You’ve spent months picking out the perfect baby crib mattress to assure a safe and sound slumber for the new addition of your family, and now that your little one has finally arrived and everything in the house is kept clean, fresh and renewed, you can’t help but ask yourself – does that mattress also have a shelf life?

This particularly applies to second-hand-bought crib mattresses and hand-me-down ones, or perhaps you even planned to have another child soon after your first, so you’re wondering if you can cut on expenses and reuse the clothes, the crib, AND the mattress?

replace the crib mattress
Image by Niek Verlaan

Truth is – crib mattresses do need replacement, but this relies on individual factors; the type of mattress, the durability, stain resistance, and your own care and maintenance of the mattress. Mattresses that are well taken care of can easily last for a decade, but the smallest slip might drive the mattress to the edge in about one year.

What are the things that “spoil” a crib mattress, what are the factors to consider, and what can you do to make a crib mattress last longer?

General durance of a crib mattress based on material:

Not all crib mattresses can last the same, no matter how they are preserved. Foam mattresses lose their shape and get indents fairly quickly. Although they have improved throughout the years, there is still no guarantee of just how worn-down your mattress will be with even regular use after a couple of months of time, so the first impression you get from it is only a temporary representation, not a guarantee.

Coil spring mattresses lose their shape much harder, but their cover breaks more easily. Opting to buy one with a harder cover is a good idea, but you should not attempt to patch it up if it gets damaged, especially if the damage is one of the springs poking through. If you hate the idea of your baby sleeping on hard springs, even if they are invisible to your naked eye, then maybe you should consider getting a high-density foam mattress, as light-weight ones easily dent.

So you’ve already decided on what type of mattress you’re getting, and now – it’s already been a while of it being used, and you’re wondering – is there anything I should look out for? What are the obvious signs your crib mattress needs replacement?

Not firm enough

One thing you need to consider when buying a crib mattress (you can check the complete list here) in the first place is how firm the mattress is. Babies have more bones than adults do, and they rapidly develop while they are still very young. This is why good skeletal support is crucial. You don’t want your toddler sleeping on a concrete brick, but any mattress that’s soft is, ironically, also not a safe option.

Babies move around frequently, and if they roll over onto their bellies, you want something that will bounce back immediately after they stop pressing their little hands and feet against the surface, not something that they can sink into and potentially even suffocate, or something that will keep them in a crooked position.

When to replace the crib mattress? 1

Many mattresses are double-sided, having a softer side for older children and a harder one intended for infants. Check the difference between the two sides, if there is none, or there is only a slight one, then your mattress needs to be replaced.

A test for one-sided mattresses is checking firmness with your finger. Press the mattress and quickly let go. If it bounces back immediately, it’s safe, even if you can press it far down. If it stays dented and needs some time to get back into its original shape, then using it poses a risk.

Indentation

Firmness may be crucial, but so is consistency. You need to check the whole surface of your mattress. There can be areas that are firm, straight and nice, while other areas have permanent indents, valleys, and peaks.

Press across the whole mattress and check for any potential holes and bumps. These pose an equally high suffocation and injury risk as a completely faulty mattress, even if they are only on one side. As aforementioned – babies move . A lot.  You can’t count on the fact that they “probably won’t roll so far down”.

Stains

There’s always some residue of whatever stained the mattress inside the mattress itself, or perhaps the mattress experienced some spillage that you are unsure if you got out completely. Replace the crib mattress, don’t risk it. Babies are very sensitive to their surroundings, as this is the age in which they develop all the predispositions for their further growth.

Although keeping your baby in a completely sterile environment is not a good idea, as exposing it to a variety of different organisms might help boost the immune system, constantly keeping your baby on a dirty bed might produce a crashing effect.

Stains and residue often form or attract mildew, fungus, mold, germs and other aggressive bacteria that can interfere with the baby’s respiratory system, causing allergies and difficulties when breathing. There is really no way of doing a proper crib mattress deep cleaning (you can check here one of many), so if you have some past mishaps, then you should opt to replace the crib mattress as soon as possible.

Superficial damage

Even minor rips that expose something like loose threads may pose danger to your baby. Threads are a choking hazard to infants, but the baby might also pull on the small cuts, tears, and threads on the mattress around it and expose filling and other materials, doubling the risk of eating or inhaling something dirty and, again, even choking.

Kids can also pull on the filling and cause damage to the mattress that cannot be fixed. You can patch up a minor cut on a mattress, but if it’s started to go out of hand, play it safe and throw the whole thing out.

Can you do anything to make a crib mattress last longer? Of course, but remember, this isn’t a forever-solution. Mattresses are usually made out of material that is prone to damage or absorbing particles from their surroundings. While you can minimize the process, you can’t stop it from ever happening. Here are, however, a couple of tips on preserving your new crib mattress:

  • Sheets and covers
    There are mattresses with double, or even triple reinforced layers of coverings, and these are hard to damage or rip apart. If you, however, did not know this and just recently noticed the cover of your mattress is very thin, opt for thicker and more durable sheets (as we mentioned before), or maybe even a backup cover between the mattress and the sheets. Nothing too soft, tho!
  • Baby cloth savior
    Another thing to consider is always having a baby cloth in your crib while your baby is still very young. Vomit, pee and poop slips are fairly common, even during sleep.  Waterproof sheets are a good solution or even a waterproof mattress, but these are expansive and hard to get, and luckily – not at all essential. A cloth that has one soft and one plastic side will keep any unwanted liquids from getting into the mattress and staining it. You can easily give it a wash and re-use it. We can’t say the same for the mattress, though.
  • Placement of heat source
    Both coil and foam are sensitive to heat. Not only is putting your baby directly near the heat source a bad idea, but so is leaving the crib alone near a radiator or stove. Materials oxidize, bend and shrink faster when directly exposed to heat, and, thus, mattresses are weakened faster, as well.
  • Storage
    If you just throw your mattress in a basement or attic, it will probably get in contact with moisture or insects. This is fairly common and not at all unusual. This is why you should first store your mattress in a proper box, or even with plastic wrap, and then put it away, ideally somewhere in your closets or other rooms in the living space of the house rather than some isolated basement or attic. Just to be safe, when you get the mattress out to re-use it, double-check the smell for any changes. Check the covers for any marks that could be insect bites, too.

There are always things you cannot change – there could have been an accidental spill of baby formula on only one isolated instance, or your child is naturally growing quicker and stronger than you have anticipated when buying a light foam mattress. Maybe your child developed an allergy despite your best care and maintenance, or your crib broke and you can’t get one of the same size.

While you think that investment in something else might be more useful, keep in mind that your baby will spend a majority of the first months and years of his/her life sleeping or being in bed on all fours, so making sure that they have an environment in which they can thrive and replacing an old crib mattress, although not as exciting, is much more important than getting more cute outfits.