The Only Crib Bedding You Should Use for Your Baby

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.

The safest sleeping environment is a fitted sheet on a firm crib mattress, with no other bedding or soft objects in the crib. Before you buy a chic crib ensemble or put ​your baby to bed with a homemade quilt, be aware of these safety considerations.

Why Crib Bedding Is Dangerous for Babies

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), along with organizations including SIDS First Candle Alliance and Health Canada, warns that crib bedding poses a significant danger to babies. Its recommendation: The only thing your baby needs in their 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.

To keep your baby warm while sleeping, use infant sleep clothing and sleeping sacks instead of blankets.

Do not place crib bumpers, comforters, quilts, blankets, pillows, sleep positioners, stuffed animals or anything else in a crib. These are all linked to an increased risk of death or injury caused by smothering, entrapment, and strangulation.

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 June of 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.

Unsafe Bedding Is Still for Sale

Despite the warnings, baby bedding sets that include bumpers and blankets are still available for purchase. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has not banned their sale. In 2019, New York state banned the sale of crib bumper pads.

While you might be a bit bummed that a crib doesn’t look “complete” without bedding, find comfort in the money you will be saving. You might want to invest that extra cash in high-quality crib sheets—which most certainly will get used heavily with repeated laundering. Additionally, you might be able to sleep more soundly yourself knowing that you are taking appropriate precautions for your infant’s sleep safety.

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.

You may receive baby comforters and blankets as gifts from friends and relatives, including those they made themselves. It may seem impolite to explain that you won't be using these items in the crib. Consider using a quilt as a wall hanging or draping a blanket over the crib rail for decoration; remove it when you put your little one down to sleep.

Best Crib Sheets

Crib sheets need to stay on the mattress snugly. 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 entire edge of the sheet may also refuse to stay in place.

To prevent this, look for sheets that have elastic the whole way around the sheet, not just at the corners. Sheets made of 100% cotton will hold up the best after repeated washings, though they may 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.

Give your crib 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.

A Word From Verywell

Baby bedding used to set the tone for the nursery. But there are other, safer ways for you to celebrate the theme of the nursery without relying on products that may affect your baby's safety. Consider wall hangings, paint or wallpaper, window treatments, and more (always keeping safety in mind, such as securing the cords on window blinds).

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Moon RY. How to keep your sleeping baby safe: AAP policy explained. American Academy of Pediatrics.

  2. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162938–e20162938. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2938

  3. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. A safer generation of cribs: new federal requirements.

  4. New York State Senate. Senate Bill S3788A.

By Jennifer White
Jennifer White has authored parenting books and has worked in childcare and education fields for over 15 years.