When To Lower Crib Mattress? An Easy Guide to Understanding Your Baby's Crib Setting - Baby Journey blog

When To Lower Crib Mattress? An Easy Guide to Understanding Your Baby’s Crib Setting

You glance at the camera, and in shock you see your little one trying to climb up and over the crib side rail! After rushing to grab them and prevent them from falling, you hastily Google when to lower crib and find that…there’s no magic age or hard and fast rules? 

It can certainly be confusing for parents to know when to adjust their child’s crib setting. You don’t want to do it too early and have to reach way down low to pick up your little one.

Alternatively, you definitely don’t want to lower their crib mattress height too late, making it easy for them to climb out. But don’t fret! Our helpful guide aims to tell you everything you need to know about how and when to lower your child’s crib. 

Baby Sleep Safety and Baby’s Crib Mattress Height Recommendations

Baby sleep safety recommendations, as laid out by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) [1] are really important. They help parents prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related injuries. 

The AAP has the following recommendations regarding when to lower the crib mattress. Prior to your child being able to sit up, you should lower the crib mattress to a height that prevents your child from being able to pull themselves up and over on the side or simply leaning against it. This varies from child to child, and you will need to do some experimentation. 

However, the newborn crib height or the crib’s highest setting is only safe when your child cannot sit up. When they can sit up, you will need to lower it to the point that it stops them from being able to fall out. Then, as they become stronger and more adept you will likely need to lower it to the lowest crib setting. 

The goal of crib mattress height adjustment is to protect your little one from falling out or climbing out. You can read more on how to pick a good crib mattress here.

It is important to note too that the AAP recommends you only use a crib produced after June 2011, example being the Newton crib and its crib mattress. Before June 2011 the old safety regulations were in place, which allowed drop-side cribs.

Drop-side cribs are now banned from being produced or sold as they are not safe. Aside from this, a variety of crib types meet the current crib safety standards, including things like mini-cribs and travel cribs. 

Abide by current safety standards banning drop side rail cribs. - When To Lower Crib Mattress? An Easy Guide to Understanding Your Baby's Crib Setting - Baby Journey blog
Abide by current safety standards banning drop side rail cribs. Source: pinterest.com

Understanding the Different Crib Setting Adjustments for Crib Safety

Most cribs have three height settings. Additionally, most crib sides follow a standard crib height so the positions are relatively the same from model to model.

The crib mattress height from the floor is usually not as important as the crib’s mattress height from the top of the crib side. Let’s look at crib height by age to get a better idea of how low should a crib mattress be. 

Highest Crib Setting.

The highest crib setting is usually the preferred crib mattress height for a newborn. This setting will have the least distance between the mattress and the top of the crib rail.

It will have the most distance between the crib’s mattress and the floor. It is commonly no less than 26 inches. If you are transitioning from a bassinet to a crib, you will probably want this setting. 

Newborns generally can’t sit up, pull themselves up, or climb; making the highest crib setting for a newborn safe. It also makes it easy for parents to reach their child, this is especially true for bedside sleepers or in-room cribs. 

Middle Crib Mattress Setting

The middle crib setting can be used as the crib height for an infant. You can change to this crib height as soon as you no longer feel comfortable with the highest setting.

It is a good idea to transition to this setting before your child can sit up. Generally, parents find themselves making this move before their baby is five months old.

Lowest Crib Setting

Lowering the crib mattress to the floor generally doesn’t happen, instead, you will use the lower crib mattress setting. As soon as your baby shows signs of sitting up or is capable of sitting unsupported, typically around five to eight months, you should move to the lowest setting. Around eight to ten months, your baby may try to climb. 

Most little ones can still be in the crib with the lowered mattress at this point. However, if you have an adept climber [2] they may need to transition out of the crib and into a toddler bed as no crib one-hundred percent is escape resistant.

For children who don’t have an interest in climbing, the move to a toddler bed should occur when they’re thirty-five inches tall. You can also flip your baby’s crib mattress from the firm newborn side to the softer toddler side. 

Crib Mattress On the Floor

You don’t have to use a toddler bed, however. You could put the mattress on the floor. There isn’t really any such thing as a floor crib, instead, it’s just a mattress on the ground; sometimes with a frame and sometimes without as commonly seen in a Montessori inspired playroom. These are generally only safe for toddlers and children who climb walled cribs. [3]

Some walled cribs might allow you to place the mattress directly on the floor, though most don’t. Don’t try to DIY it either as you could create dangerous gaps for your child. 

When your child outgrows their crib they may be ready for a toddler bed. - When To Lower Crib Mattress? An Easy Guide to Understanding Your Baby's Crib Setting - Baby Journey blog
When your child outgrows their crib they may be ready for a toddler bed.

When to Lower Crib Mattress Height? Tips to Help You Decide On A Low Crib or High Crib

The biggest consideration with walled cribs and crib mattress height settings is your child falling out. It’s important to think about your child’s abilities, height, and baby’s age when deciding when to lower the crib to the lowest setting or the middle setting.  

Wondering how to lower a crib? Thankfully, manufacturers made it easy for parents to understand how to lower the crib mattress to their desired setting. You should follow the specific instructions provided with your product.

In most cases, there are brackets into which the mattress frame fits. You will need to adjust all four sides (or corners, sharp edges) of the mattress frame and check for security before using the baby’s crib. Once the baby’s bed is all set up, you can then proceed to fit a mattress protector and crib sheet onto the crib mattress.

So now you’re at the lowest crib height setting, how do you put down and pick up your baby from a standing position?! For short parents, it can be tough! 

Try: 

  • Keeping your baby as horizontal as possible when laying them down
  • Swaddles can be helpful (if age appropriate) to avoid the startle response
  • Get your body as close to the railing as possible. Then, lower your arms with your child first, then bend at the waist. 
  • Try laying your child down horizontally but with their feet making contact with the crib’s mattress first, slowly lowering their upper body, and finally their head. 

Hopefully, you won’t need a step-stool when you lower the crib mattress, though some parents do! 

Laying your child down drowsy but awake is ideal if you’re a short parent trying to lower them into a low crib. 
 - When To Lower Crib Mattress? An Easy Guide to Understanding Your Baby's Crib Setting - Baby Journey blog
Laying your child down drowsy but awake is ideal if you’re a short parent trying to lower them into a low crib.

Transitioning Your Baby From the Crib to Toddler Bed

After you’re at the lowest setting, it’s normal to ponder when to switch from a crib to a toddler bed. The AAP states that most kids should move to a toddler bed between two and three years old. However, a two-year-old may struggle to stay in their own bed and not get out during the night. 

You can try waiting closer to three years as long as your little one can’t fall or climb out of their crib. At three years old, most kids will have a better idea of boundaries and nighttime expectations.

You may want to move to a toddler bed if your child shows signs [4] including:

  • They can climb out of their crib
  • They’re too big for their crib
  • You are potty training and they need to access the bathroom during the night
  • A sibling is on the way and they’ll need the crib
If your child can climb out on the lowest setting, they’re probably ready for a toddler bed.  - When To Lower Crib Mattress? An Easy Guide to Understanding Your Baby's Crib Setting - Baby Journey blog
If your child can climb out on the lowest setting, they’re probably ready for a toddler bed.

Other Sleep Safety Precautions 

No matter your crib height settings, there are other guidelines you should follow to keep your sleeping baby safe and possibly save your baby’s life. Emergency rooms treat dozens of sleep related injuries and your baby’s safety while sleeping, especially while in separate baby’s nursery, is vitally important.  

Sleep positioners or crib bumpers should not be used. Your child’s mattress should be firm and flat. Keep your baby’s crib clear of any items. This includes toys, stuffed animals, and blankets until they are at least one year old. [5] These things may wrap around your baby’s neck or cover your child’s head, leading to suffocation or strangulation that not even your best baby monitors can prevent. 

When you put your child down, put them down on their back. As your child begins to roll you usually don’t need to roll them back to their back. However, it’s important to always place them on their back when you first lay them down. 

You should put your baby to sleep in the crib on their back. - When To Lower Crib Mattress? An Easy Guide to Understanding Your Baby's Crib Setting - Baby Journey blog
You should put your baby to sleep in the crib on their back.

Before you even begin to think about baby’s crib mattress height, you might want to consider a bedside sleeper, bassinet, or other in-room sleep option. When your child is a newborn and/or infant, it’s advisable to room share with them until around four to six months. [6] The thought is that it makes it easier for parents to monitor their children, reducing the risk of SIDS. 

Sleep environments are best kept a little cool. You can use things like a sleep sack or swaddles, but don’t let your baby overheat.

As your baby grows, continue keeping their sleep space safe when it comes to toys, blankets, and other hazards. 

No More Crib Height Confusion

We hope that you have found this article useful and are no longer confused about what crib height setting your baby’s mattress should be.

If you have any tips or thoughts to add on to baby’s crib mattress height adjustment, comment on and follow our Pinterest account at @babyjourney0183

When To Lower Crib Mattress? An Easy Guide to Understanding Your Baby's Crib Setting - Baby Journey blog

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