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.
The Dangers of Crib Bedding
Crib bedding poses a significant danger to babies. It recommends that the only thing your baby needs in their crib is an appropriate-sized firm mattress and a well-fitted crib sheet. The bed should not show an indentation when the baby is lying on it.
Do not place crib bumpers, comforters, quilts, blankets, sleep positioners, stuffed animals and the like in a 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. Unsafe cribs are not allowed to be sold or re-sold, including at thrift stores or rummage sales.
Bedding Essentials Before Your Baby Arrives
There are countless pieces of baby bedding available to buy, but you don’t need that much to keep your baby comfortable when sleeping – although you might want to have a small stash of the basics ready for when mishaps happen.
Before your baby arrives, it makes sense to stock up on some essential baby bedding. Go for a minimum of:
- Three bottom sheets
- Three top sheets
- Three blankets.
You’ll more than likely get blankets as presents, but it’s always helpful to have a few extra.
These are very useful, especially as your baby gets older and moves around in the cot more. A fitted sheet won’t ruffle and come away from the mattress due to a squirming baby. However, they can be tricky to fit if the cot mattress you’ve bought is quite stiff and heavy. Fitted sheets tend to be made of cotton jersey or terry (fine towelling cotton/polyester mix), which won’t require ironing.
These tend to be used as a top sheet in combination with a blanket. They’re acceptable for use as a bottom sheet, too but are generally more awkward to put on than fitted sheets. Flat sheets tend to be made either from flannelette or plain cotton. Plain cotton has the advantage that it can be washed at higher temperatures, although it doesn’t feel as soft as flannelette.
The types of blankets most commonly available are cotton cellular, acrylic cellular and fleece.
Cotton Cellular Blankets
The cellular structure of these 100% cotton blankets mean they’re warm in winter and cool in summer. They’re also lightweight and are washable at higher temperatures than fleece or acrylic.
Acrylic Cellular Blankets
These are extra-lightweight and quick-drying, with the same year-round usefulness as the cotton cellular type. They’re similar in price to cellular cotton blankets but tend not to be as soft on the skin as cotton or fleece.
These are made from 100% polyester, are soft for your baby and easy to wash and dry. They tend to be more expensive than other types, though.
Baby Coverlets and Comforters
A coverlet or comforter is a lightweight baby bedding version of a quilt that can safely be used for babies under one year old because it doesn’t have the soft padding of a standard quilt. It’s as warm as a sheet and blanket combined. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions before using a coverlet, as some aren’t suitable for babies under 3.5kg or 7lb 12oz.
Baby Sheepskin Fleeces
These are mini sheepskin rugs. They’re designed to be soft and comforting for babies to lie on, and many parents feel they calm and soothe newborns. If you buy one, make sure it’s specifically for baby use.
Quilts, Duvets and Pillows Safety Advice
Quilts, duvets and pillows shouldn’t be used for babies under one year old. After this, it’s OK to replace baby blankets and top sheets with a cot quilt or duvet if you wish. For toddlers, we recommend starting with a light 3–4.5 tog before moving up to a higher tog as they grow.
Ensure they still have access to a blanket, so they can regulate their temperature if needed. Avoid using a 10.5 tog or higher until your child is aged 10. Pillows can also be safely used from the age of one year, but don’t feel you have to buy one – your baby will be used to sleeping without one and may even not want it in the cot. Online baby product directory at My Baby Nursery.
Baby Sleeping Bags
Sleeping bags designed for babies and young children usually have a full-length front zip or poppers at the shoulders and sometimes a zip at the side with sleeveless armholes. Rather than tucking your baby up at night under sheets and blankets, you zip or popper them into the bag.
Sleeping bags should be cotton, lightweight and not have a hood. Ensure the sleeping bag is not too big around the neck to prevent your baby from slipping down into the bag. There are no covers to throw off, so your baby stays warm all night. However, older babies and toddlers may find the bags constricting.
These are soft pads tied to the sides of the cot, designed to give babies some protection from the hard sides. However, they sit under the ‘optional accessory’ category.
Best Mattresses and Bedding for Your Baby
Use a firm, flat and waterproof mattress in good condition
It would help if you used a firm and flatbed that is protected by a waterproof cover. This will help keep the bed clean and dry, as the surface can be wiped down.
Ensure your baby’s mattress is in good condition and that it fits the Moses basket or cot properly.
Avoid Using Soft or Bulky Bedding.
Firmly tucked in sheets and blankets (not above shoulder height) or a baby sleep bag are safe for a baby to sleep in. Be sure to remove any soft toys from the cot before each sleep period.
Sleep your baby in the feet-to-foot position and avoid using soft or bulky bedding such as quilts, pillows and duvets.
Pillows Can Increase the Risk of SIDS.
Pillow use alone has been shown to increase the chance of SIDS occurring by up to 2.5 times. Suppose you were thinking of using a pillow with your baby due to concerns for plagiocephaly (or ‘flat head syndrome). You can use techniques that could help with plagiocephaly, which will not increase the risk of SIDS.
We understand that plagiocephaly usually corrects itself within a year, but if you feel it is severe, you may want to speak to your health professional or seek corrective treatment.
We advise that babies have plenty of supervised tummy time in their waking hours to minimize time spent on their back. You should also avoid letting babies sleep in harder contained sleep environments such as car seats and other travel systems.
Our Advice for Using Second-Hand Mattresses
It can be common to use a second-hand mattress either from friends and family or from your previous children.
Some research found an increased chance of SIDS when using a second-hand mattress brought in from outside of the family home, although the link is not yet proven.
To help reduce this risk, if you are using a second-hand mattress, make sure the bed you choose was previously completely protected by a waterproof cover, with no rips or tears and is in good condition. The mattress should also still be firm and flat to keep your baby sleeping safely.
Remove Cot Bumpers
Cot bumpers can pose the risk of an accident to your baby once they begin to roll and move about the cot. There have been several cases in the U.K. and abroad where infants have become entangled in the ties and material or fallen from pulling themselves up on the bumpers. A simple mattress in your cot with no loose bedding or bumpers is the safest sleeping place for a baby.
Skipping Baby Bedding Saves Money
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, knowing that you are taking appropriate precautions for your infant’s sleep safety.
Unsafe Bedding Is Still for Sale
Despite the warnings, baby bedding sets, including bumpers and blankets, are still available for purchase.
If you choose to use these items scrutinize what available and select baby bedding products designed with safety in mind are. Some poorly constructed items might be more prone to cause an accidental injury than others.
Better Uses for Baby Comforters
Again, baby comforters and blankets pose a danger to babies.5 You may receive them as gifts 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
Crib sheets need to stay on the mattress snugly. Sheets that 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 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.
Finally, you can check out special crib sheets explicitly designed 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 bed.
While baby bedding used to set the tone for the nursery, there are other ways to celebrate the nursery’s theme without relying on products that may affect your baby’s safety.
Mattresses and Bedding: FAQs
Our room is tiny, and we can only squeeze in a travel cot. Is this safe?
The same ‘safer sleep’ rules apply to a travel cot, which should have a rigid frame and base, and a firm, flat mattress, covered in a waterproof material.
Travel cot mattresses are often thinner and feel harder than those in a permanent cot, but don’t be tempted to place folded blankets or a quilt under the baby to make them ‘more comfortable’.
If you are very tight on space, you may have to consider re-arranging the furniture in the room to ensure that the travel cot isn’t against a radiator, in direct sunlight, and is out of reach of blind cords and hazards.
We have been given a cot and mattress second-hand. Is it safe to use with our new baby?
Generally, we would advise it is safest to have a new mattress for each baby, though we know this is not always possible.
There is some evidence to suggest that bringing in a mattress from another home might increase the risk of sudden infant death very slightly. When using your bed for a second (or more) time, ensure it is still firm and flat with no tears or holes and is not sagging in places. Thoroughly clean the waterproof layer and ensure the mattress is clean and dry before making it up with fresh bedclothes.
Can I Put My Twin Babies in the Same Cot to Sleep?
We have no evidence that putting twins in the same cot in the early months places them at greater risk of sudden infant death.
However, there are some things you can do to increase safety:
- Never put twins together in a Moses basket or a small cot as they may overheat in the restricted space.
- If you choose to sleep them side by side in one cot, only do this in the early weeks, when there is no danger of them rolling towards or over each other.
- It is also an option, right from the start, to place them at opposite ends of the cot, each of them’ feet to foot’. Each twin, therefore, has their own firmly tucked in bedclothes or baby sleeping bag.
- Do not use rolled towels, foam wedges, or other objects between their heads.
- By the time the twins are big enough to roll over, they should be moved into their separate cots. All the safer sleep advice applicable to single babies should be followed whether the babies are in the cot together or not.
Is it Okay for My Baby to Sleep in a Car Seat?
It is acceptable for your baby to fall asleep when they are in their car seat, but once you get home, we would advise that you move your baby to their usual firm, flat surface to sleep.
Our advice is that the safest place for your baby to sleep – both during the day for naps and during the night – is in a cot or Moses basket in a room with you for the first six months. It is essential to check on your baby regularly when they are asleep.
If your baby is being transported in a car, they should be carried in a properly designed and fitted car seat, facing backwards, and preferably be in sight of an adult.
Be careful that your baby doesn’t get too hot, and remove hats and outdoor coats when you get in the car.
On long car journeys, stop for breaks, so your baby is not in the car seat for prolonged periods (some manufacturers recommend a maximum period of 2 hours in car seats).
Premature babies who may slump need particular care when travelling in a car seat.
Ask your car seat manufacturer if they have any safety advice about the specific model you are using.
Do You Recommend Baby Hammocks?
No, we do not recommend hammocks. The safest place for a baby to sleep is on a firm, flat surface.
Should I Swaddle My Baby?
When your baby is a newborn, you may find that swaddling them with a blanket can help to soothe and encourage more extended periods of sleep. This is because the feeling of being wrapped up tightly replicates the environment in the womb and stops the baby from flailing their arms around and waking themselves up.
A wool baby blanket is perfect for swaddling, thanks to thermo-regulating properties that help to prevent infants from overheating.
The AAP recommends that you stop swaddling your baby no later than two months.
When Is it Safe to Put Your Baby in a Crib?
There is no reason you can’t put your newborn straight into a crib as long as you follow advice about keeping the crib free from items such as loose covers and stuffed toys.
Whether you use a bassinet or cradle is down to personal preference.
Parents often choose a cradle because it takes up less space in their bedroom than a crib, is more portable and provides a small, cozy environment; a tiny baby can look lost in a giant crib. If you do use a cradle, you may find your baby stays in it for a surprisingly short amount of time – perhaps only a couple of months, depending on size.
You should always check the manufacturer’s instructions for weight limits and never allow your baby to remain in this kind of infant bed once they can sit, as they may topple out.
Ensure that the crib you choose has a brand new, breathable mattress that is firm enough to promote a healthy sleep position for your baby’s growing spine.
Should I Use a Sleep Positioner?
It can be tempting to use a ‘nest’ or ‘wedge’ that promises to keep your baby comfortable, helping them to sleep longer. Very often, these products claim to be suitable for babies up to the age of six months. However, at the end of 2017, the FDA linked these types of sleep positioners to at least 12 baby deaths in the U.S., stating that they pose a risk of suffocation. Instead, they recommend that infants sleep on their backs on a flat mattress in an empty crib.
When Can My Baby Sleep With a Blanket?
Are you wondering at what age it is safe for a baby to sleep with a blanket? Advice from the AAP is that no loose covers should be introduced into a cot until at least 12 months of age. Before this, a baby may wriggle down underneath the blankets and either overheat or suffocate.
Before this time, baby sleeping bags are a great alternative.
Fastening above and below the shoulders, sleeping bags act like mini wearable comforters and are available in different seasonal weights.
There are many advantages to these – not only in terms of safety as your little one will be prevented from wriggling down under the covers, but they have also been proven to extend sleep periods as covers cannot be lost during the night. As a bonus, they limit movement once your child is beginning to pull themselves up and climb.
When to Give Toddlers a Pillow?
If you’re wondering, “when does my baby need a pillow?” The answer is they don’t. There is no necessity to introduce a pillow to your child if they have been and continue to sleep well without one. My Baby Nursery is your one-stop baby product store.
Avoid giving your toddler a pillow until they are at least 18 months old and can move around independently in the bed. If you choose to introduce a pillow, a good time maybe as you transition to a ‘big kid’ bed, usually between the ages of two and three.