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Tips & Guides
Do you know that a baby spends more than 16 hours a day sleeping?
Yes, a baby crib is essentially where your baby will be spending most of his time in, especially in their first year or so.
Which is why it is so vital that you choose a safe and comfortable baby crib for your little one. But wait, that's not just that.
Rather, and perhaps what's more important, is about choosing the right baby crib mattress because hey, that will be where your baby will be lying on top of!
It may seem like it's just a simple piece of baby crib mattress, but there's actually many things to look out for. What are they? What’s the best cot mattress to buy?
What Is A Crib Mattress
First of all, what is a crib mattress?
There's no rocket science behind this. A crib mattress is exactly just that - a mini mattress that is designed to fit snugly inside your baby crib.
But there's exactly where the difficulty lies - how do you determine what is a "snug fit"?
You see (and you will be shocked by this), there are actually many cases that link SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) to crib mattresses. And many of that, is related to the question of "fit" as well as 5 other elements as follows.
Top 6 Elements To Look Out For
The picture below is a good summary of the important features to look at. Of course, we will break it down for you below.
A crib mattress needs to fit comfortably and just right in the crib.
"It cannot be too big to the point you need to squish it in, nor can it be too small."
You see, most crib mattresses are designed to be slightly smaller than the standard crib dimensions. This is so that it doesn't have to be squished into most cribs in the market.
They will not be too small either, because that will post a real safety hazard. Baby may get trap in the extra space and suffocate - one of the most common SIDS cause.
To get the best fit, a good rule of thumb is to check if you can fit two fingers of space between the side of the mattress and the crib frame.
If there’s more space than that, it means that your mattress is too small and this automatically raises the risk of suffocation and entrapment hazard.
Another easy way to ensure a good fit is to check whether the labelled size adheres to the standard legal size regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA).
That is, at least 27 1/4 x 51 1/4 inches and no more than 6 inches thick.
Most crib mattresses will be the right fit if anything today, but to be on the safe side, we recommend you to first measure the inside dimensions of your crib first before choosing the crib mattress to ensure it meets standards.
Next is to look at the firmness of the mattress.
"The firmer, the better" is the philosophy we believe in when it comes to choosing the best crib mattress for baby.
As the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development recommends:
"Use a firm and flat sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib."
This is because a soft sleeping surface can also be a suffocation hazard and raise the risk of SIDS. How so, you may ask?
You see, if a mattress is not firm enough, the soft surface can actually conform to the shape of your baby’s head or face.
You can think of it this way - your baby's head/face will 'sink' into the mattress if it is too soft and since s/he is still incapable of turning himself, it increases the risk of suffocation if s/he is 'wrapped' around by a soft mattress.
So even if it may feel a tad too stiff and uncomfortable for you, know that a firm crib mattress is the best for your baby.
They need a firm, flat, even sleeping surface to maximize their development, strengthen their muscles, and ensure breathability in the crib. Babies need resistance and a firm surface to push up, turn and eventually stand up on.
Generally, there are two types of materials that go into crib mattresses – foam or innerspring.
One is not necessarily better than the others, rather, it is more about choosing a top quality one in whichever type you decide to go for.
At a glance, here are the differences between the two:
More popular because cheaper and lighter
Generally, the same type of mattress as the one you use yourself
Things to note:
Things to note:
As mentioned above, a high quality foam mattress is as good as a top quality innerspring mattress so there is no reason of choosing one over the other.
Our top rated mattress is a foam mattress and we think it serves its purpose well. It is an Amazon's Choice and is one of the most popular crib mattresses in the market.
Also, know that there is always the option of going organic if you wish to go 100% natural.
Waterproof and Machine-washable
The best baby bed mattress should be waterproof and has a machine-washable cover.
Trust us, you will want one that is as easy to clean as possible because let's face it - you can't avoid the accidental leaks/spills from your baby.
A waterproof mattress cover will ensure these irritants do not seep into the mattress itself, thus preventing bacteria and other nasty stuffs from manifesting in your baby's sleeping environment.
In terms of machine-washability, that's a no-brainer. Anything to save you the cleaning effort, isn't it?
Hypoallergenic & Flammability
For obvious reasons, you will want a hypoallergenic baby crib mattress that is free of any flame retardants.
We're talking about flame irritants like polyurethane foam or questionable materials such as vinyl, PVC, phthalates, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), formaldehyde, and more.
A simple, fool-proof tip to ensure you get a safe, non-toxic and chemical free baby crib mattress is to see if it there is the CertiPUR-US foam label.
CertiPUR-US certified foams are:
- Made without ozone deplenters
- Made without PDEs, TDCPP or TCEP ("Tris") flame retardants
- Made without mercury, lead and other heavy metals
- Made without formaldehyde
- Made without phthalates regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions for indoor air quality (less than 0.5 parts per million)
Or, if you see the "Greenguard Gold" certification on the packaging, it means the mattress is safe and toxic/chemical free as well.
Rest assured that all these recommended crib mattresses bear either one or both of these certifications so there is no need to worry about getting an inferior product.
While the price doesn't differ much between different brands (if we may say so ourselves), it is always a good idea to set how much your budget is as this will help ease your choosing process.
There are top rated baby mattresses at different price points listed in our crib mattress review so we are sure there is definitely one that suits your budget.
Do I Need To Buy A Specific Baby Crib Mattress?
Yes, you should definitely get a baby crib mattress, mainly for safety reasons.
As mentioned above, crib mattresses have a standard size to follow, which means they will mostly fit well in most baby cribs.
If you think you can use other mattresses i.e. folding the sides to make it fit your crib, you're actually increasing the risk of suffocation (if baby’s head is caught between the folds) or risk baby’s head falling into gaps if the mattress is too small.
Either way, this is a serious safety hazard for babies and trust us, you do not want to put your baby through that.
Also, you do not know if your makeshift mattress is of the right firmness. Should it be otherwise, the results can be very dire for reasons mentioned above.
So yes, our very firm (pun unintended) answer to this question is that you should only buy a mattress specifically designed for infant/crib as mattresses designed for older children/adults may not be suitable or safe.
Can I Get A Second-Hand Crib Mattress?
ALWAYS, and we cannot stress enough, ALWAYS buy a new baby crib mattress.
NEVER buy used or accept hand-me-down mattress, or any other baby products in fact as there have been studies that found the use of old crib mattresses links to an increased risk of SIDS.
Apart from this, we also do not recommend using an old mattress for the following reasons:
- Non-hygienic. You just never know how an old baby mattress is maintained by its previous owner.
- Poop and pee are common occurrences on a crib mattress, so if one is not cleaned and maintained well, such germs will remain inside the mattress.
- Trust us, you do not want to put your baby in such an environment.
- Dust-mite / bedbugs. As with the point above, you will not know if dust mites or worse, bed bugs exist in an old, used crib mattress.
- You also risk infecting your other furniture with these nasty bugs.
- Safety hazard. An old crib mattress will more or less lose its life as it has been used before.
- It will not be as firm as a brand new mattress and you may not know if it has became too soft that it now poses a safety hazard to your baby.
It is simply not worth it to put your baby through the risks of using an old hand-me-down mattress from someone else.
On the other hand, if you have a well maintained, well-cleaned crib mattress from your firstborn which you now wish to use for your second child, you can certainly do so - at least you know it has been on good hands and is well preserved.
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More than anywhere else, baby cribs are perhaps where babies spend most of their time in. It is therefore absolutely important that you choose a safe and comfortable baby crib.
There are so many different types of baby cribs, and so many different brands and models to choose from. How do you choose the right crib for your baby? What should you look for in a baby crib? Read along to find out what type best suits your needs.
What is a baby crib?
Also commonly called a cot, a baby crib is an infant bed designed for infants and very young children. Do not mistaken it with the bassinet though - its cage-like design intends to restrict a child to the bed for safety reasons.
A baby crib will generally last until children reach two or three years of age when they are capable of climbing out the crib themselves (and hence should be moved to a toddler bed to prevent injurious falls).
Though, with technology nowadays, a baby crib may just last you longer if it can be converted accordingly to accommodate your child’s growth.
The different types of baby crib
This is the most common type of baby cribs. It is essentially what first came into your mind when you think of baby crib – a boxed-like cage with four fixed sides and slats. There is version in twin cribs, too.
A standard baby crib is fixed and cannot be adjusted. The design is simple but sturdy so it may be difficult to move this around.
A standard baby crib is usually the cheapest of all and is a great option for those in a tight budget.
A convertible baby crib, as its name suggests, is a crib that can be converted into different types of beds.
Essentially, it accords to your baby’s growth and therefore can be used for a very long time, even when baby has became a teenager!
The usual types a convertible can be converted into are day bed and toddler bed, though some can even be transformed into a full-sized single or double bed.
Really, this is the one bed to rule them all!
Because of this, the convertible baby crib has hands down become the favourite choice of most parents, due to its versatility and cost-effective element.
It is, however, generally more expensive than others but considering it is built to last for a very long time, many are willing to shell out the extra dollars for its versatility.
As you would know, this type of baby crib is designed with portability in mind. The easiest way to distinguish one is to see if the crib comes with wheels.
The wheels enable you to move the crib from room to room so that you can always keep an eye on your baby. Do not worry, the wheels are usually lockable so you can secure it on any spot you want.
One tip for you though: make sure you choose a size that can fit through your doorway!
This type of cribs usually has extra furniture attached to them, thus rendering them multi-purposeful.
The most common type of extra furniture incorporated into this design is baby changing table, dresser or shelf storage. Even though they may be more expensive than a single baby crib, the price is justified by eliminating the need to buy extra furniture.
If you have limited space in your room or nursery, a multipurpose baby crib will be your best choice as you do not need extra space for a separate changing table or dresser/shelf storage.
Last but not least, we have the travel crib.
Similar to portable ones in that they are meant to be brought around, travel cribs are even more compact and can usually be folded and stowed away when not in use.
What to look for in a baby crib?
The two biggest factors to look out for are Safety and Comfort.
The most common material found in a baby crib is wood.
However, cheaper cribs may be wood veneer, which is much more prone to chipping when baby is teething. Buy solid wooden cribs if you can as you definitely do not want pieces of veneer in your baby’s mouth.
Other common materials found are plastic, metal and fabric.
Slats and frame size
Slats should not be more than 2 3/8 inches apart to prevent baby’s head from slipping through or getting stuck.
Meanwhile, the crib interior should fit a standard-sized mattress (usually 51 ¾ inches long and 27 ¾ inches wide) snugly.
To determine snugness, if you can fit more than two fingers between the side of the mattress and the crib, the mattress is too small. This can be dangerous as baby may get trapped in that space.
You may also consider getting a crib liner to protect your baby from banging his/her head on the slats.
Adjustable mattress height
Most cribs allow you to raise or lower the height for mattress support. It is best that you choose one with such function so that you can change the height accordingly for your own comfort, and to make sure baby does not climb or fall from the crib easily.
Most baby cribs adhere to the latest safety standards but you should still give the crib a good shake, whether in store or at home after assembly, to see if it wobbles or rattles.
If it does, do not fret first and check if you have loose screws. If the problem still persists, you should make a refund and look for other cribs.
Last but not least, don’t forget about your budget. Before you even start shopping, you should decide how much you want to spend on a baby crib.
This will save you time as you do not have to even look at cribs that are above your budget. In other words, it can make selection easier for you.
Remember, most expensive does not necessarily mean the best. Instead, choose the best option that works within your budget.
Safety tips for your baby crib
Do not underestimate the place you choose to put your baby crib. Make sure that it is placed far away from windows, window blinds and draperies.
Babies may strangle themselves from cords and draperies, and older babies may be able to climb out and fall out of windows. Do not put it near furniture which can be used to help baby climb out of the crib.
And always remember to put it far away from heaters and radiators for health reasons.
Cords and decorative items
As mentioned above, babies can strangle themselves with cords so always make sure that there are no cords of any type near the baby crib.
There have been several cases where babies are strangled by baby monitor cords in the U.S so make sure you keep the cord well away from the crib, or switch to a wireless baby monitor.
Once baby is able to stand up, remove any mobile hanging from the crib to avoid choking hazards.
One simple rule: Don’t use these.
These are cribs with movable railings on the side which enable parents to move down the side to carry baby out.
Once hugely popular due to such convenience, this type of crib has been banned since 2011 as it no longer conforms to safety standards.
According to the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), at least 32 infants had died between 2000 and 2010 as a result of being entrapped, strangled or suffocated in the space between the drop side and the crib mattress.
So if you are looking at second-hand cribs, stay away from these.
Watch this video to know more about safety measures around your baby crib!
Best baby crib
Now that you have learnt the basic 101 of baby cribs, you should feel more comfortable selecting the right baby crib for your little one.
If you are on the lookout for the best convertible baby crib, we have got some really good ones here on our list of Top 5 Best Baby Crib.