If you’re wondering about the differences between a mini crib vs. crib, you’ve come to the right place.
At first, I thought a mini crib was just another term for a pack n’ play or bassinet, but I was surprised to learn that they are distinct options! As a mom of two young kids, I understand the excitement and overwhelm of choosing the right crib for your little one. Having experienced both a regular crib and a mini crib, I’m here to share my insights and help you make the best decision for your family.
In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between mini cribs and regular cribs, taking into account factors such as space, safety, versatility, and budget.
Let’s jump right in and find the perfect crib that ensures your baby’s safety and seamlessly fits into your lifestyle!
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Understanding the Types of Cribs
As you embark on the journey of choosing the perfect crib for your little one, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the different types available. There are three types of cribs that we will look at full size cribs, convertible cribs, and mini cribs. The key differences lie in their different sizes and portability.
Standard Full-Sized Cribs
- Full-size cribs: A regular-sized crib is designed to accommodate a regular crib mattress. These are going to be the cheapest crib options. You can also look at getting a pack n’ play if you’re on a tight budget.
- Convertible cribs: Convertible cribs are the same size as full-sized cribs. They hold a regular crib mattress. These cribs can be transformed into a toddler bed, day bed, or full-size bed with a conversion kit.
- Mini cribs: Smaller versions of regular cribs. They are different from pack n’ plays or bassinets. They have smaller dimensions and a smaller mattress. The mattress is not the same size as a pack n’ play. They are the best choices if you don’t have much space.
- Convertible mini cribs: There are a few convertible mini cribs on the market that go from crib to regular bed.
- Portable mini cribs: This is the type of mini crib that I have. Portable mini cribs are not as compact as a pack n’ play, but they are convenient if you are only going to move them every so often. I also love that this mini crib has wheels. I used it instead of a bassinet for my second. It was nice to be able to move him around the room as needed without waking him.
Pro Tip: If you’re debating between a playard and a crib, read my full article: Playard Vs. Crib: One or Both?
Pros and Cons of Mini Cribs
|Pros of Mini Cribs
|Cons of Mini Cribs
|✅It is a small crib and takes up less space.
|❌ Limited space for a larger baby.
|✅A good option for newborn babies who are room-sharing with their parents.
|❌ Don’t have as many conversion options.
|✅Can be used longer than a traditional bassinet.
|❌ Mini crib mattresses are typically thinner and less comfortable for older babies.
Mini cribs are bigger than bassinets. If you’re looking specifically for a bassinet, check out my full baby bassinet guide.
Size and Space Considerations
Full-size cribs are suitable for larger nurseries or when space is not a significant constraint.
The interior dimensions (the inner dimensions on the inside of the crib) are regulated by Federal Law, so they will be standard across all brands.
The US measurements for full-sized cribs are 28 inches wide by 52 inches long (they can be ± 5/8 inches in either direction). The metric measurements for full-sized cribs are 71 centimeters wide by 133 centimeters long (they can be ± 1.6 centimeters in either direction).
The outside measurements of the crib are going to be slightly larger depending on the design and whether or not there is a changing table or dresser attached.
Pro-Tip: SO many of my parent friends have told me about their toddler climbing up on the changing table or dresser attachment and getting out of their crib in the middle of the night. I would avoid cribs with attached furniture because you don’t want your child to crawl out and get hurt.
Mini Crib Sizes
Mini cribs are ideal for small nurseries or small spaces. A lot of new parents opt for mini-cribs during the room-sharing phase of newborn sleep because they can easily fit in their bedroom, but will grow with the child for a few years–unlike a bassinet that is only safe for a few months.
The dimensions of a mini crib are based on the standard mini crib mattress size which in US measurements is 24 inches wide by 38 inches long. Or in metric, mini cribs are 61 centimeters wide by 96.5 centimeters long.
You might find mini cribs in other sizes, but my recommendation would be to stick to the average mini crib mattress size of 24X38. That’s because you can easily find sheets in those sizes, and additional mattresses (since some mattresses that come with mini cribs are quite thin and uncomfortable for a growing baby).
The safety of your baby should be your primary concern when looking for the best crib. There are certain safety requirements for cribs of all sizes that need to be met. You can check for baby crib and mini crib safety standards from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
You can also check the sleep safety guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). You want to create a safe place for your child to sleep.
This list is not complete, you need to check with CPSC and AAP to make sure you know and understand all of the requirements for safe mini cribs and cribs, but here are a few safety features to look for:
- Mattress support testing: to make sure the mattress support doesn’t fail or collapse.
- Fixed side rails: do not use cribs with drop-sides.
- Label requirements: your crib should be labeled with proper warnings and safety information
- Opening requirements: for the mattress support system, slats, etc. They should be properly spaced to avoid entrapment (head, fingers, etc. getting stuck between components).
- Screws and fasteners: the structural elements of the crib should not be attached to wood screws.
Again, this isn’t a complete list and these requirements change, so make sure to check for updated safety standards before purchasing your crib.
Weight Limit and Mattress Height
Typically a standard-size crib and mini crib both hold up to 50lb.
This information is provided by the manufacturer. Your child will likely outgrow either the crib or mini crib in length (how tall they are) before they reach the maximum weight capacity. They might also emotionally outgrow their crib and be ready for a toddler bed or floor bed sooner.
Most cribs (standard and mini) come with adjustable mattress positions. This is for the convenience of the parents. When your baby is a newborn (maybe the mom is recovering physically from birth), it’s convenient to have the mattress higher so you don’t have to bend over as far to get the baby in and out.
Once your baby is showing signs of moving (rolling, sitting, getting on hands or hands and knees) it is time stop swaddling, and to lower the position of the mattress.
Pro-Tip: Your crib manufacturer should provide you with height and weight requirements for each position of the mattress, but if you’re in doubt, move your mattress lower. You don’t want your baby to accidentally roll over or climb out and fall.
Versatility and Long-Term Use
You can buy both convertible mini cribs and regular cribs. The difference comes down to the size of bed they convert to. Mini cribs convert to a smaller bed, while full-sized cribs convert to a bigger bed.
Full-Size Crib Convertibility:
Full-size cribs can grow with your child and convert into a toddler bed or full-size bed, whereas mini cribs only convert to a twin-size bed.
Most (if not all) crib manufacturers require you to buy conversion kits (and mattresses) separately. So it might seem like a huge cost-savings to buy a fancy convertible crib versus a non-convertible crib… But at the end of the day, you are still going to need to buy the mattress and frame. Once the crib converts to a full-sized bed, the only pieces that you are still using from the original crib are the sides as the headboard and footboard.
That being said, 4-in-1 or 5-in-1 cribs that convert to toddler beds (with a side rail) and day beds (no side rail) are awesome options to extend the longevity of your furniture.
Being able to use the crib as a daybed is also a great option if you decide on a different type of bedding for your toddler (we see you bunk beds 👀).
Pro-Tip: Your toddler might transition easier to a toddler bed with a rail, because it is virtually the same crib that they have always slept in, with just a short rail on one side instead of a full-sided rail.
Mini Crib Convertibility:
A lot of mini cribs now have the ability to convert to twin-sized beds.
Again, you will need to buy the conversion kit, and you’re basically only holding onto the side rails as the headboard and footboard.
The other downside of a convertible mini crib is that it doesn’t transition to a toddler bed. Depending on your little one’s emotional development, they might not be ready to go from a small mini-crib to a twin bed right away.
Portable Cribs and Easy Storage
Portable Mini Cribs
I chose to buy a portable mini crib (one that folds) instead of a convertible one.
I eventually bought a convertible standard crib once my son outgrew the mini crib and will use that to convert it to a toddler bed and eventually a full-sized bed.
The reason I opted for the portable mini crib is that I knew we were going to be limited on space in our room, and I knew we were going to be taking several longer-stay trips where it was more convenient (and better for his sleep) to have the crib that he was used to.
Grandparents also love folding mini-cribs because they can be easily stored in a guest-room closet and only brought out when their grandbabies are having a sleepover!
I also love that portable mini cribs have caster wheels so they can easily be rolled from storage when they aren’t in use.
Pack n’ Play
If you’re debating a pack-n-play or a mini crib, think about where and how you are going to use it. They make a great travel crib.
If you’ve got a smaller car, or are going to be taking a trip on a plane, you’ll need a pack n’ play. Most pack n’ plays are not comfortable for older babies to sleep in long-term… But they work for traveling or visiting relatives and are convenient for families on the go.
If you’re going to have an extended stay, I think a mini crib is the way to go.
It also depends on where you are going to store your mini crib or pack n’ play… But generally, I have found that both slide right under the beds in our house!
Bedding and Accessories
I cannot stress this enough, you have to follow safe-sleep guidelines to keep your little one safe in their crib. Babies should be on a firm, uninclined (flat) surface, free from loose bedding, blankets, or any other items.
This includes buying the right crib mattress and fitted sheets. Your crib instruction manual will tell you exactly which size of crib mattress to buy. Then, depending on the mattress you buy, they will tell you which size of fitted sheet to buy.
You’ll want to look at your crib manufacturer’s instruction manual on which size of mattress to buy depending on whether you go with a full-size crib or mini-crib.
There should be no gaps between the mattress and the crib sides. These can be hazardous and cause a child to become entrapped and suffocate.
For full-sized cribs, the mattress must be at least 27 1/4 inches wide by 51 1/4 inches long, with a thickness not exceeding 6 inches.
Fitted Sheets and Safety
You do not want any loose sheets. If a sheet doesn’t fit tightly (and I mean tight), don’t use it.
Some mattress manufacturers have their own mattress covers and sheets so you are guaranteed a perfect fit.
Sealy 2-Pack Toddler Bed and Crib Mattress Waterproof Protector
Definitely buy the 2-pack! These have held up through blowouts, vomiting, sippy cup spills, spit-up, and just about any other liquid-related crib disaster you can think of. I have 2 for each crib… So if something happens in the night I have another one to put on while the first washes.
Gerber Baby 100% Cotton Standard Crib Fitted Sheet
The Gerber Baby brand fits our mattresses and cribs well. They are very tight, with deep enough corners that my children can’t slip them off. Different brands will fit better on different mattresses (depending on what material they are made of), so it might take a little trial and error.
My firstborn did not sleep… And I was desperate for a solution! So as someone who has owned and used a bassinet, a portable mini-crib, a regular crib, and pack n’ play, I feel uniquely qualified to help you make this decision on an important piece of furniture for your new baby.
Ultimately, the biggest difference between a mini crib and a full-size crib is in their dimensions and convertibility options. You should consider your available space, budget, and long-term needs when choosing the right crib for your baby and your family’s lifestyle.
Just remember to prioritize safety standards and look for reliable brands and certifications before making your final decision. Once you have your preferred crib in hand, don’t forget to register the product with the manufacturer so they can let you know about any safety problems and recalls.