Everyone always says buying a great mattress is a great investment in you. We should spend a lot of time sleeping. And good back support, comfort and “snug” all make for a great night sleep. So for a baby - whose bones and spine are developing, who spends most of the day and night on her back; and who spends most hours of the day and night sleeping – can you imagine how important it is to get a great mattress?
This is one area that you don’t want to be cutting corners. And you certainly don’t want pre-loved.
There are three basic types of mattresses – inner spring, foam and natural. Natural can also be organic but not necessarily.
There is more and more being written about the dangers lurking in mattresses, particularly frightening for babies. Inner spring and foam mattresses are synthetic and can be made from petrochemicals and formaldehyde which are at best irritants to skin and allergy causing at worst carcinogens and responsible for immune dysfunction. The off gassing produced by these mattresses is not ideal for babies developing immune and nervous systems.
Natural mattresses are most commonly made of latex. (Make sure its natural latex not synthetic.) And some mattresses use coconut coir. If you are going to the effort and expense of buying a natural mattress, make sure that the cover you use on it is organic. Cotton is one the most pesticide laden crops (2nd I believe, after coffee) and off gassing occurs even after washing.
Do your research and buy as well as you can. If inner spring is the best that you can afford, invest in an organic cover and bed sheets. At least that way there is a safe barrier between the mattress and your baby.
Here are some basic things to look out for when buying a mattress:
- Must be firm – this is one of the most important factors when choosing a mattress.
- Must fits to the cots edges – product safety Australia regulates (maximum 20 mm from any cot side or end when centred on the mattress base; 40 mm when the mattress is pushed to one side or end.)
- Buy new - bacteria, mites and mould are a danger with old mattresses.
- Sturdy edges - to minimise chance of child getting trapped between bed and mattress
- Hypo-allergenic - Any allergies in family – e.g. to wool or latext?
- Check for breathability – particularly in hotter climates
- Weight – foam is lighter and therefore easier to change in the middle of the night. Make sure that what you buy you can easily move around
- How many coils – generally more coils may mean more support (but not always). The quality of the coils is also important. (Consumerreports.org define "About 135 to 150 is a good midrange.") Check for firmness – this is the absolute key.
- Price – foam is generally cheaper – but think about this. Your child will be spending a lot of time on this particular purchase. A lot of time when the back and the body is developing and growing. This is not the purchase to save on. You don’t need the most expensive, but you need good quality from a reliable company. And this is one purchase you want to look at carefully.
- With inner spring mattresses consumerreports.org warn that beware of the insulator pads (which keep the coils in) – “the lowest-quality insulator pads are made from woven polyester.” Coir fibre, hard felt and fibre-wrap pads are best.
- Always get a protective cover - water resistant or waterproof – make sure it is a firm fit to the mattress and buy organic if you can which means it will be water resistant not water proof.
As with anything to do with our babies, we want to do the best we can within our means. I wish I could buy top of the range all of the time, but that simply is not my reality and I am sure I am not alone. So my objective with any purchase is to get the best that my money can buy and find ways to make it better in ways that is within my reach.
And the other thing to keep in mind is that you can always put some money aside - plan for it - if it's a big purchase. Baby won't need a cot mattress for a while, if you have a bassinet, giving you some extra time to put away a little bit of money.