Safer Cribs and Nursery Furniture
You only want the best for your precious new bundle of joy...so why would you settle for anything less than the safest possible nursery for her? Furniture materials and finishes can contain chemicals that are known to be toxic when ingested or inhaled. There are some federal regulations in place limiting chemical content, but many feel that they are not stringent enough, especially given how many hours babies spend per day in their primary sleeping environment. With tiny bodies, narrow airways, and developing lungs, babies can be particularly susceptible to the effects of these chemicals. If you're interested in creating the safest possible sleep environment for your child, read on!
In this guide, we'll help teach you what to look for and what to avoid when shopping for nursery furniture, and will also share some of our favorite picks for favorite furniture brands and products.
You may also be interested in our Complete Guide to Non-Toxic Baby Products, which has non-toxic suggestions across many other categories (from mattresses to car seats to toiletries) as well!
Note: We developed this list by summarizing TotScoop parent favorites and adding a few hand-picked editor favorites and new releases. Our picks are 100% unbiased — we never accept compensation in exchange for coverage. This page may contain affiliate links; see our full disclosure.
What to look for
Here's what to look for when evaluating cribs & nursery furniture for your mini-me.
Solid wood is safest. Engineered woods, such as medium-density fiberboard (MDF), contain chemical adhesives that may emit volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), like formaldehyde. Where engineered wood is necessary, choose CARB-II compliant MDF (See Certifications below).
Look for paints and varnishes that do not contain lead or phthalates, and have low VOC emissions. The least toxic furniture is finished with a food safe oil or left unfinished.
Foam may contain all the chemicals listed above, as well as hazardous flame retardants. Where foam is unavoidable, look for CertiPUR-US foam (see Certifications below).
Where possible, avoid furniture with plastic components in areas your baby can access with her mouth. Safer plastics are bisphenol A- (BPA-) and phthalate-free; however, the research on the chemicals replacing BPA (such as BPS and BPF) is in its infancy, and there are indications that they may be just as disruptive.
It is worth buying products specifically designed for children as they are subject to stricter safety mandatory requirements by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Phthalate and lead levels must be lower than in regular furniture (< 0.1% and < 0.01-0.009%, respectively). That said, many of the products that we have featured below go above and beyond even these standards.
To earn GREENGUARD Gold certification, a product must meet strict chemical emissions standards. GREENGUARD Gold is an even more stringent standard "designed to define low-emitting materials suitable for environments where people, particularly children and sensitive adults, spend extended periods of time, in particular schools and healthcare facilities."
CARB-II compliant MDF
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) strictly limits MDF formaldehyde emission levels (< 0.11 ppm). Any finished product sold in California must meet these stringent standards. Outside of California, look for “California Phase 2 Compliant” or “CARB-II compliant” in the product descriptions of MDF-containing furniture.
CertiPUR-US certifies foam made without heavy metals, formaldehyde, dangerous phthalates, or the flame retardants considered the most toxic (PCBEs, TDCPPs, and TCEP [“Tris”]). The VOC emission of CertiPUR-US foam must be less than 0.05 ppm.
Top picks: Non-toxic nursery sets (cribs, dressers, changing tables, storage)
Here are some of our favorite brands offering safer nursery furniture sets.
Think you will have to shell out for a healthy crib? Think again. The IKEA Sniglar crib, available for a jaw-dropping $80, is made entirely of solid unfinished beech (even the base on which the mattress rests!). Beech is more durable than the dent-prone pine you will see in many other affordable cribs. The matching solid beech Sniglar changing table ($35) contains MDF and lacquer in the bottom panel; however IKEA claims to only use formaldehyde-free lacquers (see Improvement #42) and its fiberboard exceeds European guidelines for formaldehyde emission, which are comparable to CARB II standards (< 0.10 ppm). The Gulliver Crib is another popular pick from IKEA, but its rail (also known as your baby’s favorite teething toy) is made of MDF and coated with lacquer, so it does not match the health standard set by the Sniglar crib.
Everyday pick: DaVinci
DaVinci has built its brand around exceeding CSPC safety standards (e.g. the lead content in their finishes is less than 0.001% — nearly ten times lower than mandated). DaVinci uses a non-toxic, multi-step painting process and touts undetectable levels of phthalates in its furniture. Their most popular crib is the Kalani (from $180). Their Jenny Lind ($199), Emily (from $150), and Jayden ($239) are other nice options. All of DaVInci’s full-size cribs are GREENGUARD Gold certified and made of 100% sustainable New Zealand pine wood, and all the ones mentioned above convert to a toddler bed (the conversion kit is even included for the Kalani and the Jayden). Matching dressers and changing tables are also available; as a rule, these include some CARB II compliant MDF, and are not GREENGUARD certified. If your space is limited, DaVinci also makes several mini-cribs (though these are not GREENGUARD certified). You can browse all DaVinci cribs on the manufacturer website.
Babyletto is another brand owned by the same company as DaVinci and holds itself to the same high safety standards, but offers irresistibly modern designs. Our favorite Babyletto crib is the GREENGUARD Gold-certified Babyletto Hudson 3-in-1 Crib ($379), with its simple lines and a chic low-rise design. It is made with sustainable New Zealand Pine Wood and a lead- and phthalate-safe non-toxic finish. The matching dresser changer ($379) is constructed from sustainable New Zealand pine wood and Carb II Compliant MDF (but is not GREENGUARD certified). Here are links to browse all Babyletto crib models on Amazon and on the manufacturer website (keep an eye out for the green badges distinguishing GREENGUARD certified items).
Premium pick: Oeuf
Oeuf is a premium nursery furniture brand well known for its clean lines and modern design. Their products aren’t made of entirely solid wood (rather incorporate solid wood as well as CARB II compliant engineered wood), however their entire nursery collection is GREENGUARD Gold certified. While we do wish their cribs were made out of solid wood (a feature offered by many other competitors at this price point), if you have your heart set on buying one of them (such as the gorgeous Classic Crib or Sparrow Crib, you could certainly do worse. However, for the ultimate non-toxic yet design-conscious setup, consider buying a solid wood crib from another source (such as one of our suggestions listed above), and supplementing with an Oeuf GREENGUARD Gold certified dresser, changing tray, and/or storage piece. Most of Oeuf’s offerings in these categories would nicely complement any natural, walnut, or white-colored crib.
Green Cradle is the gold standard of nursery furniture. All of their pieces are made from solid wood (a variety of hard woods are available), and incorporate no engineered or composite woods. They can be purchased either finished with food-safe linseed oil or unfinished. Moreover, all of their pieces are made in the USA, from sustainably grown wood. Green Cradle produces nursery sets in a wide range of styles, from traditional to more modern. Cribs run $995-1895; the most affordable is the beautifully simple Gratitude Slat Crib (pictured at left). Matching dressers, changing tables, bookcases, and more are also available.
Pacific Rim is another premium nursery furniture brand. Their solid maple crib ($1299) is finished with natural oil or beeswax, or can be purchased unfinished. Their matching dresser (from $810) has a solid wood frame, with drawer bottoms made from your choice of engineered wood or Medite (a CARB II-compliant type of particleboard). One of our editors owns a Pacific Rim twin bed and can attest to the incredible quality!
Top picks: Non-toxic rockers/gliders
Complete your nursery with a rocker/glider that fits well with the rest of your decor. Here are our two favorite brands for non-toxic chairs.
Dutailier is the Cadillac of gliders. Their classic gliders ($400-1000+, depending on features) are the most comfortable we’ve tried, bar none. They have high backs for good support, and the higher-end models recline and can be locked in various recline positions. If you’re looking for more of a contemporary look, they have some newer additions to the line such as the Moderno Swivel Glider ($699). All Dutailier frames are made mostly of solid hardwoods (except for the sides and some assembly components) and the cushions are made with CertiPUR-US certified foam. According to Dutailier customer service, their foam no longer contains any flame retardants as of March 2014 (but beware earlier models that you may find on Craigslist or similar).
If you’re looking for no less than the most stunning nursery chairs on the market, check out the gorgeous gliders/rockers from Monte Design. Our favorites are the Joya Rocker (chair $995-1095, ottoman $395), Jackson Rocker (chair $1195, ottoman $385), and Como Glider (chair $1195, ottoman $385). Monte Design constructs its chic furniture using solid wood and engineered wood with no added formaldehyde. It also uses only CertiPUR-US foam with no chemical flame retardants.