Advice  Choosing A Baby Mattress 

Complete Guide To Buying a Mattress For Your Baby

Every day newborn babies sleep for an average of 16 hours and children of 3-5 years for an average of 11-13 hours. Babies and young children spend more than half of the first five years of life in a sleep environment. It is also the one place where they are most commonly left unattended for long periods of time.

The decision you make when buying a baby mattress for your child is so important. You want to tick the following boxes;- safe, comfortable, supportive, easy to keep clean, hygienic, durable, waterproof protection, breathable, complies to British Standards. You may have other demands:- your want natural, maybe pocket springs, perhaps spare covers, (one for the wash). Do you want it to last for more than one baby or maybe occasional use at the grandparents etc. Your personal needs all go into the decision pot and out the other end comes a mattress you are confident to trust your new precious addition to your family in.

With such a choice in the market place, plus all the conflicting advice you will be bombarded with regarding cot deaths and chemicals it can make choosing a baby mattress very difficult.

Here are all the facts and advice you need to help you make an informed choice, come to a buying decision about the right mattress for you and your baby. This is a lengthy article, may take you 15 mins to read but it will help decide on the perfect mattress for you and your baby.

What I Need From My Moses basket, Crib, Pram or Travel Cot Mattresses ( Foam or Natural)

Most of the mattresses that come with a new Moses baskets or cribs are generally the absolute minimum quality, for some bizarre reason the money has always gone into the product design and never the most important component i.e. the mattress!

Moses basket mattresses are only in use for a few months and most of them are not used for full sleep periods so there is no need for deep mattresses to take a lot of weight, 3-4 cm deep is adequate for support but your baby must sleep on a firm surface, hence the foam or coir base is of a good quality. Your options are on what you choose for the base and cover materials, this will affect the degree of breathability, support, waterproof protection, and keeping it clean.

Options For Foam Moses Basket Mattresses

1) Sealed waterproof wipe clean cover over foam, advantages:- easy to keep clean. Disadvantages:- no soft quilting in the cover, not breathable,

2) Removable cover washable at 60°c and foam pad being able to be cleaned as you would a car sponge in Milton or Detol etc

3) Sealed foam core that is wipe clean or waterproof protection that will not allow any body fluid to touch the foam and a choice of cover

Options For Natural Moses Basket Mattresses

1) Base is made with coir and lambswool and a cotton cover, cotton cover is breathable but requires a waterproof cover which is not natural and partially breathable

2) Base made with coir and lambswool and an Outlux waterproof cotton cover (partially breathable)

3) Base made with coir and lambswool with a waterproof liner over the lambswool, a Coolmax and Maxispace or microfibre cover, foam free, core is protected fully breathable but cover and liner are not natural

N.B. Natural mattress generally offer more support, by their very nature they are deeper 2.5 cm of coir plus 2 or 3cm of lambswool, depends on the manufacturer. However but a totally natural fully breathable, fully waterproof mattress is not available. Somewhere there is a compromise on the degree of breathablity and waterproofing. Normally petroleum based foam is the enemy in the minds of parents that want a natural mattress,

Options For Crib Mattresses

These are similar to the above for Moses basket mattresses, except your baby will sleep in the crib longer than a Moses basket and also be heavier as the crib will be in use for at least 6 months, or until they can sit up.

Same rules apply your baby should sleep on a firm surface, there is an advantage in having a thicker foam pad for more support and also using a higher grade foam, or even look at a crib mattress with pocket springs for the ultimate in support and durability also these deeper better quality mattresses will not dip nor dent.

See N.B. above the same applies to the natural crib mattresses

Travel Cot Mattresses

When you buy a travel cot it comes with a padded base, this is the only way it would pass a British Standard. Most parents feel the base is too hard and not padded enough and wish to buy another mattress.

The travel cot has soft sides, if you put a thick 10 cm deep mattress up against the side of the travel cot you could create a trap between the soft side of the travel cot and the deep side of the mattress. The risk increases if your toddler can pull himself up and their foot slips between the mattress and the travel cot netting

It is understandable that you wish to improve your baby's comfort but safer to choose a mattress no deeper than 4 - 5 cm

the same standard apply to those suggested in a crib mattress. (see above)

Covers For Both The Moses Basket Mattresses And The Crib Mattresses

1) PVC:- Wipe clean, not breathable, no temperature control, Carcinogenic question?

2) PU, lined fabrics are waterproof, some breathability, well-manufactured polyurethane is no danger

3) Polyester, some water resistance, often quilted


4) Microfibre soft quilted fabric, open cell structure, breathable some wicking away of heat, some water resistance

5) Coolmax backed with a spacer fabric such as Maxispace or Spacetec, luxurious, highly breathable, temperature control. some water resistance, requires waterproof liner sited below cover to maximise breathability and temperature control

Very important - Foam Quality Explained - Some Technical Information

24/130 foam - the first number "24" is the weight of the foam per kilo and indicates the density or the foam and this affects the durability. The second number "130" is the amount of pressure in Newtons it takes to compress the foam to 40% of its size. This measurement is called Indentation Load Deflection (ILD) and this assess the firmness or the feel of foam and how it yields to weight and pressure. you may also see 24/130 foam classed as CMHR28, Obviously as you see these numbers increase you will get a higher quality foam look out for them in information about the product you are about to buy, It is vital your baby sleeps on a permanent firm surface so you can see the importance of  good quality components.

All Foam Cot Mattresses

First let's talk man-made solid foam baby mattresses, most good quality baby mattress manufacturers use a minimum weight foam CMHR 28 (24/130) foam pad which is 10 cm deep and a cover that can removed completely, The foam pad may have waterproof protection and can be wiped down, but it still needs a breathable cover on top, or your baby could overheat. Probably the best arrangement is waterproof wipe clean liner over the foam pad protecting the core and a machine washable breathable cover on top. The mattress must offer good support and a firm sleeping surface

Springs and Pocket Springs Encapsulated in Foam

By taking out 70% of the foam and replacing it with a sprung core you will reduce the heat in a mattress significantly because foam is an insulator and air will flow over the springs. Pocket springs will last longer than basic springs and be more comfortable for your baby. As your baby gets heavier their extra weight will push down on the foam and bring the pocket springs into operation.

When it comes to a Sprung or Pocket Spring baby mattress, you have 6 cm deep springs covered by a 2 cm foam pad top and bottom. The foam pad is supported by the springs, obviously the foam takes the initial weight. If the foam is not of a good quality, the mattress will eventually dent from the baby's head or bottom, this could happen even in just a few weeks. "Just read some of the feedback from major dept stores and online retailers about cot mattresses that dent and the disappointment it causes". It is important that your baby sleeps on a permanent firm surface

The cause of this denting is because foam as product does not like heat weight and damp which is precisely what a baby is! If the baby is hotter, wetter or heavier or a combination of all three it may cause the foam to break down and the foam may dip or dent, rotating or turning the foam often helps to delay or prevent this.

Virtually every baby mattress manufacturer uses 24/130 foam or equivalent to cover the springs this has become the industry standard, The Cot Mattress Company would be unable to guarantee their mattresses for 5 years if we used 24/130 foam.

24/ 130 will past British Standards however we now know (and so do you) that foam does not like "heat weight and damp" and the cot mattress is more likely to dent if faced with these under these conditions.

N.B. We  uses 30/150 and 50/215 foam because then it can guarantee the sprung baby mattresses for 5 years.against dipping or denting. This link gives you all you need to know about how the best cot mattresses are made. http://www.cotmattresscompany.com/best-cot-and-cot-bed-mattress

Is It The Deeper The Mattress The Better?

Not necessarily, In mattresses like most other things, quality is more important than quantity, however certainly avoid cheap 7 cm foam mattresses unless you are using them for occasional use, this standard is often supplied free with cots.

The British Standard for baby mattresses currently recommends that no mattress should be over 10 cm in depth, This standard is for safety reasons to do with your baby climbing out of the cot then they can stand or pull themselves up.
Good quality coir is stronger than foam and an 8.5 cm natural mattress would match a 28 kilo 24/130 10 cm deep foam mattress for durability

Mattresses With One Side For A Baby And One Side For A Toddler

 We are really unable to offer advice on these products. Is this subjective? We have one voice saying that under 18 months your baby sleeps on a firmer side and there after a more responsive side. Another manufacturer saying sleep on a semi soft side first (but it is firm enough to comply with Lullaby Trust recommendations) and then as the baby gets heavier turn over for a firmer side!

So does this means that after a year the mattress becomes one sided and you cant turn it over as you would your own mattress to help it recover? If anybody has had one of these mattresses for more than two years we would be grateful of your feedback.

Perhaps there is a slight advantage of putting an extra layer of lambswool on a very firm coir base on one side for a new baby to improve the initial lie, thereafter it would not make any different what side was in use just turn the mattress to avoid any indentation.

N.B. We did try this in 2004 with a different density and colour of foam on each side. We requested feedback from customers who had purchased these for two years or more, All had forgotten which side was which, neither side had dipped nor dented and all were happy with the product.

My  New Baby Mattress Had A Chemical Smell When It Arrived - Is It Safe?

Advice when buying a baby  mattress

Foam is a man-made petroleum based product and when brand new it will have a chemical smell to it. The chemical smell of new foam happens because the foam has to release the component chemicals used in its manufacture. The ventilation of the mattress is a process known as 'airing' or 'off-gassing'. Every petrochemical based foam product will need to 'off-gas' to get rid of the new smell.

Mattress manufacturers will try to leave the foam as long as possible in the factory after cutting it to let it air. However the foam arrives in massive blocks the size of a small room and the foam in the middle will take longer to air than the foam on the outside. If it is cut into small components and left for too long to vent  the foam could get contaminated, manufacturers are reluctant to do this. If your mattress is cut from the outside of the block it is probably fully aired. If the foam used is from the inside of the block it might need airing longer. When your mattress is made, it is sealed immediately in plastic to keep it clean and hygienic.This will trap any air until you open the bag.

You can mask the smell - use Fabreeze or talc, but it is not really worth doing. Just leave it to air for 24- 72 hours in a well ventilated room or outside in the garden on a dry day and the newness smell will go.

You will notice reviews from every cot mattress retailer without exception that say:- When I opened my cot mattress it had a dreadful smell I would not put my baby in it; This is understandable - everybody wants the best, safest mattress for their baby and does not want to put them on a toxic product. However this is a characteristic of the mattress. Foam is probably one of the most widely used, safest man-made products you can buy! Let it Air in a very well ventilated room or outdoors and all will be well. You may comment that you have bought furniture or cushions that have not smelt. Simple answer:- they have been sitting in the shops for weeks or months and will have times to air.

One can get paranoid about the smell and it is possible to always detect a hit of petroleum aroma if you unzip the cover and bury your nose in the foam! However as a test you should not be able to smell any petroleum smell from about 20 cm away with the cover on, if so ventilate more. 

If you buy a natural cot mattress this will not have such a newness smell, there are no petroleum based chemicals used in natural mattresses but synthetics do have some advantages over natural products when it comes to breathability and waterproof protection which we have mentioned.

My mattress has gone yellow (discolouration)

This is perfectly normal, it is a natural characteristic of the foam to oxidise and change colour, sometimes you can buy a new mattress and it has a yellow tinge on one corner maybe where the light has got to it during transportation

This discolouration does not in any way impact on the performance of the foam. Some companies now are dyeing the foam  a light yellow colour at manufacture to prevent unnecessary customer dissatisfaction. Sometimes the yellowing (oxidisation) starts from one end and it appears as though the mattress might be contaminated, it is not the case. In time the whole mattress with discolour evenly. Put on the mattress cover and sheet and don't aggravate yourself - all is well

Waterproof Protection, The Toxic Gas Theory And Cot Mattress Wrapping.

This all kicked off in the late 80's and was claimed it was the cause of cot deaths.It was later discredited by a government report, however a few people still claim that toxic gases can be present if urine comes into contact with the fire retardant components within the foam. When these gases are breathed or absorbed by a sleeping baby they can cause cot death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). These claims have NOT been scientifically proven, NOR totally disproved "some would say".

The supporters of this theory claim that if bodily fluids reach the foam mattress core and are left for a period of time, (over 3 months) then they react with the fire retardant chemicals in the foam or other components and this may cause a gas called Stibine gas to be produced, Stibine gas is highly toxic.

There are all sorts of scary things to read on the internet about cot mattress wrapping, you may have already read some of these!. Basically for piece of mind just prevent body fluids from getting to the mattress core, but don't do it in a way that affects the breathabilty of the cover or you risk your baby overheating!

Protect the mattress under the cover (over the foam). When you buy a new mattress ensure it has full waterproof protection. Many cot mattresses are made to hit a price point, they wont have any protection and some will have just a slider that covers only one third of the mattress which you have to position under the nappy area but your baby when it is older will move around the cot so this will not be adequate.

The Safeguard range of crib and Moses basket mattresses was developed to combat the fears of mattress wrapping. These mattresses have a completely sealed foam core that no gas could get through and no liquids could penetrate. Having a sealed mattress means maximum breathability must be maintained by the cover. This can be achieved by using a Microfibre or Coolmax and Maxi-Space cover which is fitted to the Safeguard Moses and crib mattresses.

So this is key:- "It Is of Paramount Importance To Prevent Bodily Fluids Getting To The Core Of The Mattress And Still Keeping The Mattress Breathable."

Advice on buying the best mattress for your baby

One way to achieve this is to choose a fabric that is breathable like Microfibre or Coolmax with Maxispace, then protect the core under the cover to keep the body fluids away from the foam core. Do this by ensuring your mattress has a full PU band around it covering at least 90% of the mattress centre or a full Safetex cover as in the Easychange range with zip off machine washable toppers

If you buy a waterproof protector for your mattress consider NOT putting it on the very top of your mattress. Remove the cover and put it over the core, it is the core you want to protect from body fluids, then put the mattress cover on top, The cover will hold air over the waterproof protector and help to avoid your baby overheating. If the cover gets soiled then easy to remove for washing and then wipe down or wash the protector if fluids have gone through. Spare cot mattress covers can be a godsend.

Many mattress protectors say they are breathable but if you hold them to your mouth and try and suck air through you will see they are only partially breathable. Some past a breathability test because if you held a boiling kettle on one side you can steam up a mirror on the other side, They are classed as water vapour permeable. However if your baby turned face down on some of these wipe clean waterproof protectors it would not get sufficient air through to breath normally.

Another option is the Easychange range of  mattresses, these have a topper that zips off completely from the rest of the cover. the cover holds the air, and the underneath main cover is waterproof. This allows you to zip on whatever sleep surface you wish for maximum breathability and comfort.

Stop Press... There is now an even better solution The Cot Mattress Company won an award from "Mother and Baby" in 2016 for a wipe clean base cover under a breathable topper.

I Have Been Told New Baby New Mattress is this true?

This instruction started in the late 80's when parents were either using second hand mattress or ones that had been stored in the loft for ages unwrapped. The danger was that if it was a second hand mattress then you do not know the history of it and if the core and the covers were kept clean and they were washed at 60°c. Also if the mattress was stored in a loft was it put away with body fluids on it and in time has it become contaminated.

Conversely if your used mattress has a protective liner so you are confident no body fluids got through to the core, and you have washed your covers regularly at 60 °c the temperature require to kill dust mites. When your mattress has been stored it is well wrapped in plastic so no cross contamination. Then you know the history of the mattress, you have kept it clean and it is safe to use again providing it has not lost its shape and will still give good support. Could be that buying a higher spec mattress saves you money in the long term.

Metal Springs, PVCs, And Radiation Scares 

In 2009 we heard of a report regarding the possible negative effects of an electromagnetic field on babies. The report said it is especially important for you to use a non-metallic bed for your baby, as their immature bodies are more susceptible to EMF damage. We spent several months  diligently investigating this and found no facts whatsoever to confirm that metal springs produced any electromagnetic field to affect babies.  As with all these scares we have to investigate them especially if it involves a component we are selling. A classic is PVC, we banned this from our mattresses in 2002 because Greenpeace and a professor in Switzerland were saying PVC was carcinogenic. Looking back we are pleased with our decision. 

However this did manage to pose yet another question? There is a voice out there that now talks about radiation effects on babies from phones, WiFi, other electrical appliances. 

We have been asked the question about radiation and baby electrical products,  We have no expertise to be able to comment on effects (if any) to your baby that radiation may have if you use baby monitors or movement detectors.

Coolmax, Outlast, Thermosleep, Bamboo

These are specially engineered polyester fabrics that wick away heat from the body and regulate temperature, when combined with quilting they have a luxury soft feel. The best effect by far is achieved by not quilting but backing them with a quality 3D spacer fabric like Spacetec or Maxispace. As well as adding luxury to the Coolmax© or Outlast they also allow thousands of cells where the heat can be wicked away. Another way to help wick away heat and more naturally is using bamboo. Bamboo is a luxuriously soft material, softer than cotton with natural temperature regulating properties. There are available a range of 100% bamboo sheets which can be fitted to any cot, crib or Moses basket mattress. Fitting 100% bamboo sheets over Coolmax with Maxispace would be indeed the height of luxury.

British Standards

Every mattress sold in the UK should conform to British standards; BS7177 and BS1877, these relate to quality of filling and flammability. to be honest we cant see any manufacturer of baby mattress not adhering to these standards.

Hypo-Allergenic

This basically means non-allergy producing. Most mattress retailers, (ok and us) use this a sales pitch, but it means nothing if you do not keep your mattress covers and mattress core clean.

Cot Mattress Sizing Guide

This is all about the gap left between the side of the mattress and the side of the cot, too big and there is a risk of trapping of limbs in the night. The ideal situation is a mattress that presses right up against the side of the cot or cot bed, but there has to be a small gap to allow the use of the drop side. The new Eu regulations is not than a 3 cm gap at most if you push the mattress up to one side of the cot.

There are some main popular sizes of cot and cot bed mattress: 117 x 54 cm, 120 x 60 cm, 127 x 64 cm, 126.5 x 62.3 (M and P 300 size) 130 x 70 and the most popular which is 140 x 70 cm (often referred to as 139 x 69 cm)

Less popular sizes are:

112 x 55 cm, (old IKEA size) 122 x 61 cm, 131 x 71 cm and 132 x 77 cm 132 x 70 cm the last three pertain to the Boori range of cots.

Waterproof Sliders/ Membranes

These are waterproof bands that go under the cover and around the mattress core to protect the core from spillages, There was a thought not to put them around the whole mattress as they would reduce breathability, However it is a pain to remove the cover to slide them down as your baby grew. that was the old thinking.

Many companies have now we have moved on and now supply waterproof liners covering at least 90% of the foam area under the cover that could get body fluids on, but also offer a cover that is fully breathable

Memory Foam

While it does feel soft and has a great reputation on adult mattresses it is not ideal for baby mattresses. Memory Foam has more chemicals, creates more heat and also creates pooling of carbon dioxide. Some companies have used it for baby mattresses. We have researched it and along with most other mattress experts we would certainly not use it for baby mattresses.

Fibre baby Mattresses

Watch this space with Fibre it will be all change soon. Years ago fibre was used as a cost cutting exercise and a marketing means to say "FOAM FREE". The problem with fibre was that it is not as strong as foam, not as durable, wont last as long and will not give the support There are only a few foam converters in the country and they do hold foam users over a barrel when it comes to price, that is a main reason why manufacturers are turning to fibre as an alternative.

however there a new fibre coming soon, stronger, durable, foam free, for those that do not like foam, more breathable than foam. does not smell as foam takes a few days to degas and air for the smell to go. Mid March 2018 we will have this new fibre mattress available after product testing.

NB Fibre is a also a petroleum base product it is not any more ecologically friendlier than foam. You may see ECO FIBRE advertised the word ECO can only stand for ECONOMY, do not be fooled into thinking it is good for the environment.

Coir

Coir is a natural fibre it is captured form the husks of coconuts. Coir is compressed and used for mattresses and matting it offers good support for mattresses when combined with lambswool and springs.

Latex

There is natural Latex and Synthetic Latex ,One is a natural product and the others has graphite and chemicals added. Latex is expensive and generally only used with natural products. The downside with latex is that some people are allergic to it, Latex does create heat so you have to perforate it.

We have had some Latex samples in our office for 3 years and it still smells! It has a lovely soft feel to it but too many other negative for us to consider using it

Springs

Springs are excellent to have in a mattress to increase support and airflow by allowing air to flow in and around the springs.

We use two main types of springs;

Mini Bonnel Springs used in Cot or Cot Bed Mattress

These are the sprung units and offer the baby excellent support and prevent the mattress feeling like an uncomfortable brick of foam they also reduce the heat build up in the foam by making a large space of air.

Pocket Springs used in Crib, Cot or Cot Bed Mattresses

These are more supportive and comfortable than mini bonnel springs. Individual springs that work independently to target the different pressure points of the child's body, allowing better support for the head, back neck and legs. The only disadvantage of the pocket springs is that they are a little more expensive than their mini bonnel counterpart. Smaller pocket springs can be used for crib mattresses as crib mattresses these have a maximum British standards depth of 5 cm

Natural mattresses explained

Advice on buying a natural mattress for your baby

Natural mattresses are made from all natural components with no man made parts used, they account for 6% of the total mattresses sold in the UK. but the figure is growing

Natural cot mattresses use coir and lambswool mostly and some use latex. Pocket springs can be added to coir and lambswool to give extra durability and the mattresses then promoted as natural because they do not contain foam. Is this a  debatable point can steel be regarded as natural?

This has motivated us to produce a natural pocket spring see photos above. We have made a spring out of coir. When these are fitted to a natural mattress the support and comfort along with the durability is unrivaled. The cot mattress company is the only company to produce such a product

All baby mattresses sold in the UK have to conform to strict British standards to ensure they are safe and non-toxic. Foam, synthetic fabrics and springs are used extensively throughout millions of everyday products. These components may be able to offer better durability, temperature regulation, breathability etc but natural mattresses using organic components have these features naturally built in.

Covers

These are mostly cotton made of different density and weaves, and if they are claimed to be organic then the area where the cotton comes from has to be approved by an authority to be organic. These covers are not normally waterproof and that has been a concern with parents, the one drawback to a natural cover.

Some of these covers have been made waterproof by using a minute layer of treated fibre sandwiched in the middle of the cover, they are also washable at 60 degrees and because of the tiny amount of synthetic quantity they can be called a natural product.  one of these fabrics is called Outlux, it is one of these three layered fabric:- two layers of soft brushed cotton and in the middle a tiny thin layer of PU to give it its waterproofing properties. It is classed as breathable but only air from the top cotton layer gets through

Core

The core is normally made from coir which is very firm, either side of the coir is generally wool to give the coir a softer feel. The wool can be treated with various natural products like eucalyptus, lavender etc to give it extra properties.

The downside of natural mattresses is the that the cotton covers with waterproof filament in are not as breathable as the man made covers, the waterproof membrane sandwiched in them restricts the airflow. If you have cotton covers without the waterproof protection then the mattress core will get soiled (you cant have everything) However speaking to parents who go for coir and lambswool they do so because foam is the enemy.

We can share with you that many times after some lengthy discussions we have had with parents to be, we have made mattresses with coir and lambswool as a base, so it is foam- free core then fitted the Easychange microfibre or Coolmax and Maxispace covers.

We also make the core with pocket springs and lambswool (NO FOAM) and then fit the Easychange microfibre or Coolmax and Maxispace covers. give us a ring on 01299 823 223 if you want us to do that for you. we will soon have this listed on our site as an option.

How Did You Get On?

Having read all of the above we have hopefully given you an extensive knowledge of baby mattresses and you are more able to make an informed buying decision on your choice of mattress.

Should you still have questions please call us on 01299 823223 or email us on helpline@cotmattresscompany.com. We have calls every day from parents-to-be wanting reassurance that they are making the right decision on a mattress for their new arrival, we are pleased to help. Sometimes from a conversation we can tailor make a mattress to suit.

The Environment

We used to send all our mattresses out in heavy duty plastic bags but 4 years ago we switched to cardboard a bit dearer but cardboard breaks down in 8 years or less and can be recycled, The heavy plastic bags decomposed in about a million years,  not recycable in most areas

It will help the environment and recycling of cot mattresses if  before you throw away your cot mattress you  cut out the spring unit from the foam mattress. the sprung unit is recyclable.

We have been asked to comment on this subject as it has become a point for discussion  certainly since the Blue Planet Series,  We have to be honest about the products we use. and how long they need to decompose. These are the best estimates and this is how long they take to naturally decompose if not recycled.

Foam. probably a million years
Metal springs, will rust oxidise; - 100 years
Mattress covers 20 to 30 years
Coir depends on thickness approx 10 years. N.B. can aid vegetable growth
Lambswool 10 - 15 years.