Whether you're planning an elaborate nursery or simply putting a crib in your bedroom, shopping for miniature sheets can be fun. After all, this is where your baby will be spending a lot of time--especially in the beginning, since most newborns sleep up to 18 hours a day. You want the space to be comforting and attractive, but you don't have to spend a fortune.
Your bedding choices will seem endless, from single fitted sheets to designer sets with crib bumpers that cost over $100. It's easy to get swept up into the excitement of shopping for this part of your baby's gear, especially with the vast array of fabrics, colors, and print choices available. That adorable organic collection with the vintage print might inspire you to paint your baby's room a certain color, or give you another decorating inspiration.
While bedding sets might look irresistible in magazines and have you drooling as you browse online, here's a reality check: Many of them come with features that can harm your child. That expensive bumper with the pretty ribbon ties? Skip it. Bumpers are a suffocation hazard and the ribbons are a potential choking or strangulation hazard.
The marketplace is filled with bumpers and other soft items for cribs that parents think are necessary (or at least harmless) and make a baby's sleep space cute and cushiony. But the bottom line, according to our safety experts, is that any soft, extraneous items in a crib besides a fitted sheet are unsafe for infants.
As you can see in our buying guide for Cribs, we recommend keeping the one for your baby simple to guard against suffocation. All you need to give her is a safe place to sleep.
Bedding sets can also come with a baby blanket or quilt, but as cute as they are, a child can easily get tangled up in one and suffocate. The same goes for foam wedges or sleep positioners. Our experts say you shouldn't use them, as does the American Academy of Pediatrics. And those stuffed animals you'll receive as gifts should never go in the crib with your baby, either.
You'll also see crib skirts (they're like a dust ruffle) for sale. They're safe but not essential. If you want one because you think it's pretty or softens up a room's decor, go ahead, since it won't be near your baby.
Decorating with flair--and safety--in mind
A good place to start when decorating your baby's room is with the crib and fitted sheets. Then choose paint or wallpaper and other decorative items that will be out of your baby's reach, like wall hangings or furniture, based on those colors and patterns. Maybe you'll pick out a rocker, for example, that matches or goes well with the paint color you've chosen.
If you just buy two or three fitted sheets and invest in a sturdy crib, a high-quality mattress, and low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint for the nursery, you'll be on your way toward creating an attractive room that's safe for your baby. Matching window treatments or safe shelving for toys can pull the space together.
You might think that a fitted sheet and a crib skirt aren't much to work with, but they can get your creative juices flowing. Colors and styles of fitted crib sheets and crib dust ruffles run the gamut, including toile, stripes, and polka dots. Besides conventional fabrics like 100 percent traditional cotton, you'll find fitted sheets in soft organic cotton, fleece, flannel, and T-shirt style cotton knits.
Though crib bedding often comes in sets or "collections" that include bumpers and quilts in addition to sheets, bedding items are also sold separately; you can buy just a fitted crib sheet for about $5 to $10. If anything but a "fully loaded" crib (with luxurious, cushy bumpers and so on) leaves you feeling decoratively deprived, rest assured that your baby is sleeping in a safer environment without them.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.