The Only Crib Bedding You Should Use for Your Baby

Potential Dangers of Bumpers, Blankets, and Comforters

Parents standing beside crib in nursery, mother holding sleeping baby, cropped view
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While you may think of a crib adorned with sweet baby bedding as the focal point of the nursery, that vision does not meet current safety standards to prevent SIDS and suffocation. Instead, the recommendation is that there only be a fitted sheet on a firm crib mattress, with no other bedding or soft objects in the crib with your baby. Before you rush out to buy a chic crib ensemble or put ​your baby to bed with a homemade quilt, make sure you are aware of these safety considerations.

Warnings on the Dangers of Crib Bedding

The American Academy of Pediatrics along with other child care organizations like SIDS First Candle Alliance and Health Canada all agree that crib bedding poses a significant danger to babies. Their recommendation is that the only thing your baby needs in his crib is an appropriate-sized firm mattress and a well-fitted crib sheet. The mattress should not show an indentation when the baby is lying on it.

You should not include crib bumpers, baby comforters, quilts, blankets, sleep positioners, stuffed animals and the like in the crib. These are all linked to an increased risk of death or injury caused by smothering, entrapment, and strangulation.

To keep your baby warm while sleeping, use infant sleep clothing and sleeping sacks instead of blankets. Use a crib designed to prevent the risk of head entrapment rather than using crib bumpers to attempt to retrofit an unsafe crib. U.S. safety standards were updated in 2011, so look for a crib manufactured after that date. Unsafe cribs are not allowed to be sold or re-sold, including at thrift stores or rummage sales.

Passing on Baby Bedding Saves Money

If you choose to follow the AAP’s suggestions on baby bedding, while you might be a bit bummed that the crib doesn’t look “complete,” find comfort in the money you will be saving. You might want to invest that extra cash in quality crib sheets – which most certainly will get used and abused with inevitable repeated washings. Additionally, you might be able to sleep more soundly knowing that you are taking appropriate precautions for your infant’s sleep safety.

Bumper Pads and Baby Comforters Still Marketed

Despite the warnings, baby bedding sets are still available to be purchased in stores. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has not banned their sale. If you choose to use these items, scrutinize what is available and select baby bedding products better designed with safety in mind. Some poorly constructed items might be more prone to cause an accidental injury than others.

The AAP cautions against buying products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. There are wedges, positioners and special mattresses that may make these claims, but none have been shown to be effective.

Better Uses for Baby Comforters

Again, it cannot be underscored enough that baby comforters and blankets pose a danger to babies. You may receive one as a gift from friends and relatives, including those they made themselves. It may seem impolite to explain that you won't be using it in the crib. Consider using it as a wall hanging or drape it over the crib for decoration and remove it when you put your little one down to sleep.

Best Crib Sheets

What you need to concern yourself with when purchasing crib sheets is that they stay on nice and snug. Sheets that are are not pre-washed by the manufacturer are likely to shrink. Those that only have sections of elastic rather than elastic encompassing the sheet may also refuse to stay in place.

To better prevent this from occurring, look for sheets that have elastic the whole way around the sheet, not just at the corners. Ideally, 100 percent cotton sheets will hold up the best after repeated washings, though they may tend to be a bit wrinkly when coming out of the dryer. If that bothers you, look for cotton blend sheets that have a higher ratio of cotton.

A very practical suggestion is to give your sheets a test run. Wash them several times according to the manufacturer's instructions. If after repeated washings you must fight with them to stay on, return them to the store.

Finally, you can check out special crib sheets designed specifically with safety in mind. Some of these sheets slip on the mattress like a pillowcase, others have a unique device that attaches the sheet to the mattress.

While baby bedding used to set the tone for the nursery, there are other ways for you to celebrate the theme of the nursery without relying on products that may affect your baby's safety.

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