Mini Crib vs Crib: Everything You Need to Know

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Trying to decide between a mini crib vs crib? In this article, I outline the pros and cons of buying a mini crib vs standard size crib, and considerations for each, such as crib mattresses and availability of Greenguard Gold options. I also outline the differences between regular cribs and their mini cousins, and other options that make impact your purchasing decision, such as getting a convertible mini crib that can last into the future.

While choosing colors and themes for your new arrival’s nursery is one of the best parts of waiting for a baby, choosing their crib and crib mattress is one of the most important parts.

Your newborn’s crib is their sanctuary. It’s the one place they’ll spend the most time. And it’s an important decision!

You probably already know you want a crib that meets Consumer Product Safety Commission standards (keep in mind new cribs sold in the USA must meet these constantly changing standards, which is why I think it’s better to buy a new crib and new crib mattress, rather than a used one or family heirloom).

And if you’re reading this blog, you probably also know you want an eco-friendly and non-toxic crib that is Greenguard Gold certified.

But what about how the crib actually fits into your home?

These days, plenty of families live in small spaces, and fitting a standard size crib into a tiny apartment or bedroom is a stretch.

We are apartment dwellers ourselves, and even though our daughter is out of the crib stage now, I feel like I’m constantly trying to reorganize her room to find better storage and reclaim floor space.

I think because families and the homes we live in look so different these days compared to decades past, manufacturers have stepped up with some new solutions.

And in this case, a mini crib is a growing trend. These smaller size cribs provide the same sleeping safety and comfort for your little one, but with tighter dimensions and a smaller footprint.

If you’re wondering how a mini crib compares with a standard size crib, and what the pros and cons of mini cribs vs full sized “normal” cribs are, keep reading. I’ve got the scoop below!

mini crib in a children's nursery

Mini Crib vs. Standard Crib

What are Full Size Cribs?

A full-size crib or standard size crib is a fairly large, fairly permanent fixture in your child’s nursery.

If you close your eyes and imagine what regular cribs look like, you’re most likely picturing a standard size crib.

Full size cribs have a solid design, and often come with extra bells and whistles, such as storage shelves, an attached changing table, or drawers underneath.

Most full-size cribs also convert to a toddler bed when your little one is ready to transition from crib to big kid bed, using the same mattress you used in the full sized crib.

Convertible 4-in-1 full size cribs also convert to a twin bed or full sized bed, which means that 1 piece of furniture can often last you from the newborn stage into teenage hood, albeit with a new mattress required when going from toddler bed to twin bed or full sized bed.

What is a Mini Crib?

As the name suggests, mini cribs are smaller in size, offering a more compact and perhaps cozier spot for your baby to sleep in.

Generally, these smaller versions are cheaper than their full size crib cousins. They’re also a great option for small spaces. The diminished dimensions make them a good choice for a small nursery, when you’re trying to make room for baby to sleep in your bedroom near your bed, or for apartment living where space is at a premium.

Along with being smaller, a lot of mini cribs are foldable and somewhat portable too. While I wouldn’t consider them full-on portable cribs (they’re generally still constructed to be fairly solid), these cribs can be stored and moved around your home. Some of them also fold up a bit more easily.

What’s the Size of a Mini Crib vs a Standard Crib?

In the US, the size of a standard, full-size crib is defined by law.

Following US regulations, regular cribs must have interior dimensions of 52 inches (133cm) in length and 28 inches (71cm) wide. The top of the crib rail, measured from the mattress, must be 26 inches high, and the bottom of the crib mattress support must be 6 inches off the ground.

In contrast, the dimensions of a mini crib are usually around 24 inches wide x 38 inches long. On a mini crib, the rail only needs to be 20 inches high.

However, keep in mind that mini crib sizes are not standardized to the same degree that regular cribs are. Different brands and models may vary at bit in terms of size and dimensions.

Because of this, you’ll need to take care when buying a mattress for your mini crib and when getting sheets to fit your mini crib mattress.

Having well-fitted, tight sheets in the crib is safest for babies and it helps to protect against SIDs in younger infants.

With their smaller length, a mini crib usually suits children until they are around 2 years old, whereas a standard full-size crib usually can be used until they are around 3 years old.

Are there other Differences Between Full-Size Cribs and Mini Cribs?

Mini cribs are made to be somewhat portable and maneuverable, so many of them have caster wheels on them to allow you to move them from room to room easily. These wheels can be great for moving, but not so good for safety (make sure they lock). Some people don’t like how they look, either.

The weight of a mini crib will be less than its standard crib counterpart too, making it easier to move around and set up if you’re solo.

A lot of mini cribs are also foldable and store easily, making them great for your baby to have a place to sleep at grandma’s house, that’s a bit more substantial than a pack n play.

What About Crib Mattresses?

Standard Crib Mattress

Regular-sized cribs have a standard mattress size which means it is really easy to replace and change the mattress in a full-size crib.

Standard cribs must use a mattress with a depth of 6 inches, which are generally firm, especially for infants under 12 months.

To meet crib safety standards, a mattress should fit the crib size you buy it for perfectly and not have gaps around the edge as this can cause an entrapment hazard.

Because standard sized cribs and mattresses are standardized, it’s not too hard to find a perfect fit.

Mini Crib Mattress

A mini crib mattress can vary in size depending on the shape and model of the mini crib. As they are so varied in size, when you buy a mini crib they are usually sold with a mattress included.

These mattresses can vary in quality and thickness though, with some being a thin mat, and others meeting strict quality control guidelines.

Be aware that if you do manage to get a thicker mattress to fit your mini crib, that it doesn’t come too far up the side rails. A mattress that sits too high up means it will be easier for your tot to ‘escape’ once they become more mobile.

Pros and Cons of Mini Cribs

Pros of Mini Cribs

Mini Cribs Have Smaller Proportions for Small Space Living

We’ve already mentioned the dimensions of a mini crib makes them a lot more flexible for houses where you just don’t have a lot of free space.

If you have a smaller apartment and floor space is at a premium, having a full-sized crib may simply not be an option for you.

Mini Cribs are Easier to Move and Set Up

Mini cribs are often foldable too, which makes them easy to move and arrange when needed. This can be useful for when you have a second baby and need to fit both children into one room.

The wheels that a lot of mini-cribs have are great for moving too, but double-check that they are locked in place when your baby is sleeping inside it.

Mini Cribs are Well Sized for Newborns

Often a bassinet is used for newer babies, as they provide a cozier space for them to sleep in. AAP safety standards recommend that a baby should sleep in their parents’ room for the first 6 months of their life, so a mini-crib provides a smaller space, like a bassinet would, that fits the parent’s room much more easily than most standard cribs would.

With a mini-crib , you wouldn’t also need a bassinet. You could use the mini crib until 2 years old or so, without the need for a transition from bassinet to crib.

Mini Cribs are Less Expensive than a Full-Size Crib

A mini crib is generally cheaper than a larger full-size crib. If you’re on a budget and need to conserve pennies, a mini-crib could offer good savings.

Space to Use Two Mini Cribs if You Have Twins

If you find out you are having twins, it can be quite a shock to need double of everything. And double the size nursery to fit them in! If your nursery is on the smaller side, having two mini-cribs could be a space-saving (and cheaper) option.

Mini Cribs Can Be a Great Choice For a Second Baby

If you have two children within a close time period, it may be that your first child is still sleeping in their crib that you would otherwise use for your second baby.

A mini-crib will last longer than a bassinet for baby number 2, and will allow you to reuse the larger crib once your older child switches to a toddler bed.

Mini Cribs Are Great for a Grandparent’s House

If your child is a frequent visitor to their grandparent’s house, or has regular sleepovers elsewhere, it may be worth getting a mini crib that’s kept in their house.

With many being foldable, they can store the mini crib between visits, while still providing a stable and comfortable place for your little one to sleep safely.

Cons of Mini Cribs

Your Baby May Outgrow it Faster than a Regular Crib

Having smaller dimensions, a mini crib may get outgrown before you want to transition your child to a toddler bed.

This may mean a larger crib will be necessary later on, or you need to put your infant into a toddler bed slightly before they’re ready to make the transition.

This happened to us, as we made an international move right around the time our daughter was 18 months, and her crib didn’t come with us. Instead of buying a new crib, she slept on a mattress on the floor until she was ready for a toddler bed.

Harder to Get Crib Sheets and Mattress Replacements Compared to a Regular Crib

As they vary so much in size, it is often more difficult to buy a replacement mattress or to find crib sheets to specifically fit your mini-crib.

For baby crib safety, it is always best to use fitted sheets that won’t come loose easily to wrap the crib mattress. Specific sheets for mini cribs can often only be bought through the baby crib manufacturer and can be more expensive.

This can also affect the colors and designs you choose for your nursery, as the styles will be more limited.

Easier to Climb Out of than Standard Cribs

If your baby turns out to be a little bit of an escape monkey, be aware that the safety standards of a mini crib only require the side rails to reach 20 inches high.

Full-size cribs have the side rail usually at around 26 inches, making them more difficult to climb out of.

Keep in mind this height difference when your child becomes more active or starts standing in their crib!

Mini Crib FAQs

How Long can my Baby Sleep in a Mini Crib?

This really depends on your baby’s size, as it is height and weight restrictions that will ultimately decide if your baby can sleep inside the mini crib.

Most mini cribs have a maximum weight capacity of around 45 pounds, which means that usually, your baby will be too large for the crib somewhere between 2 and 3 years old, whereas for the safety of your baby it is still recommended that a little one sleeps in a crib until they are around 3.

It will more likely to be the height of your baby that limits how long they can sleep in a mini-crib for.

You can get convertible mini cribs that turn into toddler beds, but some require a conversion kit to do so. If you do decide to go this route, it’s worth buying the conversion kit at the same time you buy the mini crib itself, just in case the version you buy becomes discontinued by the time you are ready to convert it.

Can a Newborn Baby Sleep in a Mini Crib?

Mini cribs are fine for newborns, as long as you follow the sleep safety requirements. They are actually a great size for having in your own bedroom, next to your bed to keep an eye on your little one, and the wheels make them more convenient for moving around.

Can I use Regular Crib Size Sheets in a Mini Crib?

It’s important that crib sheets are well-fitted, which means you can’t use regular sheets in a mini crib, as they’re too big and baggy.  

Folding and packing the rest of the full-size sheet under the mini cribs mattress can pose a potential threat to your baby.

The fitted sheet should be snug, not loose, to ensure the safety of your baby. A properly fitted crib sheet helps to reduce the risk of suffocation and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Final Thoughts on Getting a Mini Crib vs Crib

On reflection, when looking at mini-crib vs standard cribs, I’d say mini cribs are a great option if you’re looking at ways to save space. On the flip side, it’s worth recognizing they’re less versatile, don’t last as long, and can be difficult to find sheets for!

Whichever you choose to go with, check reviews for cribs you buy online and with others who have used them first. Always check the structural strength and construction of any crib before you allow your little one to sleep in it.

If you know any other families that are having babies soon and are contemplating purchasing a regular crib vs mini crib, feel free to share this guide or any of our other recent posts with them.

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