Racing the Laundry Clock: How Many Crib Sheets Do I Need?

Prepare your nursery for baby without overcrowding the linen closet

Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on July 23rd, 2021

There’s nothing quite like that cozy feeling of seeing baby snuggled up in their crib, knowing they’re safe and sound, off to dreamland; then comes the diaper blowout, the 3 AM screaming, and, of course, the necessary sheet change. It’s not a time when any of us want to reach for the linen closet and come up empty handed. 

How many crib sheets you’ll need for your baby can depend on a few factors — chief among them are your child’s age, and how often you’re comfortable doing laundry. 

Let’s dive in.

Buying fitted sheets for the crib: What to consider

Mattress size

It’s important to know that there are two primary crib mattress sizes, standard and mini. A set of standard sheets will not fit on a mini-sized mattress, and vice-versa.

Know what mattress size you’re buying for in order to avoid a bad fit. Oversized sheets that don’t fit securely on the mattress can pose a SIDS risk to your newborn. 1pediatrics.aappublications.org SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths

Although they are less common, some cribs are shaped and have specialty sheets designed just for the manufacturer. The Stokke Sleepi is a popular example of this type of crib.

Breathability

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of holding a baby (or a toddler) on a hot summer day, you know that they can sweat like a marathon runner. This means that breathable clothes and sheets are helpful, as they prevent moisture from lingering on your baby’s delicate skin and causing irritation. 

Sheets made from 100% cotton or bamboo viscose are soft, hypoallergenic, and breathable, and are favored by many new parents.

Washability

Materials with complex cleaning instructions are far from compatible with new parenthood — you’ll want sheets that you can throw in the washer without a second thought. Fortunately, most crib sheets fit that description, especially the breathable cotton and bamboo viscose that are best for your baby.

Stray away from silk or satin crib sheets, and most products described as “luxury”. They’re cute in theory, but they’re extremely impractical. 

Allergies and sensitive skin

Sensitive skin is very common in new babies, and certain fabrics can be a significant trigger. This means that when purchasing crib sheets, mattress or bassinet covers, and changing pad covers, fabrics like polyester, wool, and fleece should be skipped over in favor of breathable bamboo and cotton, which are less likely to irritate delicate infant skin.

How many crib sheets do I need?

As we mentioned back at the beginning, your child’s age and your willingness and ability to devote time to laundry play a part in answering this question. 

The frequency with which you intend to change your child’s bedding is also part of the equation — at least once a week is recommended, but when you have a newborn, it’s quite likely you’ll want or need to change the sheets more often.

Newborn – 12 months

The first year of your child’s life is likely to be the peak of your bed-changing duty. 

Because newborns don’t move around very much, they tend to get sweaty quickly, which means sheets can get yucky in the span of a day. We won’t even talk about spit-up and drool!

Newborns also have nearly no bladder and bowel control, so diaper blowouts and accidents in the crib are a pretty common occurrence — many parents opt to add a fitted waterproof mattress protector on the crib or bassinet mattress under the sheet in order to prevent damage and odor.

Our recommendation: Two or three sheets, bare minimum, and that’s if you’re willing to do laundry frequently. Otherwise, consider keeping between five and seven crib sheets on hand, as backed up laundry and sudden catastrophic messes both have a way of sneaking up on new parents.

12 Months and beyond

Now that your child has grown significantly, they’re spending a lot less time in their crib. This, of course, means less time for potential messes.

While babies between 12 and 18 months may still have the occasional messy diaper, once they’ve weaned off breastfeeding, blowouts are less common, as is spit-up.. Some babies are able to begin potty training between 18 and 24 months, reducing the likelihood of accidents even further, but the number of bed changes needed is likely to spike temporarily when they switch from diapers and pull ups to big-kid underwear. 

Even though little ones are less likely to turn the crib into a war zone once they’re past the newborn years, this doesn’t discount the possibility of sickness. Not only will a sudden stomach bug wreak obvious havoc on your toddler’s sheets, but it also deposits plenty of pesky germs that you’ll want to whisk away as soon as possible (hopefully, with a nice, clean replacement sheet at the ready).

Our recommendation: Two or three sheets continue to be the necessary bare minimum, as you’d surely not want to be caught with less if your tot gets the flu or has an accident. Four or five sets of crib sheets are likely to keep you covered — you might not always need them all, but when frequent bed changes become necessary, you’ll be very glad to have them. 

Mattress pads, Bassinet covers, and Changing pad covers

Places where your baby spends a lot of time, like their bassinet, crib, or changing pad, are most likely to fall victim to messy accidents. For this reason, many parents choose to use waterproof covers on these items in order to prevent permanent damage and lingering odor.

Mattress pads

Functioning much like a sheet, a mattress pad or cover fits snugly over your baby’s crib mattress. Some mattress pads function like sheets, using a sewn-in elastic band which sits beneath the mattress, while other covers work more like zippering pillowcases into which the mattress easily slides.

A fitted crib sheet should be placed over the mattress pad, as the pad or cover itself is not likely to be breathable or comfortable for your baby. Typically, only one mattress pad is needed at a time, though you may wish to replace it after wear and tear.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Only use fitted crib sheets which fit securely around your mattress pad or cover of choice, or choose fitted crib sheets with built-in waterproof inserts. Poorly fitting and non-fitted sheets pose a SIDS risk to your baby.

Bassinet covers

A bassinet cover is little more than a mattress pad for your baby’s bassinet, but finding one that fits may be a little more challenging. Though there are standard specs for bassinet mattresses (approximately 30-33” x 15-18” x 2”), there are also extra-thick bassinet mattresses and those which have brand-specific sizing.

If your bassinet mattress is a non-standard size or shape, you may have to order a bassinet cover through your brand’s manufacturer in order to get a good (and safe) fit. Just as when using mattress covers, it’s essential that you choose a fitted sheet that secures over the cover in order to avoid SIDS risk. 2pediatrics.aappublications.org SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths

Changing pad covers

Your baby spends less time on the changing table than in their crib or bassinet, but it’s also an area where messes are more likely to happen. A waterproof sheet that slips right over their changing pad can increase the longevity of the pad, catching bacteria, preventing stains and odors, and making cleanup much easier. 

Unlike mattress pads and bassinet covers, changing pad covers need to be washed more frequently and are smaller and less expensive. Keeping three or four on hand is usually sufficient.

Our takeaways

When choosing fitted sheets for your crib, consider your baby’s age. 

While parents of infants might wish to keep five to seven sets of crib sheets on hand, toddler parents can probably make do with four or five. Parents who don’t mind doing laundry frequently might be able to get away with less, but we don’t recommend any less than two or three sets to avoid being caught off guard.

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Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on July 23rd, 2021

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