It’s no secret that well-rested people are generally healthier and happier, and this is certainly as true for babies as it is for adults, if not more so. Therefore, choosing the right mattress to place in the baby’s crib becomes an important and essential decision, since your baby will be in daily contact with him. Since babies spend most of their time sleeping, choosing wisely is not something that can be left to chance.
When looking for a crib mattress, parents generally consider the following characteristics: safety, firmness, comfort, and cleanliness. It may seem like a difficult balancing act, but there are many options available, and parents don’t need to sacrifice quality for affordability.
Choosing a type of baby mattress
When choosing a baby crib, the first decision is to take an internal spring crib mattress or a foam crib mattress. This first option dictates subsequent options, such as which organic or natural materials and non-organic materials go into the construction of the mattress, and so on.
Foam crib mattresses are made from high-density foam, durable, and long-lasting despite being lighter than the internal spring alternative. This feature, more than any other, is the one that most often influences parents who choose a foam baby crib mattress.
The oils from which the foams are made create a consistent texture throughout the core of the mattress. Some of the most popular ones are made with a percentage of natural soybean oils rather than the more common method of using 100% petroleum to create firm lather.
Since foams made exclusively from soybean oil are not firm enough to be used as mattresses, there are currently no mattresses made from soy alone.
Memory foam is petroleum-based foam so named because it eventually takes the shape of the person sleeping on it. Memory foam is a closed-cell structure that tends to heat up and sink under the weight of a child. Since most manufacturers use only a quarter-inch of memory foam, this “memory” effect is often lost due to the thinness of the coating.
Latex foam can be natural, synthetic, or a mixture of the two, and recovers to shape more easily and is generally a component in more expensive premium mattresses. The “natural” part of the latex foam comes from the milky sap of the rubber tree which is then processed into a variety of materials.
While many people confuse the latex in latex foam mattresses with the latex found in gloves or balloons, this is a common mistake. The foam version of the latex used in mattresses is a protein-free open-cell structure, the presence of which in mattresses is the most common cause of allergic reactions.
Once removed from the foam, the resulting latex foam is hypoallergenic and used in the highest quality mattresses. Oeko-Tex certified latex foam, in particular, is of the highest quality. Quality mattresses made by leading mattress manufacturers use up to a full inch of latex foam cushioning.
Foam mattresses, however, are not for everyone. If for some reason, the use of foam crib mattresses is not ideal for the baby, then the alternative is to choose an internal spring mattress.
Unlike foam crib mattresses, steel springs with internal springs are more durable and steel lasts for the life of the mattress. This durability explains the popularity of spring steel mattresses. The coils used in the mattresses are heat tempered and are able to maintain their support and resistance qualities no matter how the baby moves.
The need for crib mattresses to fit inside the standard 52-inch by 28-inch crib has resulted in a range of coil counts available. The higher the coil count, the closer the steel coils will be within the mattress. The gauge of the steel measures the thickness of the material used in the individual coils: the lower the gauge, the thicker the steel.
Finding the correct balance of coil count and gauge can be difficult. Please note that the amount and thickness of the steel will affect the weight of the mattress. Ideally, a lower coil count should be combined with a lower gauge, thicker steel, and a higher coil count should go with a higher gauge for thinner steel.
The interior of the internal spring crib mattresses differs from that of a foam crib mattress in that the internal spring mattresses have more workpieces inside. In addition to steel edge wire for edge support, additional interior structures such as weight distribution bars, cross frames, edge pylons, and flexible clips can contribute to a firmer, more supportive core structure.
The filling of an internal spring crib mattress determines how firm or soft the mattress will be. Having built the inner core of steel, designers build with layers of different materials, such as polyester, organic cotton, even “shoddy pads” made from recycled clothing or rugs. They can also incorporate foam mattress elements, such as memory foam and latex foam.
Polyester cushioning is comfortable, strong, and durable, and some leading brands use it, in thick layers, to create a firm, supportive surface that also helps provide sleeping comfort.
If you are considering a polyester cushioned internal spring mattress, you should test the mattress by pressing the mattress; you don’t want your baby to feel the coils, so when you try it this way you should feel the cushioning and not the coils.
Polyester is often the choice for the greenest because it is made from recycled PET bottles, helping to reduce the amount of additional waste that is dumped in landfills.
Organic cotton cushioning, unlike polyester cushioning, provides softness but does not create such a firm foundation. Because of this, organic cotton cushioned mattresses must be reinforced with some material or another to prevent them from falling onto the coils. Like polyester, organic cotton is an increasingly popular green option because it is a natural product and a renewable resource.