There is still no magic recipe to ensure that a baby will sleep through the night. But the purchase of appropriate bedding and a good mattress will at least reassure you that your baby is snug - even if your night is spent creeping from his room to your own checking that he's all right.
It is unusual for a cot to be sold with a mattress, so you will need to budget for:
- A mattress that precisely fits the cot or cot bed. (If you are buying a swinging crib, that may also require a mattress)
- 4 top sheets
- 4 bottom sheets
- 2/4 blankets
If your baby is under one year old do not be tempted by pillows, cot bumpers or any item that can restrict your baby's movement . The cot may look rather bare but it is important to prevent overheating. Once your baby is over one year old, you may wish to use a duvet instead of blankets and sheets. However in the early months, sheets and blankets are strongly advised by medical experts. This is because you can easily change the number of layers of bedding allowing your baby to stay at a perfect temperature. This is thought to be a significant factor in lessening the chances of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or cot death).
It is essential that the mattress fits into the cot. A gap round the sides of more than 4cms(1.5inches) could cause your baby to trap a finger or clothing with tragic results. It is also important that you choose a product that is easy to maintain. Because babies tend to produce a nightly cocktail of perspiration, saliva and possibly urine and regurgitated milk, a mattress protector is a good idea but you still need to be sure that you can keep the mattress itself in mint condition, otherwise it will become a haven for unwelcome bacteria.
Foam These mattresses are usually covered with PVC making them easy to wipe clean. Some have a fabric mesh at the top. The low price does not indicate that they are not up to the job. All cot mattresses have to meet a stringent British Standard before being allowed to go on sale in the UK.
- Bottom Line: These start at around 25 pounds for a mattress 8cm deep fitting a standard sized cot.
- Foam mattress tip: If after a few months, its cleanliness is in doubt, throw it away and invest in a new one. It will still have cost you a fraction of the more luxurious types around.
Natural Fibre If you are concerned about your baby sleeping on synthetic material, a natural fibre mattress is the best choice. The interior is usually filled with coconut fibre coated in latex, which is waterproof. The covers are soft cotton. Some models have a PVC side that you put facing the base of the cot away from your baby.
- Natural Fibre mattress tip: These mattresses tend to lack the requirement for fire retardant chemical additives that other mattresses may need to meet British Standards.
Spring Interior These have a traditional construction of coiled springs covered with a layer of both foam and soft cotton ticking. These have one side covered in cotton ticking and the other covered with wipe clean plastic.
- Bottom Line: These start at 40 pounds for a 10-14cms deep mattress, fitting a standard sized cot.
- Spring interior mattress tip: If you are concerned that your baby is getting overheated sleeping on the plastic side, use it cotton side upwards, but vacumn it regularly to keep dust mites at bay.
Hypoallergenic Mattresses If asthma or allergy-based illnesses run in the family, you might consider the latest synthetic mattresses. These come with a quilted top layer that can be easily detached from the body of the mattress, machine washed then tumble dried.
- Bottom Line: These cost around 50-60 pounds for a mattress fitting a standard sized cot.
- Hypoallergenic mattress tip: the manufacturers believe that if you keep the top layer scrupulously clean, you may cut down the risk of your child developing allergies.
To be absolutely sure that your baby's mattress stays pristine, you might want to consider a waterproof sheet. These are no longer the scrunchy plasticky things of our childhood but soft, quilted cotton with a vinyl backing.
- Bottom Line: These range between 13 and 25 pounds depending on the size and the brand.
- Mattress Protector Tip: If you buy the larger, single bed size, this may prove useful on your baby's first trips away from home. An accident in your mother-in-law's guest bedroom is not a recipe for a fun-packed evening.
BEDDING FOR INFANTS
Both flat and fitted cot sheets are for sale. You have a choice of different textures. Traditional, smoothly woven sheets, cosy flannelette, stretch terry and cotton jersey.
- Bottom Line: A Pack of two flat sheets in 100% cotton costs around 6 pounds. A pack of two fitted sheets costs between 8 and 10 pounds.
- Sheet tip: If you can't afford new sheets for your baby, cut down and hem one of your own.
Looking at the rainbow of possibilities in this area, it is easy to be seduced by snappily embroidered quilts and duvets but ignore these in preference to cotton cellular blankets. These are recommended by health professionals. Use them in layers, adding or removing a layer to maintain your baby at a perfect temperature. In a very cold home use cellular acrylic blankets. Both these fabrics wash well.
- Bottom Line: Cotton cellular blankets to fit a standard cot cost around 10 pounds each.
- Blanket tip: Wool is a traditional fabric for baby blankets but it does need care when washing. Textured fleece blankets are also available. These wash well and are ideal for use in a pram on a winter's day. More luxurious fabrics such as cashmere and pashmina have to be hand washed but suppliers cannot guarantee that milk and food stains can be totally eradicated.
Bedding for Infants Tip: Don't buy separate bedding for the pram, cot and moses basket. Just fold the cot linen down to fit in the smaller beds for the short time they are in use.
BEDDING FOR OLDER BABIES
Cot quilts: These are a lighter version of a duvet and can therefore be used in combination with sheets and blankets. Bottom Line: 15 pounds for a quilt usable in cots and cotbeds.
Cot duvets: These are available with a variety of fillings including a hyper-allergenic version. If you buy one, buy a spare cover so that you have another when the dirty cover is on the wash..
- Bottom Line: In addition to the price of the duvet, standard cot size duvet covers start at around 16 pounds.
Valance: A decorative frill which ties around the base of the cot.
- Bottom Line: 15 pounds upwards, depending on the fabric and the retailer.
Bedding for older babies Tip: If your baby has a very favourite duvet cover which he needs to snuggle under to go to sleep, buy a spare and alternate the two, so they both look and feel the same. This avoids tearful bedtimes when his favourite quilt is in the wash!