5 Tips for Choosing a Mattress for a Child

by Anna Ryan

Choosing a mattress for a child is often confusing for parents. We spend a good portion of our lives sleeping, so having a comfortable and safe mattress for a child is extremely important. A mattress may not be the most noticeable part of a child's bedroom but it is certainly one of the most essential.

Mattress Size

Mattresses come in many sizes including crib size, twin, extra-long twin, full, and larger sizes. Older children or children who are likely to be tall may benefit from an extra-long twin so you do not have to purchase another mattress as they grow. Crib mattresses can be used for cribs or toddler beds. Consider the age of the child and the height of the child when choosing a mattress size.

Mattress and Box Spring

A mattress is designed to work together with a matching box spring. Whenever possible, buy the mattress and box spring together in order to provide a more supportive and comfortable mattress for your child. Many parents put together a mismatched mattress and box springs, but using a box spring that is not made for the mattress will affect the quality of support a child receives.

Mattress Materials

Many mattresses are made from polyvinyl chloride, which lets off chemical emissions that are known carcinogens. Natural materials such as organic cotton or organic wool are a much healthier material for a mattress. Many flame retardant chemicals can be toxic, but organic wool is naturally flame retardant. Children are especially sensitive to toxic chemicals and all effort should be made to limit their exposure.

Coil Count

Coil count is the number of coils that are inside the mattress. Children do not weigh much, so coil count will not make a huge difference unless the child will be dramatically heavier within 10 years. A lightweight child does not need the support that some of the more expensive mattresses provide. A basic, mid-grade mattress that is well constructed will work well for a young child.

Buying a Used or New Mattress

Used mattresses can contain bacteria, mold, mites and bodily fluids from the previous owners. In some cases, it may be acceptable to use a secondhand mattress if you know the previous owner well and are comfortable sharing his mattress. In most cases, a new mattress is generally a better choice. Using a used crib mattress has been linked to a higher rate of SIDS deaths in young children.

About the Author

Anna Ryan has served as an executive editor and feature writer throughout her career. Ryan has contributed to "Busy Mommy" online magazine and "Red Rock Reviews." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Brigham Young University.

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