Now that you have your mattress, you need some crib sheets ‘n things…
First, quickly, keep in mind: babies don’t need actual bed linens. ALL they need is a fitted sheet over the mattress, and that’s it — that’s what’s safest. So even though every instragram-worthy picture of a newborn nursery shows cribs decked out with stuffies, blankets, and bedding galore, remember: keep the crib bare and boring. Sorrrrry.
1. Waterproof mattress covers
Get at least two. American Baby Company pretty much owns the market in this category. They’re great and well loved. We like their Organic Waterproof Quilted Fitted cover for about $29. (The non-organic version is $17 or $27/2.) If you’re looking for another option, parents seem to like the SureGuard Protector for about $27.
If you purchased a mattress specifically for breathability — as more parents are doing these days — you may want to upgrade your crib mattress cover, and for this we like the Newton crib mattress cover (~$79), which is breathable while still being waterproof and machine washable. The idea here is that you may not want to cover up the expensive/breathable/organic/chemical-free mattress you splurged on with a layer of polyester. If that’s you, give the Newton cover a look!
Note: If you’re using a pack ‘n play or a mini crib, make sure you get the correct size version for a mini/portable. Most (though not all) companies now offer these sizes; they’re available from both American Baby Company and SureGuard, for example.
2. Crib sheets (the fitted kind)
Get at least three quality crib sheets because you’ll use them for the next 2-3 years and they’ll take a lot of abuse along the way. The sheet that parents can’t live without is the QuickZip Crib Sheet ($54), which can easily be changed (at 3 am) without having to remove the whole damn crib mattress. The single QuickZip Crib Sheet Set includes the drop-in base and one zip-on sheet ($54); or the 3-pack bundle comes with the base and 3 zip-on sheets ($111).
The Zip-On Sheet can be easily swapped out for another one when dirtied (see the product video here). If you go this route (meaning, the QuickZip set), you may want to get the matching flat waterproof mattress pad ($27) that goes with the system (as opposed to a freestanding mattress cover, above^^). The flat pad lays right under the sheet and if it gets soiled, you just pull it up — again, no need to deal with lifting the mattress.
If you’re not into the QuickZip system, you can pick up regular, run-of-the-mill fitted crib sheets for a cheaper price. American Baby Company crib sheets are a great value (2 for $16). We also like Aden + Anais cotton muslin fitted crib sheets (~$18), Burt’s Bees crib sheets (~$17) and the Newton Baby organic cotton muslin crib sheets (~$39 for 2).
Note: Again, if you opt for a mini-crib, make sure to get all this stuff in the mini size! American Baby Company mini crib sheets (~$10) will do the trick, and the Newton Baby organic cotton mini crib sheets are a gorgeous upgrade. ($39 for 2).
3. (Optional): a “breathable” crib bumper (for 5+ months)
Listen up. People tell you not to use a crib bumper as it could cause suffocation (Jesus, again?!). In fact, the AAP said, “Don’t use crib bumpers” (you should also read this article on SIDS)… buuuuut you might want one down the road.
OK, OK, you don’t need a crib bumper… BUT after about 9 months, when baby is flipping over vigorously and breaching like Shamu, she will get all manner of body parts stuck in between crib slats (someone should make a crib without slats, but I digress).
This leads to the high-pitched “help-me-I’m-stuck-and-the-wolves-are-coming-to-eat-me” cry, which has you sprinting into the room, extracting said limb from slats, drying tears, and promising it will never happen again (it will).
Many parents find this problem tends to work itself out (babies can learn, after all…), but some babes apparently don’t get the memo. If that’s you, you might want to check out the Breathable Bumper (~$39). We had it. It did the trick. It’s not the most glamorous thing in the world, but who cares?
*Note: The AAP includes ALL bumpers on their no-no list until 12 months (which many find overly restrictive), but understand that 90% of SIDS occurs before 6 months of age with the peak occurring between 2-4 months, so as an educated adult you can make this decision on your own.
After 1 year, it’s officially okay to say you can use a bumper without the safety police scolding you for it (oh wait, they’ll still do it then too! LOL). I personally find soft bumpers wonderful because they soften and warm up the crib environment, which is pretty hard and jail-ey. But plenty of families get by without one, so… up to you.
And… (not for the crib): baby blankets
Yes, you’ll want a lot of blankets. At least half of them will be in the wash covered in spit up or poop at any given time.
You will probably get many “receiving blankets” as gifts. Receiving blankets get their name from the custom of wrapping a newborn child in this type of blanket immediately after birth, before s/he was “received” by the mother for the first time. Made from thin, soft material and typically about 30″ x 30″, a receiving blanket is an extremely versatile item that you’ll find yourself using for almost everything from swaddling to changing diapers to protecting your clothes from spit up.
Muslin blankets are another must-have. They’re very thin, stretchy, and great for warm/hot weather. If you’re going to tie a swaddle with a blanket, this is probably your best bet (let your man know, he’ll be super excited!).
The classic muslin swaddle blanket is from Aden + Anais. You can get a 4-pack here for about $45 and trust me, this is money well spent!
There are lots of cute blankets out there. We don’t need to be overly prescriptive about it, though you should pay attention to fabrics. Polyester and other synthetics tend to get very hot and don’t breathe very well (also, they are made from crude oil: gross), so I’m a huge fan of natural materials, like cotton and bamboo. Wool is making a comeback now; in fact, the new merino wools are exquisite.
Another favorite is Little Giraffe (~$75). These blankets are $$$, but they last for YEARS and are wonderful heirloom pieces.
As a reminder, for the first 3-4 months of life, your baby will (most likely) be swaddled to sleep. This swaddle will serve as a blanket (of sorts) as well.
When your baby is post-swaddling age (about 4 months), you’re not going to be putting blankets on them to sleep because they’ll get kicked off in about 30 seconds (and, OF COURSE, they are a suffocation hazard when placed in the crib — mwwwaaaaaa), which leads me to…
Wearable Blankets — otherwise known as “sleep sacks”:
Wearable blankets are completely indispensable, although not something you need right away. You might be surprised to learn that many (most?) little ones wear sleep sacks well into the 2nd and even 3rd year of life. Yes, they even have ones with foot-holes so they can still walk around (can they make these for adults!?).
See also: Winter Weight Sleep Sacks.