Buying a Mattress for a Toddler

Well, L is moving into a full-size bed. And therefore, I have to buy the kid a mattress.

To explain what an undertaking this is – we have one crib, one toddler bed, one king bed, and one futon in our house. None of those have mattresses my parents’ generation generally approves of. The futon is..well, a futon. The king mattress is foam from Ikea – I love it, and it was cheap, but it is too firm from most people. (I also strongly suspect it’s time to replace it). It’s one of the Sultan collection. I wager it’s just foam, not even memory foam. When it came to crib mattresses, I really didn’t care, as long as the mattress was firm. So L got a foam mattress from Ikea (the crib version of our king). When the mattress shrunk in our move, I bought a high-rated but inexpensive mattress off Amazon. That one went to baby J. And L now sleeps in a hand me down crib/toddler bed that came with a hand-me-down mattress, so I don’t even know what kind it is.

And mattress pads? Huh? I don’t think any of our beds have a mattress pad.

But, I figure I’d actually do some research for L’s bed, especially because I want her to be sleeping in it for a while. So off I went to Google.

Here are a few considerations one should have in looking for a kids’ mattress.

Size:

Do you want a toddler bed, a twin, an extra-long twin, a full, or a queen for your child?

Most parents I spoke to recommended getting the largest size you could fit in your child’s room. That way your child (especially a girl, at least from anecdotal experience) could have sleepovers and share a bed. You can also lie down with your child if needed. Finally, the bed can grow up with your child.

We ended up going with a full bed from Pottery Barn.  I liked it because it had the style I wanted for L’s room, most reviews indicated it was durable, it could be put together with- or without a boxspring (so I can adjust height) and the bed frame can be raised or lowered (also for adjusting height). That way, I could make it toddler-friendly for now but it could grow with her. It could also accommodate a trundle or storage unit if I wanted.

Trust me, I’m cheap, so it’s not like me to blow money at Pottery Barn, but yes, I did it. Actually, it was about the same price as most of the other beds  I was considering.

Anyway, bottom line -bedsize for us = full.

Comfort:

Your child’s comfort is important to a good nights’ sleep. Most people begin with that philosophy with  babies. Me? I figure babies can learn to sleep anywhere, so I skimped. But L is two now, and I want this mattress to be comfortable for years.

For older kids, it’s generally good to take them mattress shopping with you and to have them test out the mattress. Alas, a two year old really isn’t going to give me a preference, so I just lay down on every mattres on every store.

But, since I am not a mattress connoisseur, everything felt fine to me. Especially because I like firm mattresses, and in general, I’m looking for firm for my daughter.

Memory Foam or innerspring?

So, apparently, memory foam isn’t good for kids. Do I know if that’s actually true? Nope, not at all. But some arguments against are that memory foam isn’t supportive enough for growing bodies, and that memory foam releases off-gassing chemicals. Okay. Who knows if it’s true, but I used it as a guideline. So I stuck with innerspring mattresses.

Here’s more information on memory foam.
If you don’t care about memory foam vs. innerspring, at least one blogger picked a memory foam mattress for her children. But, her children were a) older and b.) she got her Serta mattress for free!

Organic or not?

Gah. Do I care? No.

But you might. And I don’t blame you. If that’s the case, Naturepedic is a highly recommended organic mattress, and one that doesn’t just slap the ‘organic’ label on willy nillyLand of Nod, the Crate and Barrel kids’ store, also sells Naturepedic.

Want other recommendations of organic mattresses? Check out the Berkeley Parent’s network. They seem to love the European Sleepworks mattress. (The store is in Berkeley, natch)

Firmness:

Generally, the firmer, the better (better support for growing bodies), but so firm it feels like one is sleeping on concrete. A good middle ground is a firm innerspring mattress with a comfortable topper.

The topper, however, is a bit of a controversy. Most websites will tell you outright that pillowtop mattresses are a ripoff. The pillowtop wears off faster than the mattress itself, and therefore it’s better to get a firm mattress and then use a mattress pad for comfort. Some sites go further and say to not even go for a firm mattress with a memory foam topper (ex: a plush mattress vs. pillowtop) and to instead buy the firmest mattress possible and buy a separate topper (whether memory foam or latex).

Of course, when I spoke to a mattress salesman, I got a different story. I was told the structure of the mattress changes (in terms of how it feels on your body) if you add a separate topper, and that it was better to go for the all-in-one pillowtop or at least memory foam topper. Then, if the topper or pillowtop wears out, to only then add a separate topper or mattress pad.

I’d probably go with the general view of doing it all separate, though, especially when you’re dealing with kids. If your child soils the separate topper, for example, then you can replace just that without replacing the whole mattress.

The Mattress Expert has some information on latex toppers.

Quality/Weight:

What is a quality mattress?

According to the Sleep Council, the S.L.E.E.P. test will help you pick the right mattress for you. But other than that, it doesn’t give you any real recommendations on type.

This article, (from an ex-mattress salesperson) helps a bit more. Basically, there are three types of mattresses – low quality, midrange, and high quality. Each mattress brand sells their models under different names in different stores. So the Simmons Lumberton is the name of a mattress in one store but it is called the Simmons Arbor Terrance at Macy’s.  So the first step is not to be fooled by the various model names. The second step is weight. In general, among brands, the heavier the weight, the better quality the mattress. For a child, who isn’t very heavy but needs good support, a mid-range mattress is probably appropriate.

To compare specific mattresses, there is always Consumer Reports. However, as in many categories, people obsessed with mattresses don’t think Consumer Reports is the best ranking system out there for mattresses.

Sleep geeks Sleep Like the Dead have a metric showing customer satisfaction with various mattresses. One important thing of note is that innerspring coil mattresses often have lower ratings over time because they wear out faster. But, often it’s the comfort layer (pillowtop or memory foam/latex topper) that wears out first. Two things. First, your small toddler is less likely to wear out the innerspring mattress, and second, you can get a firm mattress with a separate topper to lesson the chance of wear and tear.

Price:

The Baby Bargains forum has a good discussion of mattresses that are lower price but still good quality, a consideration when one is dealing with children. Ikea and Sams Club/Cotsco feature heavily in the discussion.

Another option is a mattress clearinghouse. I headed over to Mattress Firm’s outlet store yesterday. They steered me toward their house brand, Hampton Rhodes Bronze collection. However, I couldn’t find much on them online,and their price was similar to the mattress from Pottery Barn I’m thinking of getting, which is a Serta.

Kid-specific qualities:

Other qualities that one should look for in a kid’s mattress is waterproof (or make sure to get a waterproof cover), depth (a thinner mattress may help keep a bed low-profile so a child can climb in and out), something hypoallergenic (latex is considered good, and I’ve heard the Invigo Collection recommended as a good hypoallergenic mattress), and durable.

SavvyRest has some interesting ideas about different mattress types for boys and for girls. Your mileage may vary.

Land of Nod has a Simmons Beautyrest Beginnings mattress that fit a lot of these criteria.

Other Recommended Mattresses:

In terms of recommended mattresses for children, I hear a lot about the three “S’s – Simmons, Sealy, and Serta. Specifically, I hear about Simmons Beautyrest, Sealy Posturpedic, and Serta Perfect Sleeper. The Mattress Expert is obsessed about the Simmons Beautyrest Lumberton for kids.

Sleep City, which only sells Simmons and Tempurpedic, has recommends these.

What am I getting?

If I had an Ikea nearby, I’d check out their mattresses first. If I had a Land of Nod, I’d really be interested in their Simmons Beautyrest Beginnings.

Alas, all I have in terms of the fancy stores is Pottery Barn,which sells a Serta for a darn good price (better than the department stores and less sketchy that some of the mattress outlets). It has a memory foam topper, but other than that, the mattress seems perfect. It goes against some of the advice I read online, but for the price plus quality, plus the convenience of getting it at the same time I order the Pottery Barn bed, I will be a sheep-like consumer and will be spoonfed my mattress choice!

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Babywearing Part One: The Stretchy Wrap

Moby - a back view. What this beautiful scene doesn't show is that the baby got super overheated about five minutes later

Moby – a back view. What this beautiful scene doesn’t show is that the baby got super overheated about five minutes later

It’s been a while since I’ve done a simple, resource-y post.  So let’s start with something very simple – babywearing.

To go even simpler, let’s start with a kind of babywearing apparatus most people are familiar with: the Moby Wrap. The Moby is a kind of stretchy wrap. Stretchy wraps – which are basically long pieces of stretchy t-shirt-like fabric –  are great for your itty bitty newborn, but a bit more difficult when dealing with older and heavier babies. Other kinds of babywearing devices are soft-structured carriers, woven wraps, ring slings, mei teis, and pouches.  (For a more detailed, ridiculously comprehensive overview of types of carriers, go here).

I’m going to start with the pros and cons of stretchy wraps, but remember, not all stretchy wraps are created equal. Most of my pros/cons refer to the Moby; other wraps may have some different characteristics. Therefore, I will also go through the information on each type of stretchy wrap to help you pick the best for you.

Pros of stretchy wraps:

Twin carry!

Great for newborns. Gives them a snuggly feeling

Great for kangaroo care of preemies

Very comfortable once you get it right. Spreads the weight over both your shoulders. You could wear a young baby in the wrap all day.

Cons of stretchy wraps:

Only safe for front carries! (Despite the fact that there are instructions and photos showing back carry in stretchy wraps, do not do this. If you want to use a wrap for back carry, get a woven wrap. The exception is some woven-stretchy hybrids. But not the Moby. Never the Moby.)

Can get hot in the summer

Somewhat more difficult to nurse in

Sometimes hard to get a hang of putting it on, especially when you’re dragging a long piece of cloth around in the parking lot of the grocery store trying to get a squalling newborn settled in it.

Most of them are only comfortable up to about 18 pounds (the exception being the Wrapsody and other hybrids)

Brands of stretchy wraps:

Moby Wrap – This is the kind of wrap with which most people are familiar.  They are about $45-$50 and come in all sorts of colors. The Moby gets HOT in the summer (I know from personal experience).

My personal review? I myself wasn’t a huge fan of the Moby. My babies loved the Moby when I finally got them situated, but it was really hard for me to get it ‘right’. I got the basic hug hold down pretty easily, but the issue was that sometimes I would have it set too tight, and sometimes I would have it set too loose. So I’d have to get the baby mad by taking him or her out and readjusting. And then, inevitably, the baby would have to  nurse. Since I could never figure out how to nurse in the Moby, I would have to take the baby out. Neither child liked having the Moby against my skin while I nursed, so I’d have to unwrap the whole thing. Then nurse. Then start all over, trying to get the Moby situated right.

Boba/Sleepytime Wrap

When a good friend asked about wraps, I told her about my Moby experience and recommended the Boba Wrap instead. The Boba (which was formerly known as a Sleepytime Wrap) isn’t as stretchy as the Moby, which means it’s easier to get the tightness/looseness right.

In addition, although I can’t attest to this personally, apparently the Boba doesn’t get as hot, making it much more ideal for warmer climates.

Calin Bleu (microfleece)  – no personal experience. The Calin Blue cool gauze wrap is a woven and the microfleece is a stretchy.

Kari-Me  – A UK brand similar to the Moby

Tricot-Slen – A Belgian brand similar to the Moby

Hug-a-Bub– An Australian brand similar to the Moby

Cot2Tot – a UK brand similar to the Boba

Wrapsody Bali Stretch* – This is a cross between a stretchy wrap and a woven wrap.  As such, it can hold heavier babies. It has a more difficult learning  curve than true stretchy wraps (woven wraps are harder to learn) but is more versatile,allowing for back and hip carries.  It is also more like a woven in that it stays cool in the summer.

Je Porte Mama Bebe* – another cross between a stretchy wrap and a woven wrap.  Similar to the Wrapsody and can also do back carries/toddlers.

Baby K’Tan* – The K’Tan isn’t a stretchy wrap per se; it is more like a cross between a sling and a wrap. But when worn, it looks similar enough to a Moby that some moms look at it as an alternative option, so I’m going to put it on this list.

The babywearing experts at BabyCenter are not Baby K’Tan fans because of its price and because instructions from older versions show back carry pictures, which is a dangerous proposition in the K’Tan.

Caboo Carrier by Close Parent – this is like a cross between a ring sling, a wrap, and a soft-structured carrier. It’s really a wrap, but it’s already put together for you, and then adjustable via rings on the back.

Go here for some comparison between the types of stretchy wraps

Make your own:

http://www.make-baby-stuff.com/make-a-baby-sling.html

http://www.wearyourbaby.com/Default.aspx?tabid=121

Carries:

The Hug Hold is the recommended carry by Babywearers International. This has different names in different products. Unlike the cradle carry, the hug hold keeps the baby up near your chest where you can safely kiss the top of his or her head and see that he or she is breathing.

Moby Wrap instructions

Moby Wrap video

Boba Wrap instructions

Kari-Me instructions

Calin Bleu instructions

Tricot Slen instructions

Caboo instructions

Tips and Tweaks for stretchy wraps

Safety:

http://babywearerscircle.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/the-ultimate-guide-to-babywearing-safety-starting-out-safely/

Nursing in the stretchy wrap:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbalsUY408k

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eE6gq978Ze0