While padded, the baby butt is not sufficient for full body spine comfort.
March 23, 2009 12:11 PM   Subscribe

[NewBabyFilter] Baby Incoming! Before the stork arrives I have furnished the Nursery(tm) with, er, furniture. Crib, chair, what have you. Baby Mattresses vex me, and I need help in buying one. Will you be my baby mattress daddy?

Seriously; I know full well that mattress sales is a shell game. It almost makes used car sales look more moral. Change the model name between stores, change the coil count, change the name of the coil technology, whatever.

Bottom line, though, when I want to buy a new mattress -- er, I just shop around and well, sleep on one, till I find one that I like.

I doubt my newborn baby is going to be able to evaluate effectively if the crib mattress fits his needs -- thus my distress. Guides all say buy firm, firm mattress! With a wedge! Firm mattress! Yet I visit the local Babies R Us / Target stores and they have a wide line of "soft, cozy" mattresses. Most are Sealy by way of Kolcraft. Prices range from $80 to $200 on average. Yes there are $625 mattresses made with "Mohair." I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about a good, safe, proper mattress for cavalier jr.

Can you help?
posted by cavalier to Home & Garden (31 answers total)
I bought the Sealy at Kmart that was super cheap, covered in vinyl. After it was no longer necessary as a mattress, it became a favorite trampoline.

Experts say "firm! Firm mattress!" because any kind of soft material in a crib has the potential to suffocate a baby. I'm not an alarmist, but I do like a solid excuse not to spend a fortune on something that's only going to get used for a short time. So I went for super-cheap mattress, a flannel pad under a crib sheet, and the babies wore fleece footie sleepers over their pajamas once they were too big to stay swaddled. No blankets, no fancy bedding, certainly no fucking "mohair".

And then, after a couple years, free trampoline!
posted by padraigin at 12:18 PM on March 23, 2009

Single data point: We bought a mattress that was softer than the firmest mattress (he's got to be comfortable), but still among the firmer ones available for baby Barclay, and he seems to sleep fine; IIRC, it cost about $80-$90. If you listen to the scare-mongers, your baby will end up sleeping on plywood. It's very important that the be no gap between the mattress and the crib; I think this is solved by the fact that crib and mattress sizes are standardized, but you should double-check.
posted by Simon Barclay at 12:20 PM on March 23, 2009

There's certainly a contingent out there that will advocate for using an organic mattress. The off-gassing from some baby mattresses, particularly the ones covered in vinyl and flame retardants , can be significant. However, some people just buy the non-organic mattress way early and let it air out for a while. I don't mean to alarm you about another aspect of mattresses beyond the firmness thing - after all we got our crib and mattress (non-organic) off of Craigslist and it's been totally fine.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 12:28 PM on March 23, 2009

Buy a mid-price ($100 ish) mattress from ToysRUs or whathaveyou. Baby needs something rather firm (not cushy) but s/he will not be picky. I guarentee that if you buy the $650 mattress, baby will decide s/he CAN NOT and WILL NOT sleep in the crib and you will be co-sleeping in your bed, that's just the sort of thing that happens when baby comes ;)

Congrats on baby.
posted by Abbril at 12:29 PM on March 23, 2009

Buy a basic baby mattress and think no more about it unless you anticipate medical needs you're not mentioning.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:29 PM on March 23, 2009

We practiced co-sleeping, Japanese style, with our son when he was born, and we will do the same in a few weeks when baby kokuryu #2 is born (!)

We also have futons, and bought a baby mattress pad. Baby will sleep on Mommy's left on its own little bed, right next to Mommy, who will sleep in the middle. I sleep on Mommy's right.

For people with western-style beds, the Sears parenting books suggest pulling up a small sofa or loveseat next to the bed, and letting the baby sleep on that, right next to Mommy.

Saves time (and sleep) at night for feeding or changing a diaper.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:34 PM on March 23, 2009

Response by poster: Off-gassing.. wh-wh-what? I mean, we're talking about fumes of the new chemicals, yeah? Oh, sweet. Another neurosis.

*writes down "buy mattress this WEEK, not 4 weeks from now, and air out, aye aye"*
posted by cavalier at 12:35 PM on March 23, 2009

We bought a Serta organic mattress from Babies R Us and even that had to offgas for a while. Is your newborn going to sleep in the crib right away? We used a cradle in our room at first, then a bassinet, then a swing. By the time junior went into his crib (and into his own room) there was no smell at all.
posted by pinky at 12:44 PM on March 23, 2009

Our baby sleeps on plywood. Or carpet. Or in chairs. Or on the dog. Pretty much anywhere you set him down, he'll fall asleep if he's tired.

An infant's "needs" when it comes to a mattress are basically that it be a horizontal surface, and even that is negotiable. They're just too small and light to require a soft surface to be comfortable.

Have you checked with your friends to see if you can get a hand-me-down, and skip the shell game altogether? Kids go through these things so quickly, there's always going to be a parent trying to get rid of excess clothes, toys, baby furniture, swings, you name it; and in six months you'll be looking around to try to find some other new parent you can dump the stuff on.
posted by ook at 12:46 PM on March 23, 2009


All vinyl products release chlorine (?) gas. That's why I try to buy shower curtains at Ikea.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:49 PM on March 23, 2009

Response by poster: You're absolutely right - baby will be in a bassinet or pak'n'play right with us for the first X amount of weeks, I just want to make sure the nursery is ready before go time. Strangely, the biggest "off-gas" (why have I never heard this term before?) I had was the changing table of all things. Stunk up the room for at least a week. Good times.

I'll ask around but unfortunately we're off-cycle with the rest of our friends in terms of stork chronology.
posted by cavalier at 12:49 PM on March 23, 2009

baby will be in a bassinet or pak'n'play right with us for the first X amount of weeks

If you're planning on going that route anyhow, this co-sleeper was by far the best investment we made in baby gear.

We had a whole crib set up in my son's room, but I think he only ended up sleeping in there maybe 20 - 30 nights the first year. He stayed in the cosleeper until he could pull up on his own (at around 8-9 months) then hated his crib ... and coslept with us until Easter of last year (so that would be until he was about a year and a half old). At that time he had learned to climb/jump out of his crib, so we moved him to a twin mattress on the floor of his room -- which he loved, and slept on all the time. About a month later we moved him into a "big bed" (a double/full bed because I still tend to cosleep with him when he's sick).

Last summer we spent two weeks in a tent with him and thought "great! we'll get some use out of the crib mattress and he won't have to sleep on the ground". And he rejected it again. I honestly think the crib mattress is just too firm for him and he gets uncomfortable on it.

So, yeah, don't get the ultra stiff one. But also: if you're planning on rooming him in anyhow, don't get too hung up on it. Its likely that he'll end up staying in with you for longer than you might think.
posted by anastasiav at 1:10 PM on March 23, 2009

You could be like us and buy the most expensive anti-SIDS mattress that you can get your hands on, then systematically blow off every other sleeping recommendation within two weeks of your kid's birth, culminating in seven straight months of sleeping in a boppy under blankets with her feet on a teddy bear while you get up every twenty minutes to check on her breathing.

That's what worked for us.

You probably shouldn't do that, though.

Don't worry, there will be an endless stream of things to be neurotic about.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:33 PM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

I remember the final stage preparation anxiety, and I sympathise fully. I used to remind myself of the pet rabbits we had when I was a child, the doe would tear herself bald to line her nest. Reassure yourself by thinking of all the babies in the world who are successfully raised without organic, advanced coil-technology, mohair mattresses - heck, without cot mattresses at all!

1) Babies are generally tougher than you think, and you have already recognised that there is an industry based on feeding your fear that One Tiny Wrong Thing you do will Destroy Your Baby. Reject this thinking, if you can.

2) Stop for a second and feel good that you can afford to buy a clean new mattress for your baby (we take this sort of thing too much for granted!)

3) Try and pretend that you've NEVER seen an ad or "article" (ad) about baby mattresses. Clear your mind and use your common sense. You want something clean, that fits the cot snugly so baby can't wedge into cracks, firm enough to make a flat surface, and preferably mostly natural materials that will 'breathe', and not overheat baby, and don't smell bad.

Congratulations, congratulations, your very own baby is more fun than you can imagine. (On and off).
posted by Catch at 1:40 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Off-gassing.. wh-wh-what? I mean, we're talking about fumes of the new chemicals, yeah? Oh, sweet. Another neurosis.
Sorry, I really didn't mean to make things worse but it was bound to come up! We started out with our child in a co-sleeper next to the bed and the mattress that thing came with (also from Craigslist!) is rock hard. Didn't seem to bother her at all. I was initially worried about positional plagiocephaly due to the hard mattress but that turned out to be a non-issue too. Your baby will sleep a lot in the beginning but not always where you want him to. And be sure to allow for plenty of the stupidly named Tummy Time.

In any case, you'll soon find that there are an infinite number of things you *could* worry about but you can always pick and choose which ones are really important to you. In fact, you kind of have to do that otherwise you'll make yourself crazy.

For people with western-style beds, the Sears parenting books suggest pulling up a small sofa or loveseat next to the bed, and letting the baby sleep on that, right next to Mommy.

It doesn't sound like you'll be interested in this but just in case, I think that for the most part, this is a really really bad idea. Sofas and couches have way too many nooks and crannies that an infant could roll into and get trapped.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:41 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to chime in and say that the aforementioned co-sleeper worked fabulously for our needs. I breastfed and it was great not to have to get out of bed (well, once I figured out that I didn't HAVE to move to our daughter's room to feed her in the glider at night just because that was what I did in the daytime. WTH was I thinking??). It also did beautifully as a pack and play - much lighter than the Graco one we were given. We didn't need both.

Also, once we moved our daughter into her crib in her room (around 7 months, IIRC), the mattress wrapper from this New Zealand company really put my mind at ease, especially since our daughter slept (happily and soundly) on her stomach. It might take care of some of the off-gassing concerns.

Good luck and have fun! It's true, babies are WAY hardier than they tell you. You're going to have a great time!
posted by chihiro at 1:58 PM on March 23, 2009

Response by poster: Hmm.. Since two of you have mentioned the co-sleeper, I have a dumb question -- it's up against mom's bed, but it still has its own frame, right? Or is the 4th wall supposed to be mom's bed? Because I would worry (heh) about the safety of mom's mattress as the 4th wall if that's the case. The pictures seem to go both ways on the site anastasiav linked.
posted by cavalier at 2:45 PM on March 23, 2009

It does have its own frame but on the one we got, the fourth side can be lowered down slightly so that it opens to the bed-side. I think ideally you position it so that the level of the baby's mattress is the same as your bed's but we were lazy and din't do that so her mattress was about 6 inches lower than ours - seemed to be fine. Also, it comes with a tether that you attach to the parent's mattress so that it stays in place. Why do you worry about it being up against mom's side of the mattress?

Also, I know this isn't the way most people do it, but we had ours attached on dad's side.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:59 PM on March 23, 2009

This picture illustrates the co-sleeper in "down" position. It's really not a whole lot of difference - only a couple of inches lower than the top of the structure.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:02 PM on March 23, 2009

Response by poster: Concerns of the mom mattress/frame -- baby finding some way to get into some not-baby safe nook or cranny created by mom's bed. Mom and Dad's bed, to be clear. Yes I realize he's not moving on his own the first few weeks but, you know, neurotic is neurotic.
posted by cavalier at 3:06 PM on March 23, 2009

Response by poster: Ah, I see! Definitely a frame. Thank you for that! Hmmmmmmm!
posted by cavalier at 3:08 PM on March 23, 2009

Yeah, I see what you mean, the tether bit is designed to address that. it's attached to the co-sleeper and runs underneath your mattress to the opposite side of the bed where a large plastic piece ensures that it stays over there. Then, the tether strap gets tightened up so that your mattress and the co-sleeper mattress move as a unit. For what it's worth, we never used the tether and just set in along side the bed. Had we left the co-sleeper up when she started to get mobile we might have needed the tether but your baby won't be moving around on its own for at least a couple of months so you'll have plenty of time to secure it, if you need to. One of the reasons we never tethered, beyond laziness is that we moved the co-sleeper around a lot and it came with us on a few trips. It's super easy to collapse and throw into the trunk if you're doing any traveling.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:28 PM on March 23, 2009

Since my daughter was on her stomach, she did move quite a bit - but even at 9 pounds she wasn't heavy enough to move the co-sleeper away from the bed and get herself wedged in the (hypothetically) resultant crack. We always used the tether at home for extra security, but when traveling we usually skipped it as otherworldlyglow did. Also, being up several times a night to eat meant we could reposition her each time we put her back down to sleep.

I think one of the best things about the co-sleeper vs. a bassinet was how long she was able to sleep in the thing. My daughter was long and she was comfortable in the co-sleeper until she was just about a year old (we used it as a portacrib on trips even after she moved to her own room at home). Friends who have used a bassinet have said that, while generally pretty or adorable, they are quite small and babies outgrow them alot faster than you might think.
posted by chihiro at 3:53 PM on March 23, 2009

Oh, and even when the side of the co-sleeper is "down," there's still a sort of lip remaining between parents' bed and co-sleeper, so baby would actually have to somehow move the co-sleeper away from the bed and then crawl up over a lip to wedge whatever body part presented itself into the (again hypothetical) crack.

It's a pretty secure design, IME.
posted by chihiro at 3:56 PM on March 23, 2009

it's up against mom's bed, but it still has its own frame, right? Or is the 4th wall supposed to be mom's bed?

You've gotten good and complete answers to this, but I'll just add that we used the tether because we felt it made the whole thing sit more firmly on the floor. In our case as well the level of the adult mattress lip was a few inches (maybe four) above the level of the co-sleeper mattress, which was comforting for me.

Being able to nurse at night without getting out of bed totally saved my sanity, FYI.
posted by anastasiav at 4:39 PM on March 23, 2009

I was you at one time. We never bought the crib mattress, we never bought the crib. A thin king-size mattress on the floor was the way to roll here.
posted by kmennie at 5:22 PM on March 23, 2009

Ikea crib mattresses are both good & cheap. I was told they off-gas less than many conventional crib mattresses, but don't have any proof of that.
posted by belladonna at 5:27 PM on March 23, 2009

Congratulations! and WooHoo! It's going to be a wild ride! When it comes to sleep, yours and bambino's, the mattress will be the last thing on your mind! FWIW weused a basinet (next time will have one which rocks) and then a cot with Ikea's 2nd cheapest mattress with a felt blanket on top. Ikea stuff is generally very safe, we've had no problems with gas. All seems to work. Well. Doesnt seem fto not work! Enjoy sleeping and lazy mornings while you can! Yahoo!
posted by BadMiker at 6:20 PM on March 23, 2009

We got a super-cheap, super-off-gassy, nice and firm mattress that is working out great.
-- Cheap because the kid is not going to wear the thing out.
-- Off-gassy exactly like our changing pad -- definitely buy early and let it air, even with the weeks of cosleeping time.
-- Firm because, well, it helps me sleep better at night, knowing that I have reduced as many SIDS risk factors as I can (like putting a fan in the baby room)
posted by misterbrandt at 9:38 PM on March 23, 2009

First advice about a mattress: just pick up a $100 mattress from your local baby store, look for one that has two sides (usually called Phase I/Phase II). The first side is super firm for newborns. You don't want a cushy surface for a baby. You want a really really firm surface. They lack the muscle power to lift themselves properly and they sleep deeply enough that you risk them suffocating in a super cushy mattress. The other side is softer, for use in a toddler bed when they are older.

Second: Relax. You can't keep your kid in a bubble and 99 percent of the silly things middle class parents worry about they only have the luxury of worrying about because they live in a country where people actually buy tap water in little bottles. Just chill.

No matter how hard you try your kid will do stupid stuff that will cancel out all your hard work. Waste tons of money buying organic fruit? She'll eat a bunch of dirt that has been sprayed with pesticides. Worry about her exposure to lead? She'll swallow a bunch of crap at Great Aunt Betty's house. Sure you should take practical precautions, but don't stress. Life is a complete crap shoot. Triatholon runners die of cancer, chain smokers live to old ages, etc., you get the idea.

Feed the kid, love the kid, make sure the kid doesn't drink bleach... and life goes on.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 10:37 AM on March 24, 2009

Response by poster: Thank all of you very much for your time and your wisdom in this thread! With your support I finally managed to beat back the "What if? Should I?" and just buy the ($109) mattress from the store.

I suggested the cosleeper but apparently this was already nixed in a meeting I was a part of. Hmmph. However, the Pack/Play thing we were looking at for the bedroom seems about the same logistics without the actual attachment to the bed, who knows.

I'm trying to choose a best answer here, but I really feel like all of you gave great answers, so uhrmn, until I figure out a way out of the popularity contest aspect of it.... thanks! :)
posted by cavalier at 9:37 AM on March 25, 2009

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