History Of Baby Cribs

crib in a modern bedroom

The modern day crib comes in all shapes and sizes, such as the mini-crib, round crib or the rectangular convertible crib. However, the key elements have remained the same, namely the high sides and vertical slats. But how has the crib evolved over the years?

Here is a look at the history of the baby crib, including the different designs that have been tried and tested over the years.

Who invented the baby crib?

There isn’t any individual person credited with inventing the baby crib which we know today. But there have been some interesting variations over the years, with inventors filing patents for their designs. However, some of them will make you shudder!

For example, the window crib. In 1919, Luther Emmett Holt in his book entitled The Care And Feeding Of Children mentioned that “fresh air is required to renew and purify the blood, and this is just as necessary for health and growth as proper food”. While Holt probably never imagined people would create a special crib based on the views in his book, some people took this a step further. For example, Eleanor Roosevelt purchased a chicken-wire cage, which she hung out of the window for her daughter to sleep in. Although this was an initial attempt to create a window crib, it wasn’t until 1922 that the first commercial patent for a window crib was filed by Emma Read. This crib allowed babies to sleep in a cage like structure suspended out of the window. Can you imagine using such a thing living on the 10th floor in a block of flats? It beggars belief. Although they were more popular in London in the 1930s than in New York, the window crib began to lose its popularity several years later.

Then there was the air crib, invented by B.F Skinner in 1944. It had a solid ceiling and three walls with a safety-glass pane at the front. This pane could be lowered so you could move your baby in and out. There was also a control box where you could regulate the temperature and humidity inside the crib. But as you can imagine, it didn’t really catch on. Apparently around 300 children used them though, and it was commercially available. However, the public just didn’t take to the air crib. It might have something to do with its appearance as it does look a bit like a fish tank, or something you’d see in a zoo with a small animal inside!

How did babies sleep before cribs?

Ever since parents started having children, they have looked for a safe place where their child can rest and sleep. From the 1600s to the 1800s, it wasn’t uncommon for children to sleep in pine rockers or in hollowed-out logs, as these were affordable, easy to make, and provided a safe place for a sleeping child. However, co-sleeping was still the preferred option for most families, and this remains the case in many cultures today.

History of baby cribs

The first baby cribs can be traced back to 1620, but they didn’t have this label at the time. They were considered as infant beds with high sides to stop a baby falling out. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that parents started elevating their cribs to keep children off of the cold ground. Wicker cribs where incredibly common at this point in time, although they weren’t considered to be the most comfortable option. Iron cribs were considered a better choice because they were seen as more sanitary. Unfortunately, they were often coated with lead paint, which is toxic.

After Eleanor Roosevelt allowed her child to nap in a chicken wire cage from her window in the early 20th century, baby cages had a boom in popularity. It was still another 30 years until cribs started to look like the modern cribs that people use now. Thanks to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission creating crib safety standards in 1973, cribs became much safer and the designs started to become more streamlined.

Other notable events in the history of baby cribs include the creation of the Graco Pack N’ Play in 1987 and the first convertible crib in the late 1990s.

Why do we put babies in cribs?

The primary reason we put babies in cribs is for their safety. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies sleep on a firm sleep surface in a safety-approved crib. The high sides ensure that babies can’t climb out and the slats provide suitable ventilation when they’re sleeping. Cribs also encourage babies to sleep independently and learn how to self-soothe when they wake up during the night.