A mattress pad helps protect your baby's crib mattress from damage. When you use a crib mattress pad correctly, it doesn't pose a danger to your baby. If the pad isn't used properly, however, it can increase your baby's risk of injury and even death. Learning exactly how to use crib mattress pads can protect your little one's mattress and also ensure that he's safe while sleeping in his crib.
A crib mattress pad is a waterproof cover that helps protect your baby's crib mattress. The pad creates a barrier that protects the mattress from accidents, such as diaper leaks and spit-up, which can leach into a fabric mattress and lead to odors and unsightly stains. The mattress pad also adds a layer of padding to the crib, which can make your baby more comfortable while he's sleeping.
When a mattress pad isn't used correctly, it can pose a suffocation hazard. If the pad isn't fitted tightly around the mattress, it can come loose. If your baby's face gets caught in the loose pad, it could cause suffocation. The same applies if you use a mattress pad that is just placed on top of the mattress but doesn't have a fitted crib sheet placed over it. These types of mattress pads don't fit around the mattress, which means they can move around and get caught over your baby's mouth and nose. For the same reason, smaller mattress pads, often called burp pads or lap pads, shouldn't be used without a crib sheet fitted over them.
Choose a mattress pad that is designed for a crib. The mattress pad should fit tightly around the mattress by wrapping around the sides and corners so that the edges of the mattress pad fit snugly underneath the crib mattress. If you use a mattress pad without sides, lay it over the crib mattress and then place a tight-fitting crib sheet over the mattress pad so that it doesn't shift. If you use a smaller burp or lap pad, place it where your baby usually sleeps and then put a tight-fitting crib sheet over the mattress and the pad.
Tips and Considerations
Mattress pads aren't always tested for safety and, according to its website, "Consumer Reports" hasn't tested any crib mattress pads. Keep in mind that crib mattress pads aren't absolutely necessary either. For example, if you use a plastic-lined crib mattress, you probably don't need the pad to protect the mattress. If you decide to use mattress pads, consider purchasing two. That way, you'll have a clean spare on hand if you need to change and wash the first one.