, mimics their experience in the womb. Hammocks use a lot fewer materials and resources than cribs–mostly fabric (often organic cotton) and some metal for the frame. Like cosleeping, hammocks are a common way for babies to sleep in many parts of the world and have been for generations. Personally, I would hesitate to put a newborn in a hammock (but I wouldn’t let a newborn sleep anywhere but right next to me, where I can feel that she’s breathing!). But I used one with my daughter from about six months on (although she only liked it for naps).

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