The Importance of Choosing a Safe Baby Mattress
Your baby will spend much of their time sleeping. While newborns sleep 16 hours a day, by the time they are a year old they will sleep 14 hours a day, according to Stanford Children’s Health. That makes choosing a safe mattress for your baby important. Keep reading to find out exactly what you need to know to buy the best (and safest) mattress.
The Two Factors to Consider First
There are two big factors to consider when buying a safe baby crib: buying a new and firm mattress.
Buying a new crib mattress means you are buying a sanitary one. You won’t know how well someone cared for a used or hand-me-down mattress. Both mold and bacteria can develop in improperly cared for mattresses. A study found a link between used mattresses and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Firm is Safest
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a “firm sleep surface” to prevent SIDS. To ensure that the mattress support will stay firm, Healthy Families British Columbia recommends checking it by doing three things: shaking it, thumping it, and pushing hard on it from underneath.
Innerspring vs. Foam
There are two general types of crib mattresses: foam and innerspring, and both “will keep their shape well and provide excellent support for infants,” according to Consumer Reports. Foam is usually made of polyurethane and weighs around 5 to 13 pounds. That's generally lighter than an innerspring mattress, which is around 15 to 30 pounds.
Here’s what you need to know before buying either mattress type:
- If you decide to buy a foam mattress, press on the center and edges to see if it snaps back right away and does not conform to your hand’s shape. You don’t want your baby on a mattress that is not firm.
- If you decide on an innerspring mattress, look for more layers. The more layers an innerspring mattress has, the better its quality. Always buy an innerspring mattress with border rods, which are around the perimeter of the mattress. They make the mattress firmer, more durable, and provide side and edge support. If you can’t find information about the layers or border rods in the store, look online.
Look for Quality
The mattress your baby will sleep on is not something to scrimp on. A quality mattress will support your baby’s body and give them better sleep time. Cheap foam and innerspring mattresses have a covering that is thin and prone to tear and crack. The covering tends to be thicker and resistant to punctures as the prices increase. Consumer Reports recommends a mattress that costs between $90 and $200.
Size and Weight Matter
The size of a baby mattress matters. The legal size, set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), for a crib mattress is 27 ¼ inches x 51 ¼ inches, with a thickness of no more than six inches. You want to be sure that the mattress will fit your crib, so be sure that there are not any gaps bigger than two fingers between the crib’s sides and the mattress. Gaps allow a newborn’s head to become trapped and they could suffocate as a result.
When considering the weight of a baby mattress, think about what you will want to comfortably lift when you clean it.
Breathable is Best
A breathable mattress is a must, and a breathable mattress does not mean that it is not firm. Breathability refers to how well the materials in a mattress allow the air to circulate and keep it dry. We generate body heat and perspiration when we sleep and your baby will also. So, you want a mattress that can stay dry.
There are two factors to consider: ventilation holes and breathable fabric. Here's what you need to know about both:
- Ventilation holes on the sides of the mattress allow air to flow in and out.
- One of the advantages of ventilation holes is that they cause a mattress to smell better.
- Considering that babies are messy and diaper leaks are always a possibility, improving odor is a must.
- Many mattress tops are made of polyester and polyurethane foam, which are both non-breathable fabrics.
- A mattress topped with bamboo will not get hot or damp while your baby is sleeping because bamboo fibers maintain the temperature well. There are also bamboo mattress covers on the market that are waterproof.
Babies are particularly sensitive to chemicals because their bodies and brains are developing. Looking for organic options when purchasing a safe baby mattress is important to ensure your baby is not exposed to harmful chemicals as they sleep. While there is not a legal standard for the claims of natural or organic when it comes to a crib mattress, there are ways to know that what you buy is not loaded with toxic chemicals. What you want to look for are mattresses that Greenguard Environmental Institute, a group that tests products for toxic emissions, deem safe.
You can also do the following:
- Ask questions about each part of a mattress. A mattress labeled organic might contain a cover made from organic materials while the rest of it isn’t organic.
- Look for the textile label the Oeko-Tex Association because it means testing was conducted to detect toxic substances.
- Look for the Global Organic Textile Standard, a standard for textiles made from organic fibers. Textile products can only be certified with the label if it contains at least 70 percent organic fibers.
Caring for the Mattress
Caring for the mattress properly will mean it will last longer. One of the key things you can do to take care of your baby’s mattress is to clean up any leaks as soon as they occur, so they won’t seep into it.
Here’s a guide to cleaning up different leaks and stains:
- If it is urine, you can use natural cleaners made from household items such as vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice to clean it off of the mattress. For example, mix vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spray it on the leak liberally. Let it sit a while, and then blot it with paper towels to absorb moisture. Sprinkle baking soda on and let it sit a while before vacuuming it up.
- For vomit, you can also use natural cleaners.
- For fecal matter, you don’t want your baby exposed to harmful bacteria. This is where you can break out store-bought cleaners. There are naturally based cleaners on the market that can remove bacteria.
You will also want to remove the mattress from the crib once a week and clean it by vacuuming it with a brush attachment. After vacuuming, do the following to clean it:
- Mix five cups of warm water and a tablespoon of laundry detergent. One with natural ingredients works best.
- With a cloth or sponge, moisten the mattress with the water/detergent solution, but don’t soak it as you want it to dry as quickly as possible.
- Put a couple of towels on the floor, flip the mattress over, and clean the other side with the solution.
- Let the mattress completely dry before putting it back into the crib.
Choosing a Safe Baby Mattress will Ease Your Mind
After a crib, a safe baby mattress is one of the most important things you can buy for your baby. Choosing the right one will mean the mattress will last for as long as you need it.