Here's a rundown of items you'll need to outfit your baby's crib safely.
Buy two waterproof mattress-pad covers so you can have one as a backup. They're the same size as a fitted crib sheet, have elastic at the edges, and fit over the mattress completely. The J. Lamb & Friends Natural Cotton Top Waterproof Fitted Crib Pad by Royal Heritage, for example, is 100 percent waterproof, according to the manufacturer. It has a cotton cover with a thin waterproof layer underneath. Consumer Reports has not tested mattress pads.
Some mattress pads cover only the top of a mattress. You fit a crib sheet over them. You'll see a variety of pads, including ones that are lined in flannel. They come in different sizes. Some of the smaller ones are marketed as multiuse "lap pads" or "burp pads." They're smaller than a crib mattress and can be tossed in the wash when they're dirty. For $8, you can get a three-pack of Babies R Us Fleece & Embossed Multi-Use Lap & Burp Pads that measure 12" x 13.5". The company makes a larger size in fleece with a waterproof bottom that's 27 x 36 inches and sells for $10.
Whatever you chose--even a quilted pad--should be thin, an inch thick or less. Quilted pads are usually made of cotton or a synthetic material and should cover the mattress securely. Never use a plastic bag as a mattress cover because it's a suffocation hazard. Plastic, zippered, waterproof covers are also available. The Babies R Us Zippered Crib Mattress Cover sells for about $10.
Most crib sheets have fitted corners to keep them secure. They're made of fabrics that include woven cottons, cotton blends, and lightweight flannel. Three should get you off to a good start. Don't use fitted sheets that are loose or bunchy; they should fit your baby's crib mattress like skin. Some parents complain that the sheets or mattress pads shrink when washed, so make sure you follow the manufacturer's directions when it's laundry time (which could be just about every day).
You don't want to put a blanket of any kind in a crib--even a receiving blanket (a very thin blanket typically made of woven cotton) unless you're swaddling a baby, which is usually done for just the first few weeks. Even if you buy a beautiful baby blanket or quilt as part of a set or receive one as a gift, don't use it in the crib because they could cause your child to suffocate. If you have a quilt you don't want to part with, you can always hang it up on a wall for decoration or use it on the floor for tummy time--when your baby will have a chance to stretch out and practice pushing himself up on his arms while supervised.
Instead of a blanket, you can use a swaddle wrap, which slips over a regular sleeper or diaper but still leaves room for little legs to stretch and kick. Newborns love to be swaddled because it makes them feel secure, and it's easy to do. Buy a half-dozen receiving blankets made of 100 percent cotton for good absorbency (or put them on your shower gift list). You can also purchase a ready-made swaddle wrap such as the SleepSack Swaddle by Halo (pictured), about $27, which is recommended by the First Candle, an organization that provides information on sudden infant death syndrome. The wrap lets your baby's arms stay inside or out, and it can be turned into a conventional wearable blanket when she no longer needs swaddling. Look for flame-resistant fabric, such as polyester. Another brand is the SwaddleMe Infant Wrap in organic cotton, which retails for $28.
Since your baby will outgrow the swaddling stage quickly, don't think that a special wrap is a must-have. Your infant will be happy swaddled in a receiving blanket, which is much less expensive, and you can put him to sleep in an infant-sized wearable blanket as well.
Like a swaddler, these go over your baby's sleeper or diaper and leave lots of legroom for stretching and kicking. The difference is that with a wearable blanket, your baby's arms won't be wrapped. Look for ones made of flame-resistant fabric. Popular brands are the Halo SleepSack, shown here, which sells for about $25 and up (and is recommended by the First Candle). You'll find smaller companies making wearable blankets, too, with different features. The Cozy Sleeping Bag by Aden & Anais, $45, is 100 percent cotton muslin, and the manufacturer says it will get softer with washing.
Many parents simply put their babies to bed in footed sleepers, which you can find in cotton or fleece, such as those made by Carters, which sell for about $15. You can buy them in infant size to well past toddler stage.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.