Is Your Baby’s Crib Mattress Too Hard? (What to Do)
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Babies, and especially newborns, need a lot of support while they’re sleeping.
Not only that, a firm crib mattress is an absolute must when it comes to safe sleeping and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) prevention.
But many parents, after a few nights, week, or even months at home with baby, start to wonder: Is my baby’s crib mattress too hard or too firm?
Most likely, your baby’s crib mattress is exactly as firm as it’s supposed to be. What might seem rigid and uncomfortable to us adults is actually perfect for baby’s safety and development. You can switch to a softer mattress as baby gets a little bit older, and in the meantime, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to keep them comfortable while they sleep.
Let’s dive in a little deeper and explore the importance of a firm mattress for babies, when to switch to a softer mattress, and tips to keep baby comfortable if he’s having trouble sleeping in the crib.
How firm or hard should a crib mattress be?
I see this question over and over and over again on big parenting forums and mom discussion boards.
A baby is having trouble sleeping, and after trying every trick in the book to no avail, mom or dad tests out the crib mattress and finds that it’s hard as a rock.
Then they’re left wondering: Is the mattress too hard? Is that why my baby won’t sleep?
Chances are if you bought your crib mattress from a reputable company with all of the right safety certifications and inspections, the mattress is exactly as firm as it should be.
You would be surprised how firm a baby’s bed should really be! They need the support for a couple of important reasons:
- Their bones are soft and just beginning to develop. Their spines, in particular, need far more support than adults do.
- A firm mattress gives them a better base to push off of when they begin to wiggle and move around.
- A mattress with too much give is a huge SIDS or suffocation risk for a baby that’s not able to move on its own very well yet.
So the bedding is SUPPOSED to be firm, or even hard.
Still, here are a couple of general rules of thumb you can use to gauge whether your child’s mattress is firm enough:
- Press your hand into the sides and center of the mattress. It should have very little give.
- When you release, it should quickly “snap” back into shape.
- It definitely should NOT contour to the shape of your hand or body when laying down.
And ultimately, the overall rule is that if you think your baby’s mattress is cozy and comfortable, it’s probably too soft.
BUT… all of that doesn’t really help you if your baby doesn’t like the mattress or is having trouble sleeping. Believe me, I hear you!
Let’s talk about where to go from here.
When can my baby use a softer mattress?
There are a lot of first-hand accounts out there of parents using mattress toppers or pads, quilts, and other soft items to offset the firmness of their baby’s crib.
And from reading discussions online, a lot of the time it works! It seems some babies really do want a softer surface to sleep on.
But be warned: Putting anything in the crib other than a firm mattress and a tightly fitted sheet is a SIDS risk, and most doctors and pediatricians strongly caution against doing this.
The risk of SIDS peaks when baby is around 2-3 months old. So when it comes to newborns and smaller infants, it’s really best to stick with only the mattress, a tight sheet, and a really good swaddle.
According to Baby Center, 90% of SIDS cases occur in babies younger than 6 months — the likelihood of something going wrong during sleep decrease substantially after that.
However, SIDS risk still exists until a baby is 12 months old!
I wouldn’t consider switching to a softer mattress or adding a mattress topper/pad until baby is at least 6 months old and can move around or crawl on his own — and even then, you should definitely talk to your pediatrician first.
(I can’t stress that enough — I’m not a doctor and I don’t claim to be! Talk to yours before you make any major decisions about your baby’s safety.)
If you ARE looking for a good solution for a baby that likes softer bedding, I would definitely check out this Milliard Dual-Sided Crib Mattress on Amazon.
One side is super firm and safe for baby, while the other side is a little bit softer for an older baby or a toddler. Once you get the OK from your pediatrician to try a softer sleeping surface, you won’t have to buy something new — just flip it over!
Other ways to make baby more comfortable
Alright, so all of that still doesn’t really help if your baby isn’t ready for a soft mattress, but doesn’t like his firm one.
Fortunately, while you shouldn’t ADD anything into your crib for safety reasons, there are a few different things you can try to keep baby more comfortable and help him sleep better.
Let him sleep in a bassinet, cradle, or swing
It’s possible your baby just needs a different sleep environment. If so, you can plop him in a bassinet and keep him by your bedside — that’s a safe way to keep an eye on him and let him be close to you without bringing him to bed (which is a major no-no).
Or, try acradle! The gentle rocking motion may help soothe him and put him into a deep snooze.
Swings are a fantastic option for naps or short bursts of sleep, but usually aren’t safe for all-night sleep. (You guessed it, too much time spent upright can be a SIDS risk for baby.)
Try different pajamas and swaddles
A good swaddle can make a world of difference for young babies.
When it comes to newborns, it’s best to keep them tightly swaddled for overnight sleep, but you can experiment with different techniques and products.
One thing you might try is comparing sleep sacks with a little or a lot of room for their legs and seeing which one baby likes better.
These SwaddleMe swaddles on Amazon keep baby balled up tight, with very little wiggle room for legs. They’re as snug and cozy as it gets.
These Halo Sleepsack swaddles, on the other hand, give your baby a little more breathing room in the legs.
Both are great! Try both varieties and see if they help at bedtime.
Alter the sleep environment
When it comes to crib sleeping for newborns or younger babies, there’s really not much you can do to the crib itself safely.
But you can try lots of different things in and around the room to create a better sleeping environment.
Try a little white noiseor other sound machine sounds to soothe baby, or even play lullaby music.
Get the temperature right!Somewhere between 65-72 degrees in baby’s room is the ideal range, but you can try the lower or higher end if you think baby is getting too cool or hot at night.
Make it darker.You might think a room that’s too dark will scare your baby, but really the fear of the dark doesn’t start until later in life. Too much light can trigger alertness, so try making the room extremely dark or only using a very small, dim nightlight.
Related: Should I buy a breathable crib mattress?
There’s really no harm in a breathable mattress as long as it’s firm enough and up to the most recent safety standards, but “breathable” can be very misleading.
It implies that it’s OK to put baby to sleep on their side or stomach, or that you’ll be OK if you don’t follow the general guidelines for safe sleep.
That’s really not true. The only safe way to put a baby to sleep is on his back on a firm crib mattress with a tightly fitted sheet — that’s it!
You should only let baby sleep on his stomach or side if you’re specifically instructed by a doctor for a specific medical reason.
Related: Should I use sleep positioners to keep baby from rolling over?
In most cases, no, you shouldn’t!
Very young babies and newborns are extremely unlikely to roll themselves over on their own, so a positioner is unlikely to help very much. (Babies usually start learning to roll over around 4-months-old).
Plus, it’s just another obstacle in the crib that could become a major suffocation hazard. Most pediatricians and children’s groups strongly advocate against using any extra sleep props in the crib with your baby.
Your baby’s mattress might feel too hard to overly firm, but the reality is — it’s supposed to be that way!
There are extremely important safety and development reasons behind those stiff mattresses. And even though they may not be what YOU would want to sleep on, they are perfectly suited for newborns and young babies.
When your child gets a little older and has better motor control (and his SIDS risk starts to go down because of age), you can consider a softer mattress with input from your pediatrician.
And in the meantime, there are tons of things you can try in your baby’s room (or out) to make sleeping a little more comfortable.
Just remember not to put anything extra in the crib with a young baby, even if people online tell you it works! It’s just not worth the risk.
How Firm is Firm Enough for a Baby Crib Mattress?
How Firm is Firm Enough for a Baby Crib Mattress?
I’ve seen several blogs and forums where people talk and ask questions about how firm a crib mattress should be. One person said “If it feels good to me, it’s okay for my baby.” Is that a good rule of thumb?
In fact, it’s not – unless you like a very firm mattress. Because babies are still growing, their spines and bones need more support than we do.
While there are no precise rules about crib mattress firmness, there are solid enough guidelines to help you choose the right one.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that a baby mattress be firm and flat.
Consumer Reports recommends buying the firmest mattress you can find. In fact, they address the exact comment made by the person on the forum: “Don’t worry that it may feel too firm. If it feels good to you, it’s too soft for your baby,"
To test a crib mattress to determine whether it’s firm enough, Consumer Reports suggests you “Press on the mattress in the center and at the edges. It should snap back readily and should not conform to the shape of your hand.”
In Naturepedic baby crib mattresses, our organic cotton batting makes the mattress surface comfortable without sacrificing firmness. Babies are pretty cozy on our mattresses and they routinely sleep through the night. Soft, comfortable and firm – just right!
How to Choose a Baby Bassinet
When you have a newborn, you want to keep your baby close. Safe sleep experts recommend that babies sleep in the same room with parents for the first 6 months, too. Buying a bassinet will help you keep a close eye on baby, and will allow you to have a baby sleeping in your room without having to make space for a full-size crib. If you’re shopping for a bassinet, these tips can help you find a safe one for your baby.
Bassinet Safety Standards
Older bassinets were only subject to voluntary safety standards. If you’re buying used, do an extra check for safety problems. Look for labels that say JPMA or ASTM. Members of these groups participated in voluntary safety standards before the newer mandatory federal standards were enacted.
Federal bassinet safety standards went into effect in April 2014. These standards ensure the bassinet is stable and durable. Requirements for mattresses and other soft parts of the bassinet reduce the risk of suffocation or entrapment. All bassinets manufactured after this date and sold in the U.S. must meet the standards.
Evaluate a bassinet the same way you would a crib. Does it have decorative posts sticking up from the sides that could catch on a baby’s clothing? If there are side slats, can you fit a soda can between them? If so, they’re too far apart to be safe. Are there decorative cutouts in the headboard or footboard that could entrap a baby?
Weight and Age Limits
Most bassinets have a weight limit of 15 to 20 pounds. Some may be able to hold a heavier baby but remember that weight is not the only way babies outgrow their bassinets. In fact, many babies will be too big for the bassinet developmentally well before they reach the weight limit. Check the instructions for the weight limit and other advice about when to discontinue using it. Some manufacturers may add a maximum age, or an age range, usually 4 to 6 months.
To Rock or Not?
A rocking bassinet might be nice, but it introduces safety hazards not present in stationary bassinets. Once the baby learns to move around a little, or roll over, the weight shifting around in a rocking bassinet could allow enough tilt that baby becomes trapped against one side. If your baby’s face is pressed against the side, this could pose a suffocation hazard. Since babies often gain their rolling over skills quickly, you may not even realize that your baby is at risk. If you choose a bassinet with a rocking feature, make sure it has a lock so that the bassinet can also be used in a stationary mode.
A bassinet benefit is the smaller size and weight that make it easy to move around the house so baby can always be near you. A sturdy set of wheels makes moving it even easier. Wheels with locks will prevent the baby from being moved around by curious siblings.
It’s also nice if your bassinet can be folded or disassembled quickly for storage or travel. If it folds, test the latching mechanism before you buy. Is it easy to tell when the bassinet is locked safely in place? Check the folding legs and the places where the bassinet itself attaches to the legs for solid latches. If you need to disassemble the bassinet, it is easy to tell how it fits back together? If not, skip it. An improperly assembled bassinet is dangerous for your baby.
It’s essential that the mattress is well supported. Mattress supports should be strong enough to hold your baby without bending or flexing. The entire mattress should be held up by the supports. Press along the mattress edges and in the middle to see if any spot dips easily. The hammock effect is comfortable for adults but dangerous for babies who can’t extract themselves.
Sleep Like a Rock
For an adult, it may seem like manufacturers want your baby to sleep on a rock! However, a firm sleep surface is a must for babies. The bassinet mattress should not be heavily padded because you don’t want your baby’s face to be able to sink into it. Just like a crib mattress, the bassinet mattress should fit very snugly inside the bassinet. There shouldn’t be any gaps between the edge of the mattress and the sides of the bassinet. Frills and soft decor on the outside is fine, but make sure none of the frills or fluff extend into baby’s sleep space.
What kind of bedding comes with your bassinet? All your baby really needs is a simple fitted sheet, and it should fit the bassinet mattress perfectly. While cribs have standard sizes, bassinets do not, so it may be hard to find sheets that are just right for your bassinet. You’ll probably want to have at least one extra fitted sheet for the inevitable night time diaper explosion.
Speaking of extra sheets, it’s best if those sheets are easily removed for washing. Any fabric inside baby’s sleep space is at risk for getting messy, so be sure the whole thing can be cleaned somehow. If the bassinet mattress doesn’t come with a waterproof cover, is one available for it? If not, can you throw the whole mattress in your washer?
Just like in the crib, the extras that come in bedding sets are not necessary. Don’t add bumper pads, quilts, or pillows to the bassinet. A safe sleep space for baby is pretty much bare. Nearly all bassinet-related deaths are related to soft bedding added into the sleep space.
Know When to Stop
Manufacturers give weight and age limits for bassinets. Keep a close eye on your baby so that you can tell if you need to stop using the bassinet before those stated limits. If the manufacturer says you can use the bassinet until 4 months and 20 pounds, but your baby is rolling over before those limits, you should stop using it. Babies learn new skills at a lightning pace. If your baby is working toward rolling or sitting, the transition to a crib or play yard to avoid falls. They are the leading cause of bassinet-related injuries reported to CPSC.
Buying or Borrowing a Used Bassinet
A used bassinet may be a good way to save money, but use extra caution to be sure it is safe. First, check for recalls. Then, do the same safety check as you would on a new bassinet:
- Make sure it’s sturdy and doesn’t have any gaps or soft spaces that could entrap your baby.
- Pay close attention to the mattress and supports, making sure the mattress doesn’t sag in the middle.
- Make sure all of the original parts are there. If it has been modified, don’t buy it.
- Ask how it was stored. Bedding and wood pieces need to be stored in a cool, dry place so they don’t become moldy or warped.
Once you’ve dealt with safety, it’s time for fashion! Bassinets are available in many different styles, from sleek modern to classic and frilly. You can find bassinets that have baby-oriented themes, such as bears or lambs, or you might choose one with dark, glossy wood and fabrics that tie into your home’s grown-up decor.
How Firm Should A Baby Crib Mattress Be?
October 13, 2017
One of the most important considerations parents should have about their baby’s mattress is the firmness level. While it’s tempting to want baby to have a cushion-soft surface that seems cozy to us as adults, it can be dangerous if a crib mattress is soft, floppy, or saggy.
Why You Don’t Want a Soft Mattress
For starters, babies’ bones are still developing and their bodies need much more support than ours do as adults. Adults may find comfort and support from a wide range of materials and firmness levels, but for babies it’s important to remember that firmer is always better. If it feels cozy to you, it’s probably too soft for your baby.
Babies, especially newborns and young infants, lack mobility and can’t get around very well. So they have a harder time lifting themselves up and repositioning like an adult would. If they stay on their back during sleep that’s one thing, but once they start rolling onto their tummies this can present a pretty serious risk. A softer mattress that is flexible at the edges can also increase the chance that arms or legs can get stuck between the mattress and the crib.
To reduce the risk of these potential hazards, it’s best to choose a firm crib mattress with firm edges. Safety recommendations also caution parents to place babies to sleep on their backs and to keep all soft materials (bedding, toys, etc.) out of the crib environment.
How Firm Should A Crib Mattress Be?
Consumer Reports recommends that you “Press on the mattress in the center and at the edges. It should snap back readily and should not conform to the shape of your hand.” So when you’re testing crib mattress firmness, feel free to put pressure on the mattress to make sure it resists the impression of your hand. It should feel a bit firmer than you’d think is comfortable. But trust us – babies need the firmer surface and sleep just fine!
The Ideal Firmness for a Crib Mattress
At Lullaby Earth, your baby’s safety is our priority. Our crib mattresses are made with firm, flat support, as recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and also feature reinforced edges for a snug fit in the crib.
Our 2-stage or “dual firmness” crib mattresses have a firm side and a cushion firm side. When baby is around one year old you can switch to the cushion firm side for a little more cushion during the toddler years!
We do recommend you confirm with your pediatrician before flipping the mattress, since some babies may need a bit more time on the firmer infant side.
Bassinet Sleep Safety: What You Should Know
Updated April 3, 2020
Have you chosen a bassinet for your newborn baby’s bedtime?
Bassinets are great because they allow for more natural co-sleeping — they’re also affordable, portable, and more snug for your little one than a large crib. However, they come with hazards, like any other sleeping method.
As a unique sleeping solution for newborn babies, it’s essential to become familiar with the safety rules when using a bassinet, to ensure the safest sleeping environment you can.
That way, baby gets to sleep, and you get peace of mind.
Table of Contents
3 Bassinet Safety Rules
Bassinet safety is fairly simple. Most of the rules are logical and can be figured out with a little bit of common sense. It’s important to observe these rules as strictly as possible, to avoid hazards for your baby.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — also known as SIDS — is what happens when a child passes away with no apparent cause before the age of 1. One of the things experts agree increases the chances of SIDS is unsafe sleeping practices.
These three important bassinet sleeping safety rules are essential to the health of your baby.
1. Stand by the standard
As lovely as an antique bassinet can be, chances are it doesn’t meet current safety requirements. This means that yard sale treasure or family heirloom actually poses more risks to your baby than a newer model. Having a product that’s certified, and proven to be fit for use is the best way to ensure your baby sleeps safe and sound.
If you want to use a hand-me-down bassinet, check the safety requirements yourself. You want to look out for mattresses that are too soft, overly puffy sides, overall stability, and more. You can find the full list of required safety features for bassinets and cribs here.
Getting a bassinet from a trusted source is also another good way to ensure it’s safe. If it’s been certified to a certain standard by a reputable source, you’re more likely to be good-to-go. If you’re unsure about a certain brand or design, a little research online will go a long way.
2. Invest in mesh
Mesh walls on a bassinet can literally save the life of your baby, because they offer more airflow.
Think about what would happen if your baby somehow managed to roll over into the side of their bassinet. Which fabric would you prefer to be there? Breathable mesh to allow for airflow, or thick cloth?
Mesh-walled bassinets also offer improved visual monitoring, making it much easier to keep an eye on baby. Fortunately, most modern bassinets feature mesh walls. If you happen to be considering one that doesn’t include this key safety feature, it’s time to reevaluate.
3. Lock the wheels
Bassinets are portable, which is a major key selling point for them and something parents adore. However just because theycanmove doesn’t mean they alwaysshould. Unless your bassinet is designed to be a carrier, don’t attempt to move it around with your baby still inside.
It’s also key for you to frequently check the wheels to ensure they’re locked when it’s stationary. Special care should be used at all times if your baby and the bassinet are by stairs, other children, or pets. Checking the wheels are locked is the best way to prevent a runaway disaster.
What To Do In A Recall
In 2013, requirements for bassinets changed drastically after it was discovered that over 100 babies died in 6 years due to poor bassinet construction.
These new requirements were implemented to improve the safety of bassinets and reduce the number of infant injuries and deaths caused by unsafe sleeping practices (1) .
Whenever an incident with a bassinet happens, an investigation is launched to look into the safety of that particular bassinet. If it fails to meet current standards, the product will be recalled. If you own a bassinet that has been recalled, you should get rid of it immediately.
Return the product to the place you brought it from, with receipts if possible.
Anytime you plan to make a purchase for your baby, check for recent recalls to make sure you haven’t come across a rogue product. Safe is better than sorry!
Why Bare Bassinets Are Best
Any extra objects placed in the crib or bassinet with your baby can pose a significant risk of suffocation and choking. This includes toys, pillows, blankets, and even bottles.
By eliminating extra items from the sleeper, you reduce the risk of SIDS drastically. It’s been reported that 70 percent of infants who died from SIDS were sleeping with additional sleep aids like mattresses and blankets (2) .
If your baby is cold, you can get a thick, warm sleep sack and swaddle them inside. Swaddling is a great trick for encouraging healthy sleeping habits, just like pacifiers, so don’t be afraid to use these as often as needed!
Can I Use Fitted Sheets?
Fitted sheets are great for use in a bassinet because they offer both comfort and cleanliness. The soft, smooth surface and removable sheet helps make accidents like a leaky diaper or spit up easier to clean, and could offer improved sleeping.
If you’re using a fitted sheet, only use what comes with the bassinet you purchased or fits its dimensions perfectly. Any extra fabric poses a risk — the sheet should be pulled taut and firm over the mattress.
Purchasing extra fitted sheets is also recommended so you have one at all times, even during laundry days. Make a note of the exact size of your bassinet mattress so you can find fitted sheets that are a perfect fit for the safest use.
Can I Use Softer Mattresses?
The short answer? No.
Parents are often a little surprised by the rigidity of bassinet mattresses and grow concerned for their baby’s comfort. This is when extra soft mattresses and plush pads start appearing in baby’s bed, and when tragedy is more likely to strike.
Firm surfaces are best for your baby during those first few months of life. Soft surfaces may indent when the baby lays on them and could cause suffocation or entrapment.
If you’re worried that your baby isn’t comfortable enough, it’s key to remember newborns don’t need four pillows and a slew of blankets to get comfortable. As long as they feel warm and secure, they will be happy. They’re best left on a hard surface, laying flat on their back (3) .
Can I Use Bumper Pads?
Just like mattresses, bumper pads are both unsafe and unnecessary in your baby’s sleeper. It was once was widely believed that thin bumper pads were a great addition to your baby’s crib — until studies showed they often resulted in SIDS.
Most bassinets don’t need bumper pads anyway, since the walls are usually soft and breathable.
A great thing about bassinets is the absence of slats and hard surfaces, which are the main reason bumper pads seem so appealing. If you’re using a bassinet, your baby is already as comfortable and safe as can be — no add-ons required.
As your baby grows and moves to their own bed, you can then consider getting rails or bumpers to help prevent them from falling out of the bed.
When To Switch To A Crib
One of the drawbacks of bassinets is that they’re only intended for the first 4 to 6 months of your baby’s life. In fact, after a certain amount of time, a bassinet can become unsafe.
Bottom line: you don’t want to wait too long to move your baby to a crib.
Bassinets are typically very shallow, so once your baby learns to roll around and even stand, they’re no longer a safe option. The risk of injury with a bassinet increases as baby’s mobility does, so at the first sign of them being able to gain some mileage, it’s time to look into cribs (4) .
You’ll notice when your baby begins to move around. Keeping a close eye on them as they learn to move can help you decide when to introduce a crib.
How Do You Keep Baby Safe?
Any baby sleeper has risks and advantages — bassinets are no different.
However, by ensuring you buy safety-certified bassinets, keep baby’s sleeping area free of clutter, and lock those wheels, you can make sure your baby is both safe and well-rested.