You may have visions of making the most comfortable, luxurious place to sleep for your baby. You picture piles of soft, cozy blankets, cute bumpers, and lots of stuffed animals to keep baby company. That lovely image gets ugly real fast when you remember that any one of those things could suffocate your precious baby.
Anything other than a mattress, mattress pad and sheet puts your baby in harm’s way. Add nothing that a baby can grab or choke on or that can suffocate her or him.
Here we hope to educate you on the finer points of crib bedding. Bet there’s more to consider than you ever thought!
What Are the Best Fabrics for Crib Bedding?
The most common crib bedding fabrics include:
Cotton is a soft, durable, and breathable fabric. Organic cotton is even better since fewer chemical are used to process it, reducing the risk of allergic reactions or skin irritations. Cotton is particularly preferred in the summer, because it keeps the baby cool.
One problem with a cotton sheet is how much it wrinkles when laundered. You can iron it, if you must, but actually, when the sheet is pulled tight across the mattress, many of the wrinkles get stretched out.
Linen is a natural fiber that is absorbent and breathable. Your baby stays dry and comfortable throughout the night. Linen is also hypoallergenic and does not let bacteria, dust mites or other germs to build up.
When they are new, linen sheets are thicker and coarser than other fabrics. Sheets with a higher thread count are softer, but very expensive.
Polyester is a synthetic fabric less expensive than organic cotton or other natural fabrics. There are satin, microfiber and chenille polyester sheets that are soft and durable. They wash beautifully and without the wrinkles.
Polyester is not as breathable as cotton; you may want to save the polyester sheets for winter.
Bamboo is catching up to cotton in the “most popular sheet fabric” competition. It is the choice of parents who want an eco-friendly, natural fiber. Bamboo is hypoallergenic as well as comfortably soft.
Bamboo sheets are not as durable as cotton, linen and polyester.
Flannel can be made from cotton or polyester. The sheets are strong, soft, cozy and lightweight. Flannel sheets retain heat, so are ideal for the baby born in the winter.
What Do I Need to Know About Crib Mattresses?
A mattress should be extra firm—so firm that you might find it too firm. It may be for you, but it is not for the baby. If the baby makes a dent in the mattress when lying on it, the mattress is not firm enough.
Also, there should be no gaps between the mattress and the sides of the crib. If you can fit two fingers into the gap, the mattress is too small for the crib and puts your baby in danger.
Typically, you will be choosing between an innerspring mattress and a foam mattress:
- Innerspring mattresses are filled with cotton and wool over steel coils. The more coils, the firmer the mattress, while there is enough cushion to keep the mattress comfortable. Also, the coils evenly distribute the baby’s weight and contour to the body for better spinal alignment. These mattresses are, by far, more durable if you plan on using it again or hand it down. They are also more expensive.
- Foam mattresses are made with lightweight polyurethane foam. The foam may be memory, gel or organic.
- Memory foam is known for its contouring abilities.
- Gel foam keep body temperature regulated and conforms to the body.
- Organic foam is not made with toxic chemicals.
Foam mattresses are much less expensive than innerspring. That doesn’t mean that you should pass one up. They do not last as long, they cost less—it may all even out for you.
Toddlers can use mattresses that are a bit less firm. You might consider mattresses that are reversible: one side for an infant, the other for a toddler.
Buy a mattress that is:
- Fitted and no more than an inch thick. The pad needs to fit snugly so that it does not slide, shift or bunch.
- Hypoallergenic, especially for a baby with allergies or sensitive skin.
- Temperature regulating with a fabric that adapts to the baby’s body temperature to keep your little one cool and comfortable.
- Stain repellent to repel and release stains and odors.
Why Does the Crib Mattress Need a Pad?
A crib mattress pad provides an extra layer of protection at a modest price. It protects the mattress and, therefore, the baby from mites, dust and other environmental irritants. Also, a pad is much easier to clean than a mattress to keep the crib sanitary and fresh.
What Type of Sheets Work Best For a Crib?
When choosing sheets for the crib, take the following features into consideration:
There are two major types of sheets: fitted sheets and flat sheets. Never use flat sheets! They are a proven safety hazard. You want a fitted sheet with a strong elastic band that is about one inch wide—a sheet that fits like a second skin. There can be no excess fabric for the baby to grab or pull on.
The higher the thread count, the thicker and softer the material, the more expensive. But your baby will be more comfortable and the higher count sheets last much long. It is better to buy a few sheets that are more expensive than buy many sheets of a lesser quality.
The standard weave pattern is one stitch over, one stitch under. This is a durable stitch, and it makes the sheet soft to the touch, but it is also more susceptible to wear and tear.
A percale sheet has a tighter weave and is a higher quality. It is strong and durable and has that crisp feel that many people prefer.