The Best Crib Sheets
Our top pick for crib sheets is are Pinzon crib sheets, which are an Amazon in-house brand.
Pinzon offers both crib (28″ x 52″; 6″ deep mattresses) and mini crib sheets (24″ x 38″; 3″ thick mattresses) in nine colors.
How do we test crib sheets? Here’s the scoop:
We ordered a test sheet from Amazon in the Lattice Spa Blue color (all photos credit: Baby Bargains)
We first evaluated the crib sheet’s overall feel before washing.
The Pinzon crib sheet has a thicker, heavier feel and that typical “crispness” you expect of percale. When we received our test sheet, it felt a bit waxy out of the box. The sizing (a protective coating on the surface of the sheet’s fibers) gives it a slightly rough feel.
To test durability and color fastness, we washed the sheet three times in cold water on the permanent press cycle and dried it on low as per the instructions.
We then checked for shrinkage after the last wash. We did experience shrinkage of approximately 3/4″ to 1″ on both sides but the sheet still fit our test crib mattress properly. We measured the sheet when we received it before washing it. This side measured 27.5″:
After we washed the sheet three times (following washing instructions) it shrunk between 3/4″ and 1″:
After one wash, we thought the Pinzon sheet still felt rather rough—we recommend washing three times before use. We also used liquid and dryer sheet fabric softeners during the second and third washings. While fabric softener helped, the sheets retained a crisp texture without the waxy feel.
Compared to other sheets we tested, the Pinzon sheets came out on top—very good quality and an incredibly affordable price. We’d rate the quality up there with sheets that cost four times these sheets.
Downsides but not deal killers
Some parents complained they thought the sheets weren’t soft enough, even after several washings. If you’re looking for a softer, fluffier feel, consider flannel (we like Trend Lab’s flannel sheets, see below), or jersey knit sheets (AmazonBasics sells a jersey crib sheet). If you live in a hot climate, percale sheets are typically cooler and more breathable, according to readers.
Another bummer: as of this writing, there aren’t any coordinating nursery items for the bedding. We’d love to see coordinating wearable blankets and/or regular blankets, crib skirts and other decor items for the nursery. For now, you are on your own.
Finally, we see feedback online that Pinzon colors pictured online aren’t quite accurate, according to some of our readers. A few folks got a darker yellow than they expected—this is the peril of computer monitors and color accuracy, unfortunately.
In the end, we thought these downsides were minor. Based on our own testing and the comments of parents plus the impressive low price, we recommend the Pinzon crib sheets as our top pick for best crib bedding.
Our testing of crib sheets also came up with a good runner-up brand: American Baby scored highly on quality with 100% cotton percale and jersey sheets that are also affordable.
Sold as separates as well as three and six-piece sets, American Baby offers a wider variety of colors and patterns than Pinzon. And they have sheets made of traditional percale, cotton jersey and chenille.
Don’t bother with sets that include bumper pads as we don’t recommend using them (see our 7 Things below for more on bumpers). American Baby makes waterproof mattress pads, changing pad covers, crib rail covers, mini crib and cradle bedding sets. They even have a few organic cotton options. Colors and patterns are basic.
Bottom line: our readers like American Baby overall and are happy with the quality and price, based on our tests.
Aden + Anais first came to our attention when we saw their excellent muslin swaddle blankets. Parents love them, so when they expanded into more crib bedding items, we were intrigued.
Aden + Anais (A+A) makes crib sheets, blankets, towel/washcloth sets, changing pads and sleep sacks (called sleeping bags). Their classic crib sheets are made of cotton muslin. Previously, the company made organic cotton sheets as well as cotton flannel and rayon (bamboo) sheets. At the time of this writing, it appears only the classic cotton muslin sheets are available.
Patterns are simple including leaf prints, dots, stars and dragonflies plus a few solid sheets. A+A don’t offer bumpers (yea!), but muslin quilted blankets (“dream blankets”) are available in cotton or rayon. Of course, never use a thick blanket in a crib for a baby under one year of age.
What’s the feedback from parents? Universally, A+A is praised for super softness and cute patterns. They wash well too, although we hear a few complaints that some items can snag in the wash. This brand is on the expensive side, especially if you choose the organic cotton option. Like most things baby and organic, there is premium to pay.
Bottom line: if you’re looking for super soft, adorable prints, A+A may be the perfect option.
Best Quick Change Sheets
The QuickZip Crib Sheet is our top pick for best quick change sheet.
What are quick change sheets? As the name implies, these sheets have a zip-off top layer to make changes quicker. You place it on the mattress like any fitted crib sheet, but if your baby’s diaper leaks in the middle of the night, you don’t have to struggle with removing the sheet and replacing it. Simply zip off the top platform and zip on a clean, dry one. Voila! Minimal hassle.
Ok, that convenience ain’t cheap compared to other sheets. They are sold two ways: as a base and zip on top, or just the zip on top. So you can buy a couple base/top combos and a couple tops for easy midnight changes.
Why Trust Us
We’ve been rating and reviewing crib bedding since 1994. In addition to checking fabric content, washing instructions, and quality features like all-around elastic, we have extensivly researched how to create safe sleeping spaces for baby. We also evaluate consumer reviews posted online, as well as our own message boards.
Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Baby Bargains is your independent and unbiased source for expert baby gear reviews. We’ve been writing and reviewing baby gear since 1994. Yes, that long!
How we picked a winner
We evaluate crib bedding with in-depth inspections, checking models for quality and and safety—for example, testing for washability and softness. We also gather significant reader feedback (our book, Baby Bargains has over 1 million copies in print), tracking crib bedding on quality and durability. After all, if that cute crib sheet falls apart after three washings, why bother?
Besides interviewing parents, we also regularly talk with retailers and consumer safety experts to see which brands are most trustworthy and other key quality metrics.
7 Things No One Tells You About Buying Crib Bedding!
1. We DO NOT recommend crib bumpers.
Do not use bumpers in your baby’s crib, cradle or bassinet. A landmark investigation by the Chicago Tribune detailed a link between crib bumpers and two dozen infant deaths in the past decade. The article (“Hidden Hazard of Crib Bumpers,” December 12, 2010) prompted the CPSC to open a review of the safety of crib bumpers. An earlier study by a Washington University pediatrician, Dr. Bradley Thach “concluded that 27 babies’ deaths were attributed to bumper pads from 1985 to 2005.” This study, however, has been largely ignored by both the industry and the CPSC, although it prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to discourage parents from using bumpers.
As a side note, Canada has discouraged bumper use for many years. One Canadian reader noted: “We are not supposed to use bumper pads due to the increased risk of SIDS. No one I know uses them. When the health nurse comes to visit you in the home, she checks to make sure you don’t have bumper pads.”
It’s time parents in the U.S. followed similar guidelines. Now we know what you’re thinking: “What if my baby hits his head on the hard wood slats?” or “What if she gets her arm or leg stuck between the slats?” First, these issues are rare—few kids are injured by knocking their heads against the slats and even fewer get limbs stuck.
However, there are a couple of bumper alternatives if your little baby decides getting a leg stuck in the crib slats is fun: PURE SAFETY Vertical Crib Liners and AirFlowBaby Mesh Crib Liner. Most of these items are either breathable mesh or firm, shock absorbing foam that don’t pose a suffocation risk. Again, most folks will not need these bumper alternatives. The best advice is go without any bumpers in the crib at all.
2. Some crib sheets will shrink in the wash.
Check the labels carefully on the sheet or bedding set you’re thinking of buying. If a sheet recommends washing in cold water and line drying, chances are it’s going to shrink. And if it shrinks, it won’t fit the mattress properly. This is a suffocation hazard if the sheet should come off at one of the corners.
Once you’ve checked the washing instructions, look for elastic around the bottom of the entire sheet. Cheap sheets only use elastic on the ends.
3. There are several other hallmarks of quality to look for when buying crib bedding.
- Ruffles should be folded over for double thickness–not a single thickness ruffle with hemmed edge.
- Colored designs on bedding should be printed or woven into the fabric not stamped on (like a screen printed t-shirt).
- Make sure the pieces are sewn with cotton/poly thread, not nylon, which can melt and break.
- Check for tight, smooth stitching on appliqués.
- If possible, try to buy sheets with a 200 thread count. Frustratingly, most crib sheets do not label thread count, but if you can count the individual threads when looking at a crib sheet up to a light, that’s probably a sheet with a low thread count.
4. You shouldn’t use any soft bedding in baby’s crib.
This is an extension of the bumper discussion in Tip #1. Studies on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS, also known as crib death) have linked SIDS to infants sleeping on fluffy bedding, lambskins, or pillows. A pocket can form around the baby’s face if she is placed face down in fluffy bedding, and she can slowly suffocate while breathing in her own carbon dioxide.
The best advice: put your infant on her back when she sleeps. And don’t put pillows, comforters or other soft bedding or toys inside a crib.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission now recommends that parents not use ANY soft bedding around, on top of, or under baby. If you want to use a blanket, tuck a very thin blanket under the mattress at one end of the crib to keep it from moving around. The blanket should then only come up to baby’s chest. Safest of all: avoid using any blankets in a crib and put baby in a wearable blanket for warmth (see photo below).
HelpMeGrow.Ohio.gov posts this and other examples of safe sleep habits for parents:
One mom wrote to tell us about a scary incident in her nursery. She had left a blanket hanging over the side of the crib when she put her son down for a nap. He managed to pull the blanket down and get wrapped up in it, nearly suffocating. Stories like that convince us that putting any soft bedding in or near a crib is risky.
How much bedding is too much? A new father emailed us this question: “With all the waterproof liners, fitted sheets and ultimate crib sheets we’re worried that our firm mattress is now becoming soft and squishy. How many layers are safe?” Good point. We know that some parents figure it is easier to change crib sheets at 2 am if they simply pile on several layers of sheets on the crib mattress. (This way, you simply remove the top wet layer when changing the sheets). While we admire the creative thinking, we suggest NOT doing this.
Our advice: one sheet over a waterproof crib pad is enough. Or use a QuickZip sheet or an Ultimate Crib Sheet. The take-home message: any more than TWO layers on top of a mattress is dangerous
5. Avoid electric blankets and heating pads.
Baby diapers often leak (sorry, fact of life) and an electric blanket or heating pad shouldn’t get wet! Also, overheated babies have a higher risk of SIDS. If your baby seems cold, add an extra layer under her wearable blanket for warmth. Don’t turn the thermostat up over 68° though. A too warm nursery is dangerous.
6. Take care if you are swaddling your baby, you could be wrapping her too tight.
It’s fine to wrap your baby’s arms snugly but leave the legs loose enough for him to move them around. Experts advise this technique to possibly prevent hip dislocation from spending hours wrapped like a mummy!
And stop swaddling after two months—your baby will need to move around and stretch out after that age.
7. Let’s talk about how much bedding you really need.
Honestly, all you need is three to four fitted sheets. This gives you enough for quick changes without doing laundry every day.
If your baby is a prolific diaper leaker, then consider buying a couple of waterproof mattress pads (one to use, another spare one when pad #1 is in the wash). You don’t want your baby’s pee to soak into the mattress or its seams.
As for blankets, swaddle a baby for the first eight weeks. After that, a wearable blanket is a good bet. There should be no loose blankets in a crib.
Many baby bedding sets include all manner of accessories: dust ruffles, diaper stackers, window valances, etc. While pretty to look at, think of these items more as room decor than functional bedding. Remember: there should be no curtains or blinds (cord hazard) near a crib.
Bottom line: leave the crib naked except for a sheet and your baby!