Child Mattress Q & A

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Q. We have a 4 1/2 month old who is growing out of his co-sleeper and we want to make him a mattress he can use for several years. What do you think is the best route for an affordable baby mattress? What is the most common build?

A. There are many ways to make a mattress. Here are a few ideas that have been made with our products. This first one is the most common, the other two more creative.

  1. A 3″ medium of natural latex inside an expandable ticking would save room for another layer later, wool batting is optional. This is the build in my youtube video here.
  2. A full sized wool topper folded in half would be somewhat thin, but sufficient for a few years, if you don’t mind a somewhat permanent crease in the middle when you unfold it to put on a mattress. It would also be a nice addition to a 3″ piece of latex later.
  3. Two mattresses out of one piece of latex: Cut a crib mattress out of a Twin piece of latex and save the larger L shape of the latex for later when your child needs the larger space. Then you can put both pieces together in the same ticking. This can also be done with a Full sized piece of latex. Two cribs will fit into a Full.
Q. In the most common build of 3″ latex & expandable ticking, is there a reason you chose that particular ticking as opposed to the other options, two of which are less expensive?

A. I mentioned the expandable ticking because it is a common choice with budgeting parents who know that their child will be comfortable on 3″ of latex until they near 100 lbs. They often want to buy a second layer later when they have time to save for it. As latex is said to last 20-30 years, that first layer of latex will still be fresh to use in the mattress when it is turned into a 6″ mattress.  Then that first layer can either be placed on top of or under another layer to create a new feel. See The Banana Test for more thorough tips on picking depth and firmness.

The Twill Ticking is also an option, in fact, all 3 of my children have it on their mattresses.  It is durable and simple.  Its stiffness makes it strong enough for the tufting needle to pierce without snagging it which is why we recommend it for use with our wool flake when making a wool mattress.

The Knit Ticking is also an option. It is made of the same material that the Expandable Knit is, so both cases are quite flexible, letting the sleeper feel the latex or wool underneath completely.  It being a static height usually is cause to choose a 6″ combo of latex that will last the child into adulthood.

The Zip Off Wool Ticking is also an option.  Its best features are, of course, the removable wool puddle pad on the top of the ticking. It works well for parents who want a wool puddle pad, but don’t want to buy both ticking and puddle pad.

The sateen fabric covering the wool batting on our topper is very soft and smooth. It is nice to have a thin layer of fabric between you and the wool. Wool batting has its limitations, while lofty and quite fluffy, you should be aware that more that 3 layers of wool on top of each other may not only shift around easily (thus the tufting on the toppers) but also may easily form body trenches, unless your child is very active on every surface of the mattress. Keeping in mind that every layer of 3 lb. batting compresses to about 1/2″ and a layer of 4 lb. batting to about 3/4″, you have a fairly thin mattress with only 3 layers. That is why I mentioned folding a topper in half, the fabric layers and probably the frequent straightening of the fold should help the top to compress fairly easily. Of course, you could make your own topper with our kits here.

Q. Would it be cheaper to fill it only with wool batting?

A. No and it is not advisable to make a mattress out of just wool batting, a topper, yes, but a thick mattress without wool flake and just batting will trench too easily and leave you with body impressions. For instructions on making a wool mattress, see this picture tutorial or this diagram. Wool batting is a nice addition for comfort or protection of the latex. See previous paragraph.

Q. Thank you so much for your very detailed response! I am planning to rest the medium density latex on a just wood slats which would be say 1 – 2″ above the floor. Based on the Kg/m3 metric and your rule of thumb #3, I think I (150 lbs) would feel the slats if I sit on the 3″ latex to read him a book. Then,
  1. Could adding the wool batting on a medium 3″ alleviate the issue somewhat?
  2. Would something like this work:  A 3″ firm latex instead but with wool batting. Could this configuration make it sufficiently supportive for an adult to sit on for a short time and somewhat soft and abundantly supportive at the same time for a child to lie down?

A. I find that reading books for 15-30 minutes on my children’s mattress is not cushy comfortable, but it is certainly tolerable. Adding the wool batting will deepen the mattress which will provide slightly more comfort. Substituting the firm layer would probably be a good idea if you plan on making reading or sleeping on the bed a habit. Unless your child is a sensitive sleeper, he or she will probably mostly notice the wool and only slightly notice the firm latex.