A crib sheet is almost an afterthought for many parents. As long as the sheet on your baby’s mattress is designed for that use, you may think it’s safe to use. However, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that since 1984 several infant deaths, most under the age of one year, have been related to suffocation or strangulation by crib bedding. Ensuring that crib sheets are in good condition and fitted properly on the mattress prevents this tragedy from occurring.
Crib sheets are safe only when they fit snugly on the mattress. A snug-fitting crib sheet overlaps the mattress at the corners and on all sides by at least 2 inches, so that the sheet cannot be removed or loosened by pulling on any corner. If you can pull the sheet free by tugging it at any location on the mattress, so can your baby’s movements. Once the sheet is in place, there should be no ripples or folds in the material.
According to the CPSC all crib sheets must have a warning label that reads, "Prevent suffocation or entanglement. Never use crib sheet unless it fits securely on crib mattress." The CPSC also has encouraged manufacturers to design crib sheets so they improve their fit on all crib mattresses. A safe crib sheet has elasticized corners to ensure a tight fit around the mattress. The elastic should be firm and not torn or loose in any spot. Crib sheets should also be made of a thin, lightweight material.
Repurposing or Reusing Sheets
While you may have used a fitted crib sheet on an older child’s crib mattress, it is not safe to assume that the sheet will be safe for a new baby. Each baby has different sleep patterns, and while your older child may not have had problems, your new baby may be very active in his sleep, and more likely to pull a loose-fitting crib sheet off the mattress. When taking sheets out of storage to reuse, inspect the entire sheet and do not use a sheet that is damaged, stretched or that has shrunk. Never modify a sheet to fit a mattress either. For example, wrapping a top sheet around the mattress to serve as a fitted sheet is not safe. Never use a fitted sheet intended for any other type of mattress, such as twin, double or larger sizes. These sheets are too loose, and your baby can become tangled up in the material. This can lead to suffocation or strangulation.
Crib Sheet Safety Tips
While your crib sheet may be safe when you first put it on the crib, damage can occur through washing or normal wear and tear. Regular inspection of the crib sheet ensures your baby’s safety. Every time you put your baby in the crib, check the sheet to make sure it is properly in place and snug. After each wash, check the sheet for shrinkage and the condition of the elastic, particularly after tumble drying the sheet. If the elastic stretches or breaks, or there is a tear anywhere in the sheet, do not use it on your crib mattress.