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Crib Mattress

Hidden underneath the beautiful bedding and nestled in the bottom of the designer crib, the crib mattress is often the last product thought about when buying products for the nursery. After all, it is not an exciting purchase compared to the fashionable furniture or multiple colors and styles of designer bedding, which some parents may spend months deciding upon.

But, the crib mattress deserves to be given more consideration by new parents because it is one of only three major purchases that parents will make that are for the baby only and not just for the convenience of the parents. For this reason, a parent should buy the best they can afford of these three items.

The first major purchase that is mainly for the baby is the car seat. The car seat is not designed to keep baby in place in the back seat. The car seat is designed to protect baby and, protect them at the exact time when they require that protection most. You wouldn't buy a car seat because it matches the interior of your car or because it was the lowest price available. You buy the best protection you can afford for your baby.

As for the very fashionable products already mentioned, think about it. Baby doesn't care if the crib has a traditional or contemporary design. Baby doesn't care if the crib is whitewash, natural, or oak. Baby doesn't care if there is a storage drawer underneath or, if the crib converts to other types of beds at a later time. Also, baby doesn't care what color the bedding is or if the bedding has a popular cartoon character. These are products that you, the parent, purchase for you because you like them.

The second major purchase that is mainly for the baby and not for the convenience of you, the parent, is the crib mattress. The crib mattress is a product that baby will be sleeping on for up to the first two to four years of their life. Infants will spend up to 70% of their lives on the crib mattress and, even toddlers will spend up to 50% of their time on the crib mattress because the crib, with the mattress, serves double duty as a playpen until baby falls asleep or until baby wakes up mom or dad in the morning, at night and, at nap times. Also, consider that the baby is on this mattress during the time of their life when their bones are softest and growing faster than at any other time of their life. They need extra support for their growing bodies more now than they ever will later.

As for the third and last item that is purchased mainly for the baby rather than for the convenience of the parents, I'll let you think about it while you read the rest of this article and learn more about crib mattresses. I'll tell you the answer later in the article. Hint: it's something that is not obvious.

Types of Crib Mattresses
There are two major types of crib mattresses sold today. One type is a polyurethane foam and the other type is an innerspring mattress. The number one question asked by parents about mattresses is, "Which is better, foam or innerspring?" The truth may sound like a politically correct answer but, it is the correct answer. The answer is, it depends. A good quality foam mattress will be as good for baby and last as long as a good quality innerspring crib mattress. If the choice is between a good quality foam mattress and an average quality innerspring mattress then, the foam is better. The reverse is also true. If the choice is between a better quality innerspring and an average quality foam mattress, choose the innerspring.

So, that being said, the next obvious questions are how to tell a good quality foam crib mattress from an average or lower quality foam mattress. And, how to distinguish a good quality innerspring crib mattress from an average or lower quality innerspring mattress.

Trying to determine better quality crib mattresses from inferior quality crib mattresses, whether they be foam or innerspring, is not always easy to do because crib mattresses are a "blind" item, i.e., what is most important about mattresses is on the inside of the mattress where you can't see it. It is easy to make a mattress that feels like it is a good mattress but, in actual fact it isn't. This is why one should buy a brand of mattress that one knows to be made by a manufacturer of quality products.

Foam Mattresses
There are two major components in a foam mattress, the foam and the cover. I'll talk about foam here and later I'll talk about covers.

Twenty years ago the quality of foam was such that after a period of time the foam in mattresses would harden, become brittle, and break off in chunks inside the mattress cover. Since then, foams have improved and the only time something like this could happen is if a manufacturer purposely put a style of foam in the mattress that wasn't designed to be in a mattress in the first place. For example, our foam suppliers have recently warned us to be on the lookout for competition with lower cost foam crib mattresses that are very firm that use a type of foam designed to be used in the packaging industry and which do not hold up over time.

There are three aspects of foam that determine its quality. The first quality feature is weight. Weight is almost synonymous with density. Generally, the heavier the foam mattress the better. The second quality feature of a foam mattress is firmness. Generally, the firmer the mattress the better. The third quality feature of a foam mattress is its resiliency, i.e., its ability to quickly regain its original shape when weight is removed from the mattress. The faster it regains its shape the better the foam.

Are you confused, yet? Just remember to buy a foam mattress that is very firm, heavier in weight and, quickly regains its original shape after you take the weight off the mattress.

Innerspring Mattresses
By the very nature of the multiple layers inside an innerspring crib mattress, there is more to talk about with innersprings and, more things upon which to judge the quality of innerspring mattresses. This also makes it a little more complex but, bear with me and I'll try to simplify.

What is important in an innerspring crib mattress is the number of layers it has and, the quality of each of those layers. The most important layers are the innerspring unit itself and, the insulator pad layer. Most people think that the greater the number of coils in an innerspring mattress then the better the innerspring unit. Not so. This wrong belief is so ingrained in peoples minds that I have to say it again, the greater the number of coils does NOT necessarily mean the better the mattress. The better innerspring unit is almost always the innerspring with the most amount of steel, of which coil count is only one small factor. The largest pieces of steel in an innerspring mattress are border rods which circle the top and bottom of the mattress along the edges of the mattress. Border rods provide extra edge support which is important for toddlers who hold on to the crib rails and wander back and forth and, the border rods also help provide a better weight distribution over the surface of the mattress which reduces the risk of developing mattress sagging and 'soft' spots. Border rods do not add appreciably to the cost of the mattress but, they do add a lot to the quality. Look for a border rod in your crib mattress. As for the coils themselves, at the same time you look for the number of coils you should also look at how thick those coils are. Mattresses with 150 coils or less will usually have a 13.5 gauge steel coil or thicker. Remember, the lower the number of gauge of steel, the thicker the steel. Greater than 150 or 160 coils in a mattress physically requires that the gauge of steel in the coil be thinner due to space requirements. A 150 coil mattress with 13.5 gauge carbon tempered steel coils and 9.0 gauge steel border rods is a good all-around crib mattress.

The other most important layer in a crib mattress is the insulator pad. This is a pad that lays on top of the coils and prevents the soft cushioning layers on top of the mattress from sinking into the coils over time. The best and most expensive material used in a mattress insulator pad is coir fiber. Coir fiber is actually made from shredded coconut shell made into a mat or pad. Many other materials, all of them less expensive and of lower quality, are used as insulator pads. The most common insulator pad is a pad made from miscellaneous types of scraps of cloth collected from the floors of textile mills, washed, and pressed into a pad. This type of insulator pad feels as good on the new mattress in the store as the better coir fiber pad but, it does not hold up as well over time. Many crib mattress manufacturers call this material a fiber wrap pad. In actual fact, this type of pad feels more like a felt pad.

The remaining layers in an innerspring crib mattress are the cushioning layers, i.e., the layers that make the mattress soft. Almost everyone uses at least one foam cushioning layer. Some manufacturers use two foam layers. One manufacturer uses a foam layer and a 100% all natural cotton batting cushioning layer. The cotton batting adds an initial softness to the mattress that does not detract from the overall firmness of the mattress.

Mattress Covers
Ninety-nine point nine percent of all crib mattresses, both foam and innerspring, have a vinyl cover. Promotionally priced products will usually have a single layer vinyl cover or a quilted vinyl cover. Better mattresses have a double laminated cover. The best quality covers are triple laminated, nylon reinforced vinyl covers and hospital grade vinyl covers that use a thicker vinyl. Nylon is the best and most expensive reinforcing material. This is what allows the vinyl on the mattress to stretch and give to a large degree without ripping or tearing. Many manufacturers have gone to a polyester or other type of reinforcing material in their laminated vinyl covers. Nylon is still the best and the most expensive.

Are you looking for a "natural" mattress? Any crib mattress with a non-vinyl cover may be touted as a "natural" mattress but, a cloth cover of any material must be treated with Boric acid or other chemicals in order to pass the federal flammability standards that have been set by the government and, to make them wet resistant. So much for natural.

No talk about mattress covers could omit a short discussion about vents. There are positives and negatives about vents and you must decide whether you like them. You will find vents on most of the better and best quality crib mattresses. Vents allow the mattress to breathe and refresh itself and, they prevent the mattress from bursting like a balloon should toddler decide to use it as a trampoline but, vents also allow any airborne particulates to enter the mattress. The good part, though, is that nowhere on the mattress where baby's face is laying will air enter or escape the mattress near baby's face.

Also, there are two types of vents. There are eyelet vents that are small and usually circle all sides of the mattress in two or three rows and, there are standard vents that usually consist of two larger vents on each side of the mattress. Which is better? Flip a coin. The eyelet vents cost more to put on the mattress, though. Also on the cover is binding which is sewn along all sides of the mattress. Cloth binding is found on the better and best quality mattresses while vinyl binding is found on lower quality mattresses. The exception to this last sentence is when an anti-bacterial binding is used on a mattress with an anti-bacterial vinyl cover. If you think about it, it makes sense.

So, how do you buy the best innerspring crib mattress? Read the mattress label to find the specifications of the components inside the mattress. If the label is not specific or if the components do not measure up to the quality you desire then, find another mattress. Next, feel the mattress for firmness. Lift the mattress for weight. Now you're ready to make a purchase.

Every crib mattress manufacturer with any integrity will stand behind the materials and workmanship of their products to the original purchaser. All manufacturers exclude ripped or torn vinyl from warranty inclusion.

It's sad but, warranties today have become just another marketing gimmick to induce you to buy and spend more of your money. Longer warranty and higher cost must mean it is a better quality mattress, right? WRONG. Read the labels and feel the mattress and ask the store personnel. Best doesn't necessarily mean most expensive or longest warranty.

Do You Know Who Makes the Mattress?
You should be aware that not one crib mattress that has the same name brand on it as the nationally advertised adult size name brand mattresses is made by the same company that makes the adult mattresses. Not one. Almost all of these names are licensed which means the companies that make these mattresses pay a fee for use of the name. The one exception to this is a company that shares the same name and spelling as that of the adult mattress manufacturer. They are not affiliated.

This article is intended to help you make an informed purchase of the important (important for baby) crib mattress. If still in doubt about what mattress to buy, ask a knowledgeable salesperson and, ask them why they recommend a specific model of mattress. You now know what types of answers to expect.

Did you guess what is the third important purchase besides a car seat and crib mattress that a parent makes that is exclusively for the baby and not just for the convenience of the parent? It's not the stroller. It's not diapers. The answer is food. It is important for baby to have good nutrition during their most formative growing years or, they may develop health problems that last long into their lives. Always give baby the best and most nutritious food available, the best car seat and, the best crib mattress.

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