To grow, I must sleep.

Babies do a lot of growing when they are asleep. Sleep is as vital to an infant’s physical and mental development as is nutrition and exercise. Choosing the right baby sleep products will ensure that your baby (and by extension, you) gets adequate and quality sleep. This in-turn will mean that when awake, Junior is ready to cope and ready to learn.

So what should we be looking for when buying a baby sleep item? Safety is and will always be, of course, the primary concern. We covered some general guiding principles for buying baby products in an earlier article. While all of these hold for sleep products as well, there is also a certain specificity involved in baby sleep product selection. While we cannot cover the hundreds of available products, we will cover the most important and common ones.


  • Size and Capacity
    This is an often underplayed concern. When buying a crib, it is important to make sure that it is suitable for you baby’s weight. Since most cribs are manufactured in a standard size, they may not work for a baby with special requirements. In many cases (and the numbers are growing daily), it may not be appropriate to use a standard crib at all for the first few months. Other options (we covered it briefly here) maybe available.

  • Railings and Slats
    As of 2011, cribs with drop-side railings have been banned. The ban came into effect in 2011. You can read more about this here and here. Do not buy or accept a used crib that has drop-side railings.

    Crib slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. This standard is meant to prevent a baby from getting its head or limbs caught between the slats, the outcome of which would certainly be injury and in the worst case scenario, death. Do not use cribs that have damaged or missing slats.

  • Corner posts
    Corner posts should be atleast 1/16th of an inch above the head panel. Anything less is a potential strangulation hazard as clothing can get caught on the knobs.

  • Finish
    Make sure that there are no protruding or sharp edges anywhere. All metal fittings should be smoothly polished with no jagged edges. Ensure that the paint/other finish used is approved for baby furniture and is pthalates and lead free.

  • Mattress
    The mattress should fit snugly in the crib. This will prevent the baby from getting caught between mattress and railings potentially resulting in suffocation and death. DO NOT use a mattress that does not fit. DO NOT make-shift with DIY stuffing with blankets or other material.


  • Fire-retardant
    Mattresses are available in a huge variety of types and sizes. The one absolute criterion for mattresses and mattress pads is that they be flame retardant.

  • Size and Shape
    A mattress should fit the crib (or playard or bassinet or any other sleep product that requires one) snugly and conform to the shape of the furniture it is in. There should be no gaps between the sides and the mattress that are a potential choking hazard. DO NOT make-shift with DIY stuffing. By law, all full-sized crib mattresses must be at least 27 1/4 inches by 51 5/8 inches, and no more than 6 inches thick. Check the fit by putting it inside a sample crib before you buy it.

  • Material
    Choose a mattress that is firm and not bouncy. A soft mattress can conform to the shape of your baby’s head or face, increasing the risk of suffocation or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Buy a foam mattress, preferably. Avoid mattresses with breakable inner parts (coils and springs). This is not to say that a good quality spring mattress will not work for you. But in general, foam mattresses are lighter and easier to manage when you are changing your baby’s sheets and older, energetic babies are far less likely to be tempted to bounce on them!

  • Quality
    Look for mattresses that have a thick covering – reinforced double/triple laminates, are puncture-resistant and have a proven track record in the market. Browse your options. Check for manufacturer recommendations. Make sure that you have all information about the item you are going to buy and finally, double and triple check through product reviews.

  • Usage
    Never, ever use a mattress that is damaged. Once all the above criteria are satisfied, use a tightly fitting, washable waterproof mattress cover to protect the mattress and keep the baby’s sleeping environment as clean and sanitary as possible. Avoid too many paraphernalia or over-stuffing the piece of furniture.

Bumper Pads

  • Crib bumper-pads are meant to provide extra protection for your baby. They can prevent limb and head entrapment and injury. However, and this is a big ‘however’, it is of paramount importance that the bumper pads be used correctly and that no compromise be made on the quality of the pads in use.

  • The pads should cover all four sides of the crib and tie onto the crib bars securely in at least six places.

  • The pads should be removed as soon as your baby begins to use them to pull herself up to stand. When this happens, the pads could collapse, causing your baby to fall and hit its head against the bars. Also, your baby may use them as a prop to attempt to climb out of the crib.

  • Buy a firm bumper pad covered with washable fabric. Clip tie cords after you’ve fastened them to the crib bars, leaving only an inch of excess cord.

  • Lookout for and avoid –
    Poor quality bumper pads that may have elastic snap ties tearing from pads, snaps pulling off, and vinyl seams ripping and exposing foam interiors, which a baby can ingest. Also lookout for tie-cords may be long enough to tangle around your baby’s neck. Always clip tie-cords.

Baby Monitors

  • It’s important to have a baby monitor installed in your baby’s sleep area so you can see and hear your child at all times. However, certain precautions need to be taken. For instance, the monitor should be at least 3 feet away to prevent accidental entanglements with the cord.

  • JPMA has released this video describing baby monitor installation guidelines.

  • Other JPMA literature regarding safety is available here.

We cannot stress this enough: While it is of utmost importance that you keep yourself educated and informed, it is equally important to remember that all you read need not be accurate and sometimes, not even true. So consult your baby’s physician before making purchases – especially those that will be ingested or applied your baby’s body.

As a parent, keeping your baby safe, healthy and happy is your responsibility and yours alone. Stay informed and stay on top!