Everything You Need to Know About Baby Bedding

Potential Dangers of Crib Bumpers and Comforters

Parents standing beside crib in nursery, mother holding sleeping baby, cropped view
PhotoAlto/Ale Ventura/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Think of a nursery and more than likely it includes a crib adorned with sweet baby bedding. The crib often serves as a focal point with the bedding announcing the nursery theme. Despite how we often attach meaning and sentiment to baby bedding, in recent years organizations have come forward blasting the safety of their use. Before you rush out to buy the latest chic crib ensemble, make sure you are aware of these safety considerations.

Warnings on the Dangers of Crib Bedding

The American Academy of Pediatrics along with other child care organizations like SIDS First Candle Alliance and Health Canada all agree that crib bedding poses a significant danger to babies. Their recommendation is that the only thing your baby needs in his crib is an appropriate-sized mattress and a well-fitted crib sheet. Crib bumpers, baby comforters, sleep positioners, stuffed animals and the like are linked to an increased risk of death or injury caused by smothering, entrapment, and strangulation. On the flip side, using these items have negligible benefits as compared to using sleep slacks and bumper-free cribs.

Passing on Baby Bedding Saves Money

If you choose to follow the AAP’s suggestions on baby bedding, while you might be a bit bummed that the crib doesn’t look “complete,” find comfort in the money you will be saving. You might want to invest that extra cash in quality crib sheets – which most certainly will get used and abused with inevitable repeated washings.

Additionally, you might be able to sleep more soundly knowing that you are taking appropriate precautions for your infant’s sleep safety.

Bumper Pads and Baby Comforters Still Marketed

Despite the warnings, baby bedding sets are still available to be purchased in stores. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has not banned their sale.

If you choose to use these items, you may want to scrutinize what is available and select baby bedding products better designed with safety in mind. Some poorly constructed items might be more prone to cause an accidental injury than others.

Safer Crib Bumper Pads

When looking for better options for crib bumpers (as opposed to using none at all), you essentially have 3 choices: a well-constructed traditional bumper pad, a breathable mesh bumper, or alternative bumpers that surround individual slats.

If you choose to use the traditional crib bumper, look for one with the following features:

  • If it has tie strings, make sure they measure between 7 - 9 inches. Too short, they run the risk of not staying tied. Too long, they pose a strangulation risk.
  • There should be 12 - 16 total ties or Velcro tabs sewn well to the top and the bottom of the bumper to prevent entrapment. Absolutely avoid bumpers that only attach the bumper at the top.
  • When installed on the crib, there should not be overlaps or gaps in the padding.
  • Stay away from fluffy "pillow-like" pads that can cause suffocation and "re-breathing" of air.

If you want to steer clear of traditional bumpers, breathable mesh bumpers work to prevent stuck limbs while still allowing for circulation of air. These mesh bumpers stay in place with Velcro.

A final alternative would be to check out some of the newer designs in crib bumpers that wrap around the individual slats of the crib. Though some of these designs have not been given the official stamp of approval from the AAP, they certainly seem to be an improvement over traditional bumpers. Examples of these alternative bumper pads are offered by Go Mama Go Designs. Their decorative Wonder Bumpers appear to be drawing the attention of both parents and the media.

Better Baby Comforters

Again, it cannot be underscored enough that baby comforters and blankets pose a danger to babies. However, if you really must have one, 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.

Select comforters that showcase quality craftsmanship and provide greater security with the following features:

  • Sewn with cotton or cotton-blend threads. Nylon thread cannot withstand the heat of a drier, causing it to ball up in tight wads. This can become a choking hazard.
  • Look for tight, even stitching on the seams and for any appliqués.

Best Crib Sheets

What you need to concern yourself with when purchasing crib sheets is that the suckers stay on nice and snug. Sheets that are 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 better prevent this from occurring, look for sheets that have elastic that goes the whole way around the sheet, not just at the corners. Ideally, 100% cotton sheets will hold up the best after repeated washings, though they may tend to be a bit wrinkly when coming out of the drier. If that bothers you, look for cotton blend sheets that have a higher ratio of cotton.

A very practical suggestion is to give your sheets a test run. Wash them several times according to the manufacturer's instructions. If after repeated washings you must fight with them to stay on, return them to the store.

Finally, you can check out special crib sheets designed specifically 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 mattress.

While baby bedding certainly can set the tone for the nursery, you may find that you just rather not use some of these items. There are other ways for you to celebrate the theme of the nursery without relying on products that may affect your baby's safety. Whatever you choose to buy and to use, make sure you consider how well it will do its intended job.


Bradley T. Thach, MD; George W. Rutherford, JR, MS; and Kathleen Harris. "Deaths and Injuries Attributed to Infant Crib Bumper Pads." Journal of Pediatrics 2007;151:271-4.

AAP Policy Statement. Reducing the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Continue Reading