New parents may not believe this, especially at night, but babies sleep around 18 hours a day. They could also be sleeping in the crib for up to three years.
So a good quality crib mattress is important.
Here are some tips to help you choose a crib mattress for your baby.
Is It Okay to Buy or Borrow a Used Crib Mattress?
A used mattress can have lost some of it’s firmness during use or in storage. This could place your baby at risk for suffocation or SIDS.
Also, if a used mattress was not cleaned well, bacteria could be present on the surface. If the mattress was not stored in a dry environment, mold could have grown in the mattress.
Finally, used mattresses could have been subject to a recall. You can check the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website for recalls.
For your baby’s health and safety, we recommend buying a new, affordable, quality crib mattress.
What Factors Should You Consider When Choosing a Crib Mattress?
Crib mattresses are legally required to be no less than 27 1/4″ wide x 51 5/8″ long, and no thicker than 6″. The interior of a crib must be at least 28″ wide x 52 3/8″ long.
If you can fit three or more fingers between the mattress and the crib, then the mattress is too small for the crib. Large gaps increase the risk of suffocation.
Babies’ bones are developing. They need more support and a firmer mattress than adults.
On a softer mattress, your baby’s weight can cause depressions in the mattress. This places your baby at risk of suffocation and SIDS.
A firm crib mattress should spring back when you press down on the center and sides.
Your baby will be sleeping on this mattress for several years. As your baby grows older, he or she will become more active.
It is worth spending more to get a mattress that will last.
Vinyl coverings and edges on cheaper mattresses can crack and tear. This can cause rough surfaces that can injure your baby and create areas for bacteria to grow.
Better mattresses are puncture-resistant, with double or triple thick coverings or a fine organic cotton covering.
Which Is Better a Foam or Innerspring Mattress?
A good quality foam mattress is just as good and will last as long as an innerspring mattress.
Foam mattresses are lighter weight than innerspring mattresses, which makes it easier when you make the bed.
Also, when your child gets older, they will not be able to jump on a foam mattress as if it is a trampoline, like they could on an innerspring mattress.
All mattresses have labels that list every element used in the construction of the mattress. This information will help you select a good quality mattress.
Both foam and innerspring mattresses cost about the same. Prices range from $50 to $400.
Higher priced mattresses usually use natural latex or organic cotton. You can buy a good quality mattress for anywhere from $90 to $200.
Foam Crib Mattresses
Foam mattresses are 3″ to 6″ thick and weigh between 5 and 13 pounds. The firmer and denser foam mattresses weigh more.
Most foam mattresses are made of polyurethane foam. However, some are made with bonded polyester fiber cores and are lower density mattresses.
You can test the density by placing the center of the mattress between your palms and pressing. The denser the mattress, the less you can compress it.
The label tells how many pounds per cubic foot that the mattress holds. The higher the number, the denser the mattress.
A density of 1.5 pounds per cubic foot is good.
Some foam mattresses also offer high-density edges which help prevent the sides from breaking down.
Innerspring Crib Mattresses
Innerspring mattresses have metal coil springs covered with layers of foam, padding, and fabric. These mattresses weigh between 15 and 30 pounds.
A heavier innerspring mattress will have better cushioning and better gauge steel springs. This makes it firmer, more comfortable, and more durable.
Innerspring mattresses with border rods, corner protectors, weight distribution bars, and steel clips have a more durable core. The edges of these mattresses are also protected from sagging or breaking down.
The firmness of an innerspring mattress depends on the gauge of the steel coils and the number of coils used in the mattress.
The gauge of the steel coils signifies the thickness of the metal in the coil. A smaller gauge means that the coil is comprised of thicker steel and is therefore firmer.
The gauge of the coils in innerspring mattresses can be from 19 to 12.5. A gauge of 15.5 or less is good.
The number of coils in an innerspring crib mattress can range from 80 to 280. A mattress with 135 to 150 low-gauge steel coils will be very firm.
The Insulator Pad:
The insulator pad is the cushioning on top of the coils. The pad can be made of coir fiber, fiber-wrap, hard felt, woven polyester, and plastic mesh.
Coir fiber pads are the best and most expensive pads but their durability makes them worth the extra cost. They are made from shredded coconut shells.
Fiber-wrap pads consist of fabric scraps compressed into a pad. They perform well and are not as expensive as coir fiber pads.
Hard felt pads are like compressed carpet padding. They also perform well and are not as expensive as coir fiber pads.
Woven polyester pads are the least durable. They can form unsafe depressions under your baby and develop unsafe pockets over time.
Plastic-mesh pads are low-quality pads. It would be better to pay more and get a mattress with one of the first three pads.
Cushioning Layers can be foam, cotton, or polyester. A good quality mattress will have foam or cotton cushioning.
Mattresses with polyester cushioning are the least expensive. However, polyester cushioning forms unsafe pockets as the polyester shifts around in the mattress.
Mattress coverings can be made of cloth or vinyl.
Cloth coverings can be water-resistant.
Water-resistant cloth coverings have multiple layers of cloth with a bottom layer of nylon. Water-resistant-cloth-covered mattresses should have ventilation holes.
Vinyl coverings are easier to clean and less likely to stain than fabric coverings.
Vinyl coverings should have ventilation holes. They should also consist of multiple layers for durability.
What Other Crib Mattress Features Should You Consider?
If you are concerned about exposing your baby to latex or potentially harmful chemicals in foam and flame-retardant treatments, you can buy an organic mattress. However, organic mattresses are more expensive.
Some organic mattresses use coir fiber in place of foam and innersprings. These mattresses use lamb’s wool, mohair fleece, or cotton as cushioning, and have organic cotton coverings.
Organic mattresses may also use plant-based foam, natural latex, and food-grade polymers.
There are no set standards for organic mattresses. However, you can look for the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification or the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification.
The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification is awarded for mattresses without some flame-retardant materials, heavy metals, and dyes. The GOTs certification only covers fabrics with at least 70 percent organic fibers.
Check every element of the mattress to be sure it is truly organic.
Dual-Firmness Convertible Mattresses
Dual-firmness convertible mattresses have a firm side for babies and a less firm side for toddlers. If you buy a convertible mattress, do not flip it until your baby is one and is less likely to be at risk of SIDs.
A convertible mattress is not necessary because your toddler will be used to sleeping on a firm mattress. If you do not buy a convertible mattress, then you will be able to flip the mattress regularly to promote even wear on the mattress.
Mattress Pads or Covers
Mattress Covers provide an extra layer of cushioning and waterproof protection. They also provide an additional buffer from cold vinyl mattresses.
They fit snugly under the sheet so there is no risk of suffocation. They are waterproof and machine washable, but you should still wash the mattress after accidents.
If you are concerned about the chemicals used in waterproof mattress covers, you can buy wool mattress pads. However, wool mattress pads may only be water-resistant, not waterproof.
Antimicrobial mattress covers are designed to slow the growth of bacteria and mold.
However, with the growing concern about the overuse of antibacterials, just keeping the mattress clean is sufficient. Then, later, storing it in a clear mattress storage bag in a cool, dry place will be fine.
Breathable mattresses are supposed to protect babies from SIDS by protecting the baby from breathing in carbon dioxide even if the baby’s face is against the mattress. Testing and debates about these products are still ongoing.
For now, put your baby in his or her crib on his or her back with no covers, pillow, or toys.
Some mattresses come with warranties. If the warranty makes a mattress cost more than a comparable mattress, then it is not worth the extra money.
Just select the features mentioned above that you want and buy a quality mattress. A quality mattress will last until your baby has outgrown it.