Many parents-to-be spend a lot of time picking out the crib and choosing the bedding for it, but end up buying the first nice soft mattress they come across. In actuality, you should spend almost as much time selecting the mattress as you do the crib, and it should be firm and durable, yet comfortable as well. Consider the baby mattress as the canvas for your baby's growth and development. Just like with adult beds, the crib and a mattress for the crib must be purchased separately. And just like when you chose the mattress for your bed with a perfect night's sleep in mind, you will want to do the same for your child, especially since newborns sleep up to 18 hours a day when they are first brought home from the hospital.
A standard crib mattress is typically 28" wide by 52" deep and is six inches thick. There are two basic types of crib mattresses available, foam and inner spring. Whether you decide on an innerspring or foam mattress, the two major concerns should be size and firmness. A mattress that is too soft can be detrimental to your baby's health, and in rare cases, if the mattress is so soft that it conforms to the child's body, it can create the risk of suffocation. Both innerspring and foam mattress, if they are well-made, will keep their shape and provide the proper support needed for infants and toddlers. When deciding whether to buy an innerspring or foam mattress, you'll probably wonder which one is better. It really comes down to personal preference; if the parents sleep on an innerspring mattress, chances are, they will purchase an innerspring crib mattress for their child, and the same holds true for parents-to-be that have chosen a foam mattress for themselves. The important thing to remember is to purchase the best quality crib mattress that you can, whether its foam or innerspring.
Regardless of the type of mattress you decide to purchase, an innerspring crib mattress or a foam crib mattress should have the following features:
Innerspring Coil Baby Mattresses
An innerspring crib mattress is made up of a coil system that is cushioned between layers of cotton or foam padding. Depending on the brand or manufacturer, a mattress can have up to 300 coils. A popular belief is that the more coils the firmer the mattress. While this is somewhat true, other factors come into play. In addition to the number of coils, the quality of the mattress will also depend on the configuration of the coils and the strength and thickness of the steel used to make the coils. If these three components are in balance, then it will be more durable, firm and comfortable. To ensure that you are buying a quality crib mattress, select one with a coil count of at least 150 and includes border rods. Border rods encircle the top and bottom edges of the mattress, lending it additional support and firmness. The border rods also contribute to proper weight distribution and help prevent sagging. A typical innerspring crib mattress weighs anywhere from 15 to 23 pounds.
The number of actual layers that make up a crib mattress varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the structure can be roughly divided into three sections; the top, the coil layer and the insulator pad with layers of cushioning separating each section. The top or cover of the mattress is made of vinyl or some other type of plastic and can be quilted or smooth. A vinyl/plastic cover that has been reinforced with nylon or polyester is the best option. More expensive mattresses have a double or triple laminate vinyl cover that has been reinforced by nylon for added protection against wetness. The coil layer is typically made of steel and the smaller the number of gauge wire used means that the wire is thicker or stronger. The insulator pad is made up of some type of fiber such as shredded coconut shells or pieces of compressed cloth and can have the texture of felt. The cushioning layers used in the construction of a crib mattress can be made from a number of materials, including cotton, cotton/polyester blend, foam or a foam/cotton combination.
An organic version of the innerspring crib mattress is available for those concerned about the possible effects of synthetic materials, chemicals or potential allergy-causing compounds. An organic crib mattress is typically composed of organic cottons and wools. The protective cover is made of a non-toxic, water-resistant material like white polyethylene, an environmentally friendly plastic. Most organic crib mattresses will be more expensive than their non-organic counterparts.
Some manufacturers offer foam crib mattresses that have an organic cushioning layer and a non-toxic cover, but by their very nature, most foam mattresses cannot be considered to be truly organic. However, they are a good compromise if you want to purchase a foam crib mattress and not have your child in direct contact with synthetic materials.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Everything you need to "see" in order to judge if the mattress is a quality one or not, is hidden from view. Do the press test - whether the mattress is innerspring or foam, when pressed in the center and the corners, the mattress should not retain the impression of your hand. Read any of the manufacturer material provided and ask questions if you're not sure.
If you can fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the side of the crib, the mattress is too small for the crib you have selected.
The height or thickness of a crib mattress should be no more than six inches.
Some types of crib mattresses can be used for toddler beds.
Foam crib mattresses are typically less expensive than innerspring crib mattresses.
If allergies or asthma is a concern, consider purchasing a hypoallergenic mattress with a separate mattress cover that is machine-washable.
Some parents worry that their child might become overheated when sleeping on a plastic surface. If this a concern, crib mattresses with cloth covers are available.