Baby's safety and comfort are paramount when you're selecting a crib, but the crib should be practical for you, too -- after all, there will be a lot of sheets for you to change in the coming months. The coordinated crib sets that baby stores stock are not always the most sensible choice for newborns. Many include fluffy comforters to match the crib sheet and skirt, but because soft bedding is hazardous for babies younger than 12 months (according to the American Academy of Pediatrics), the comforter will be of little use early on. The following are the essential elements:
A padded bumper should line the entire perimeter of the crib to protect your baby's head. It should be securely attached with straps or ties in at least six places. If ties are used, be sure to cut them as short as possible to prevent your baby from getting tangled in them. Once your baby is old enough to pull himself up, remove the bumper -- it makes a perfect step for a baby who tries to climb out of the crib.
2. Lap Pad
Placed directly under the baby at bedtime, a waterproof pad can save you some sheet-changing. The pads are also useful for protecting the car seat, your lap, and other spots from accidents.
3. Fitted Sheet
Crib sheets should fit the mattress tightly and have no loose threads or worn elastic. A sheet that can be pulled loose from the mattress poses a tangling hazard for your baby; if after several washings the sheet loosens, replace it.
4. Crib Pad
Laying a quilted, waterproof pad between the mattress and sheet adds an extra layer of protection against wetness.
5. Mattress with Waterproof Cover
A wide range of crib mattresses, in both foam and innerspring styles, is available. Innerspring mattresses tend to be firmer and wear better over time, but they can also be heavy. Foam mattresses are easier to lift for sheet changing and often cost less. If you choose foam, it should be dense and firm. In all cases, the mattress must fit snugly in the crib (no more than an inch of space between mattress and crib), so there's no risk of the baby getting caught between them. A fitted or zippered plastic cover will keep moisture out and extend the life of the mattress.
6. Crib Skirt (not shown)
Useful only for a neater appearance, a crib skirt hangs beneath the mattress like a bed skirt, concealing the construction of the crib's frame.