Crib Notes

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Crib Notes
CRIB MOD: Raising an infant isn’t easy, and it’s especially challenging if you’re disabled. The author modified an Ikea crib with a sliding railing.

Parents with disabilities face numerous challenges when caring for a newborn. Besides the usual sleep deprivation and anxiety about such a small and dependent life, the equipment made for infants and children can present substantial barriers.

Changing tables are built for standing, bathtubs can take two (or more!) hands, and cribs require parents to have substantial flexibility and lifting strength.

My wife, Liz, is a little person; when she’s out of the house, she uses crutches and a lower-body brace that doesn’t bend. Around the house, we keep most of our storage low to the ground, and our activities are on the floor. (Dinners on a patterned rug with Japanese lacquered-table place settings are a great way to relax after work!)

By the time we brought our daughter, Madeleine, home from the hospital, we’d been thinking about the many adaptations needed to care for her. We consulted several times with Judi Rogers at Through the Looking Glass in Berkeley, Calif., a terrific organization with resources, advice, designs, and uniquely engineered equipment for parents with disabilities.

Some things were easy: a mover’s dolly to move stuff around, a padded changing pad on the floor, trays of supplies stored in our coffee table.

But Madeleine’s crib posed a challenge: cribs are built to strict regulations, and the railings are all 2½ to 3 feet above the floor, far too high for Liz to use. One of Rogers’ designs inspired me to modify a crib to be easy for Liz to use both in and out of her brace (and easier for my back, as well!), while being safe for Madeleine to sleep in unattended.

I started with an inexpensive “Leksvik” crib from Ikea, built of solid wood and easy to alter. It converts to a toddler bed, so the mattress is lower; with the legs cut off, the top of the mattress is just 8 inches off the floor.

I cut one side panel in half, and attached drawer glides at the top and bottom to rejoin the two halves. With a strip of molding on the end panel as a stop, and the fixed part of the railing screwed to the mattress frame, the panel opens and closes like a patio door and stays solidly in place. I used another strip of molding and a block of foam padding to close the gap between the rail and the mattress. I added a clevis pin underneath to lock the door, and covered the railing posts with a flexible crib bumper.

Now when we open the crib, the mattress is right there, just inches off the floor. Liz and I can both get Madeleine into and out of the crib, day or night, with no extra effort.

Detailed assembly instructions and safety notes are available at

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Michael H. Kelsey

Michael Kelsey is an experimental particle physicist and occasional tinkerer, investigating rare B meson decays at Stanford.

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