Babies spend up to 18 hours a day in their first weeks of life sleeping, which makes buying a crib or toddler bed mattress is about as important, if not more so, than buying the crib or bed itself. Knowing the differences between baby and toddler mattresses may help you more effectively choose which type is best for you, your family and your budget.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has many parents justifiably concerned over the best way to lay down their precious little ones at night and for daytime naps. In general, firmer is better for infants until they turn one year old. After age one, children can sleep on softer mattresses, which toddler mattresses usually are. However, if you want to save money, Consumer Reports recommends purchasing a quality, firm mattress for your infant that he can continue to use as a toddler; after all, a firm mattress won’t hurt him.
Baby mattresses are commonly called crib mattresses. While there are many brands, brand name is less important than type. There are two types of crib, or baby, mattresses -- foam and innerspring. According to Consumer Reports, either one is an acceptable choice. Foam mattresses are lighter, generally weighing about 7 or 8 pounds, while innerspring mattresses weigh anywhere from 15 to 23 pounds. Innerspring mattresses tend to be more popular, perhaps because it’s what most American adults sleep on, but foam mattresses make sheet-changing easier. Crib mattresses are legally required to be 27-1/4-inches by 51-5/8-inches and no more than 6 inches thick. Consumer Reports recommends purchasing a baby mattress that has a high coil count and low steel gauge with a coir fiber wrap pad and foam or cotton cushioning layers with a vinyl cover.
Toddler mattresses may often be the same size as crib mattresses but are not as firm. Because the risk of SIDS is not present with toddlers, parents can spend less on a foam or innerspring mattress that is not as dense or does not contain as high of a coil count as a baby mattress. Parents may still want to look for a toddler mattress with a vinyl cover, which helps protect the mattress during the child’s potty training years. Consumer Reports recommends testing the fit of the toddler mattress with the toddler bed that you are considering purchasing to make sure there are no dangerous gaps between the mattress and the bed frame that a toddler could get his fingers or hands stuck in and hurt.
A small number of convertible mattresses are available for parents to purchase. A convertible mattress is one that is firmer on one side and softer on the other. After one year of life, parents can flip the mattress over to make it softer for their toddlers to sleep on. Convertible mattresses tend to be more expensive and have an extra firm side for infants with a memory foam side for toddlers.