No matter what kind of nursery you’re planning, it’s always exciting when the time comes to go shopping for your new baby’s bedding. Your baby will be spending a lot of their time in their little nursery, especially when they’re first born when they can sleep for as long as 18 hours every single day. It can be easy to get carried away and break the bank, but the truth is you really don’t need to spend too much on tour baby’s bed.
Nowadays there is a vast array of choice when it comes to baby bedding, from budget-friendly basics to designer bedding with eye-watering price tags. All this choice and the gorgeous products available to you can be very exciting, but may also cause you to feel overwhelmed. Many parents get caught up in the thrill of choosing accessories for their little one and end up way over their planned budget. In this article, well tell you everything you need to know about creating a bed for your baby that’s cosy, inviting and safe.
Simply glance at baby magazines or blogs for nursery information and you’ll notice cribs festooned with gorgeous crib bumpers and bedecked with adorable soft animals. However beautiful these items look, you shouldn’t consider purchasing them for your infant. Crib bumpers carry a suffocation risk should your baby’s face become pressed up against them, especially when they are very young and have poor neck control. They are usually fastened to the crib with strings or ribbons, and these pose a very significant suffocation risk. It’s not worth taking a chance with your baby’s safety for an Instagram-worthy crib.
Placing stuffed animals or loveys in your child’s crib is also not recommended until they are around a year old, as these can also lead to suffocation. Even once your child reaches that age, don’t overcrowd the crib with toys. Just one favourite is enough. For newborns and young babies, an empty crib is the absolute safest way for them to sleep.
Begin with basics
The most important aspect of your baby’s nursery is their crib, mattress, and bedding. After all, these are really the only items your baby absolutely must have in order to sleep safely and comfortably. Once these are chosen, you can then pick paint, curtains, decorative items, and furnishings that match their crib perfectly.
So, what are the essentials when it comes to buying for your baby’s nursery? All you really need is a decent baby mattress and a few breathable fitted sheets that fit snugly to your mattress. Pick ones which allow air to circulate freely like cotton or bamboo fiber.
As you shop for crib bedding, you’ll notice that many retailers sell sets which include items such as bumpers and comforters. While these may look luxurious and stylish, they are not safe for young babies and pose a suffocation and strangling risk. For this reason, you’ll probably find it cheaper and more practical to purchase bedding items separately. Individual fitted crib sheets needn’t cost more than $10 a pop.
Types of baby bedding
So, when it comes to choosing baby’s bedding, what’s on offer? Which items are must-haves and which can you happily manage without? Here’s our quick guide to the various options available.
Once your baby arrives, you’ll quickly realise that night-time spills and leaks are to be frequently expected. For this reason, you may want to invest in a couple of waterproof mattress pads to protect your infant’s mattress. We recommend buying two so that you can pop a fresh one on if your baby’s diaper leaks in the middle of the night. These work in a similar way to a fitted sheet in that they fit snugly over the mattress with elastic. Ideally, you want one with a cover made of a breathable material such as cotton to prevent overheating.
Alternatively, you can buy smaller crib mattress pads which don’t cover the whole of the mattress that you can slot under a fitted sheet. These come in a range of sizes and materials. You may see them described as ‘lap pads’ or occasionally ‘burp pads’, although this is usually only for the smaller pads. They can be machine washed for easy cleaning. A major advantage of these types of pads are their low price tags. However, if your baby is very active, they may wriggle clear of the area protected by the pad during the night.
Both types are a good way of protecting your baby’s mattress. For safety reasons, don’t use a mattress pad thicker than an inch. Make sure that it either fits tightly to the mattress or can be secured in place safely using a fitted sheet. While you may have heard of parents making homemade mattress pads using plastic bags or bin liners, this is a dangerous practice. This could cause suffocation or overheating during the night.
The safest type of crib sheets to buy are those with fitted corners, preferably with elastic to keep them extremely tightly fitted to the mattress. Make sure they are made of a breathable fabric like cotton, as night time overheating can be dangerous for young babies. Make sure that the fit is very snug, as sheets can pose a hazard if they come off during the night. Make sure you follow the washing instructions carefully as you will need to launder them very frequently in the early days, and you’ll want to avoid shrinkage. Buy three or four to make sure you’ve got a clean, dry sheet to hand if you need to change the bedlinen in the night.
Baby Sleep Sacks
Baby sleep sacks or sleeping bags are designed to be worn by the baby over their nightwear, or just over a diaper in hotter weather. They look a bit like a tabard with space for their legs to move and with the arms free. You can buy sleep sacks with sleeves as well for colder nights. It’s important that you choose a fire-resistant sleep sack and use the correct tog rating for their bedroom. An overheated baby is at a higher risk of SIDS, while a baby that’s too cold won’t sleep well.
For this reason, we recommend investing in a nursery thermometer as well as a variety of sleep sacks so you can match your baby’s nightwear to the temperature.
As an alternative, you can put your baby to bed in a warm sleepsuit with feet. However, make sure the one you’re using is appropriate to the temperature like you would with a sleeping bag.
It’s advised that you don’t place any blankets in your baby’s crib as they could pose a suffocation hazard. However, many parents like to swaddle their new-born babies. Being securely swaddled mimics the enclosed feeling of being in the womb and dampens the baby’s startle reflex, which can help them to sleep better. For sleep-deprived parents, any extra shut-eye is worth its weight in gold.
While it’s fine to swaddle infants, it’s important to do this safely. You can either use a thin, breathable receiving blanket or a pre-made swaddle wrap. Although they are more expensive, the advantage of using a swaddle wrap is that you can be sure it won’t come loose and cover your baby’s face in the night. Just like a sleeping bag, you should pick a swaddle that’s breathable, fire-resistant and the correct thickness for the season.
It’s not worth spending money on the most beautiful swaddles, as your baby will need to graduate out of their swaddle once they start rolling over.
Should I buy organic baby bedding?
Nowadays you can buy pretty much any baby bedding product you can imagine made from 100% organic material. In fact, organic baby bedding has become so mainstream that you can purchase it from any good baby product retailer. A major advantage of bedding that’s truly organic is that no harmful chemicals are used during manufacture, so it’s very safe for babies to sleep on. Buying organic is better for the planet as well.
However, not all products labelled ‘organic’ are what they’re purported to be. To ensure that you really are buying a truly organic product, look out for the Oeko-Tex certification given by the International Oeko-Tex Association. This provides reassurance that no harmful chemicals were used during manufacture that could pose a risk to your baby’s health. Alternatively, you could look for the GOTS certification. GOTS stands for Global Organic Textiles Standard.
Do I need crib bumpers?
Many parents used to use crib bumpers as a means of preventing their child getting stuck in the crib bars. However, nowadays the space between crib bars is regulated so that heads and limbs can’t get caught, so there is no safety reason to use them. However, some people still attach attractive crib bumpers because they look attractive and luxurious.
It’s true that a crib bumper could prevent your child from waking themselves up by hitting their arms or legs against the bars in the night. However, such is the risk of suffocation or strangulation from crib bumpers that the dangers far outweigh any potential benefits. Shockingly, 27 young children died as the result of suffocation or strangulation by crib bumpers between 1985 and 2005 in the USA.
Are crib tents safe for babies?
You can buy tents or drapes that cover a crib. Some create a play tent, while others drape in a similar way to the curtains on a four-poster bed. We never recommend using a crib tent on a baby crib. This is because they pose a strangulation risk. The only situation in which their use is appropriate is during play under close supervision by an adult, and the tent should be removed if the child is going to sleep.
Some parents install crib tents to prevent their child from climbing out of their cot. However, this is a very dangerous method for keeping your child in their crib. If they are able to climb out, this is a sign that it’s time to graduate into a toddler or regular bed.
Many babies love having a crib mobile to look at when they’re lying in bed, and it can be soothing for them to watch. There’s nothing wrong or dangerous about using a crib mobile as long as you attach it to the ceiling very securely, and your child cannot reach it. If you find your child is able to grab the mobile from their crib, you should remove it for safety reasons.
What furniture should I choose?
Any furniture is suitable for a baby’s room as long as it has no sharp or splintered edges which could cause an injury. You may wish to install corner guards to stop your child from hurting themselves once they’re moving around independently. Once they’re cruising or walking, any free-standing furniture should be attached to the wall to prevent it falling and seriously injuring your child. Additionally, you should child-proof any sliding drawers to prevent little fingers from getting caught.
When it comes to placing furniture, make sure that you can access the crib easily and that there is a clear path. This will prevent you or your child falling in the dark during inevitable night wakings. Ensure that any rugs are fitted with a non-slip mat and aren’t allowed to bunch up to form a trip hazard.
In addition, you may wish to purchase a nursing chair if you are planning to breastfeed your baby. These chairs have armrests and a foot stool to help you adopt a comfortable position for nursing that’s easy on your back. Having a comfortable place to nurse mean’s you’ll be much less likely to take your baby into bed with you, which is a known risk for SIDS.
When can my baby sleep with a pillow and blanket?
Although a crib totally free from bedding may look austere, it’s the safest place for your baby to sleep. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies shouldn’t have a pillow or blanket in their bed until they reach their first birthday.
However, there is no need to rush out and buy a pillow once your child is a year old unless they seem uncomfortable or appear keen to have one. There’s no reason a child of this age needs a pillow. In fact, it’s fine to wait until they graduate into a proper bed.
When you do eventually purchase a pillow for your little one, don’t purchase one designed for an adult. Instead, choose a small firm pillow designed with a toddler’s needs specifically in mind.
How can I reduce the risk of SIDS?
SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby or young toddler. While SIDS causes understandable fear in new parents, there are some simple steps you can take when arranging your baby’s room to reduce the risk. These include:
Controlling the temperature: Overheating increases the risk of SIDS. Try to keep the room somewhere between 16-20 degrees Celsius. While this may feel chilly to an adult, it’s the safest temperature range for an infant. If you can’t keep the room cool enough, be sure to dress baby very lightly for bed. A diaper and a very low to sleep sack may be all that’s needed
Quit smoking: Exposure to tobacco smoke increases the risk of SIDS, even if your baby is only exposed to it second-hand on your clothing
Don’t bed share: Bedsharing or sleeping on a sofa or chair with your baby is a known SIDS risk. If you do want to co-sleep, ensure that you do your research and follow guidelines to keep your baby’s risk as low as possible. Make sure your baby’s sleeping area is free from pillows and quilts, and never bed share if you’ve consumed alcohol, drugs or have been smoking.
Keep the crib clear: Don’t have stuffed animals, blankets, pillows or any other soft items in bed with your baby
Back to sleep: Place your baby in their crib on their back with their feet touching the bottom of the crib. Stomach or side sleeping increases the risk of SIDS. However, once your baby is able to roll independently, although you should still put them down on their back there is no need to roll them over if they change position on their own in the night. This is because a baby with the neck strength and maturity to roll is at a decreased SIDS risk. If they can only roll from back to front, it’s a good idea to spend some time encouraging them to learn to roll from front to back as well
Firm mattress: Always put baby down to sleep on a flat, very firm mattress to sleep. This reduces the risk of their bedding enveloping their face and causing suffocation. For this reason, you should never put your baby down to sleep on a soft surface such as a bean bag, water bed or sheepskin. Some parents place new-borns in a baby swing or car seat to sleep as they sleep more soundly. However, this is an unsafe practice. The only safe place for your baby to sleep is flat on their back on a firm mattress
Breastfeed: It’s known that breastfeeding your baby reduces their risk of SIDS
Encourage Tummy Time
Although you should never place your baby on their stomach to sleep, it’s a good idea to give them plenty of time playing on their stomachs under close supervision during the day. This is known as tummy time. Tummy time helps to strengthen the muscles in your baby’s neck and back and can help reduce the risk of SIDS. This muscle strength will also help your baby to learn to roll, crawl and eventually walk. Tummy time can also help prevent flat spots developing on your baby’s head from spending all their time lying on their back. The perfect place to practise tummy time is in your baby’s crib.
Unfortunately, even though it’s good for their development many babies simply hate tummy time at first. You should never allow a baby to become distressed on their tummies. However, it’s important to persist. If your baby is very resistant, even a minute or so on their tummy is a good way to start. Over time, they will gradually get used to it. You could also distract them with toys or an eye-catching video on your phone. Some parents find their babies prefer tummy time when mommy or daddy joins at their level in the early days.
I’ve been given a beautiful baby blanket. Can I use it?
We don’t recommend using a blanket in your baby’s bed before the age of one because of the increased SIDS risk that comes with it. However, it’s common to be gifted a gorgeous baby blanket for your new arrival. Understandably, many parents don’t want this touching gift to go to waste. Instead of placing it in the crib, try using it as a pretty wall hanging or as a decorative throw in your baby’s nursing chair.
The bottom line
Hopefully, you now know everything necessary to deck out your baby’s nursery and crib in style. However, the most important aspect of buying crib bedding accessories is your child’s safety. For this reason, you should prioritise reducing SIDS risk over an attractive-looking bed. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to buy breathable, season-appropriate bedding for your baby and ensure that they are sleeping on a firm and safe surface. It’s also extremely important to keep their bed clear of anything that could pose a suffocation or strangulation risk. If you’ve got those bases covered, you can be sure that your baby’s bed is a safe and comfortable place for them to sleep.