Are Mattress Pads Safe for Cribs?

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Mattress Pads for Cribs Safety

As with most products that are used around babies, there is a bit of a debate on whether mattress pads are safe for cribs or not. The truth is that there are circumstances in which mattress pads can be safe, but they aren’t safe in all instances. You have to be careful with mattress pads to make sure that your child is safe at all times. Here’s how to do just that, along with other helpful information on mattress pads.

What is a Mattress Pad

If you’re unaware of what mattress pads are, they are pads that you place on top of your mattress to keep the mattress safe, dry, or more comfortable. In the case of mattress pads for children, the most popular kind is a pad that will protect a baby’s mattress from spills or accidents. It is essentially a blanket, due to the fact that it’s thin just like a cover is.

Are Mattress Pads Safe?

The truth is mattress pads are safe, but have to be used properly to protect the little ones. There are a few things to remember to make sure you are using pads the right way.

  • Don’t use with newborns. It’s not a good idea to use mattress pads if your child is a newborn. You don’t want any part of their cribs causing an issue for them, especially if they accidentally roll over and can’t breathe. This is the main reason why people don’t consider mattress pads safe. However, if you don’t use them when your baby is smallest, you have less to worry about.
  • Make sure that it fits the mattress firmly. You need to be sure that any mattress pad is securely fastened to the crib’s mattress. This should be in the form of straps or something of the sort. If it just sits on the mattress, you will need to be sure that the crib sheet covers it securely and keeps it where it needs to be.
  • Don’t let it slide or move around. You have to ensure that the pad doesn’t move or shift around too much, even when your baby does. If it does, it may affect your baby and cause them to move around when they are asleep, which is not a good thing.
  • Check in on your child as often as possible. If you opt to use a mattress pad, you will need to check on them regularly to make sure that everything is staying in place and that your child is safe. If you figure out that the pad is causing any problems or risks, take it out of your child’s crib immediately.

Other Products that Can Help

Besides just checking in on your child from time to time while they’re sleeping, there are other products you can get to ensure that your baby is staying safe. One of these products is a baby monitor. There are monitors that will even allow to you see your baby at all times through the use of a video camera, which means you can check in anytime you want.  

These monitors are also able to give you alerts on the temperature in the room, when it hears noises, or the baby cries, and other things. This is great for when you are asleep or want to see what’s going on, or even when you’re at work. There are also special pillows you can get that won’t allow your baby to roll on their belly while they are asleep, which ensures they will always be able to breathe.

Another great thing to remember is that after a child is six months old, you don’t really have to worry if they are strong enough to breathe while sleeping, no matter how they are laying. This means you don’t have to be as concerned about mattress pads. By this time, children will be strong enough to do many things, but you should still follow all the rules to make sure that your child’s crib is safe.

Take precautions to be sure you’re keeping an eye on them and pay special attention to their bedding to be certain it’s always clean and has no holes or loose threads.

Other Things to Consider

Many people feel that mattress pads are not necessary for babies because they should have enough padding with the mattress that came with the crib. However, that is up to you to decide. Some people opt to not place any blankets or anything on their kids, while others use special sheets which hug babies, and won’t allow them to turn over or become trapped in them.

In short, you don’t want anything constricting your child or covering their mouth when they lay in their cribs because it can restrict breathing. At the same time, some people have no problem with mattress pads as long as they are secured properly to the mattress. Again, as a parent, it’s your decision to pick what products you use around your child.

It may be beneficial to ask other parents you know to see if they used mattress pads, and what their thoughts are.   They may be able to offer you insights that you didn’t think of. You can also do a bit of research online for more information on how to use mattress pads safely in cribs, and what the top items to purchase are.

Safety Standards

An estimated 150-200 infants die each year in accidents related to crib design or construction. The Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System which monitors 119 hospital emergency rooms nationwide estimates that between July 1, 1972, and June 30, 1973, 12,000 infants received emergency room treatment for crib-related injuries.

Safety Features

The safety features, which will probably add some dollars to the cost of new cribs, include:

  • A maximum 2-3/8 inches between the slats or poles to insure that infants will not slip between the slats feet first and be caught by the head
  • Standardized crib sizes and snugly fitting mattresses so the child cannot become wedged between the sides of the crib and a poorly fitting mattress
  • A rail height of 26 inches from the top of the railing to the mattress support at its lowest level to help prevent infants from falling out of the crib

Other requirements include: no hardware within the crib that could present a hazard of injury to the child; sturdy drop latches; wood surfaces that are smooth and free from splinters and cracks; a warning label on the crib stating the dimensions of a mattress which will fit properly; detailed but clear assembly instructions; and a warning statement in the assembly instructions that urges parents to place a child more than 35 inches tall in a -- youth bed or regular bed.

There currently are some 11 million cribs in use by American families. In November, the Consumer Product Safety Commission undertook a nationwide crib safety campaign to inform consumers about what they can do to make old cribs safer.

Precautions

Families with old cribs should take the following precautions:

  • If the distance between the slats is more than 2-3/8 inches, use bumper pads at least four inches high all around the crib and secure them with at least six ties:
  • If two adult size fingers can be inserted between the edge of the mattress and the sides of the crib, fill the space with rolled towels;
  • Check the latch on the drop rails to make sure it fastens securely and cannot be opened by the child;
  • Inspect all surfaces for sharp points, rough edges, or splinters.
  • As the child grows taller, lower the level of the mattress.

Proposed regulations for portable and undersized cribs are under consideration by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Conclusion

It can be overwhelming with all the baby products out there, and you don’t know what is okay for you to have around your child, but mattress pads are not a big deal. As long as you are not using them on the smallest babies, and you’re checking in regularly on your child, perhaps even using a video baby monitor, everything will be just fine.

These pads can help solve problems and keep you from having to replace your crib mattress, which saves you quite a bit of money.

10 Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are Crib Mattress Pads Necessary?

Even if you have a crib mattress with a waterproof finish it is a good idea to use a crib mattress pad. The mattress pad provides absorbency and helps manage moisture (i.e. leaking diaper, spit up, drooling, etc.). It helps prevent irritation to baby's skin from exposure to a pool of moisture.

2. Is a Memory Foam Crib Mattress Topper Safe for Baby?

A memory foam crib mattress isn’t safe for babies. Baby crib mattresses should be firm to prevent suffocation, and memory foam is soft. Babies need a cool sleep surface because they can’t regulate their own body temperature, and memory foam is warm to sleep on.

3. Are Waterproof Crib Mattress Pads Safe?

Even if you bought a waterproof mattress for the crib, a pad is a safe way to make your baby’s bed cushy and comfortable without using pillows, bumpers and blankets (keeping these out of baby’s crib can help decrease the risks of sleep-related deaths).

4. Do I Really Need a Crib Mattress Pad Even If I Have a Waterproof Crib Mattress?

Mattress pads are for comfort; waterproof pads are for accidents in the middle of the night. I know your mattress is waterproof and wipe able, but I would still get a waterproof pad. That way if/when baby busts a diaper in the middle of the night, all you have to do is remove the water proof pad and you're good. If not, then you would have to put cranky baby in a swing/bouncer while you try to clean up whatever mess while you are tired and cranky. It's a mess. Save yourself the heartache and invest in at least one. Most people who don't have waterproof mattresses like yours buy two, and keep both on, so midnight accidents are quick to take care of.

5. Are Mattress Covers Toxic?

Currently, the only way to get complete waterproof protection for a mattress is with a plastic lining or membrane in a cover or protector pad. But it's important that you choose the right plastic, as not all plastics are the same. In fact, most can be quite toxic.

6. How Can I Protect My Baby's Mattress?

Babies don’t need much bedding. To ensure your baby is safe and comfy:

  • Use either a quilted crib pad (one side is waterproof) or a mattress cover under the sheet to protect the crib mattress.
  • Don’t use plastic sheets. They can interfere with breathing.
  • Use a fitted sheet over the crib mattress.
  • Do not use sheepskins, pillows, quilts, comforters, stuffed toys or bumper pads in the crib. These items can prevent good air circulation around your baby’s face.
  • A sleeper and a light blanket or a blanket-weight sleeper should be enough to keep your baby comfortable.
  • Top sheets are not recommended until your child is an older toddler. Babies can get tangled in a top sheet.
  • Never cover your baby’s face or head with blankets.

7. How Many Mattress Pads Do I Need for a Crib?

Crib mattress pads are machine washable and dryer friendly for easy cleaning. Parents should buy 2-3 crib mattress pads so that they have extras on-hand for late-night bedding changes.

8. How Can I Add Breathability If I Want a Breathable Crib Mattress?

You can purchase a Breathable Crib Protector Pad. It’s a separate breathable mattress pad that fits on top of the already firm and flat crib mattresses. This pad provides a layer of fresh air between the baby and the mattress which provides extra fresh air from the room for baby to breathe. The breathable pad provides just as much (or more) extra fresh air than the other “breathable” mattresses on the market. The baby doesn’t have to breathe into the interior space of the mattress with its stale air and its collection of urine, spilled milk, etc. The breathable mattress pad can be removed at any time and thrown into the washer and dryer. This solves the hygiene issue with adding breathability for the baby.

The Breathable Crib Protector Pad provides a layer of fresh air between the baby and the mattress. This can help with extra breathability and temperature regulation, and also reduces the possibility of “sweatiness.” This pad can be added to any crib mattress and will turn any mattress into a properly designed “breathable crib mattress.”

9. How Do I Protect My Crib Mattress From Urine?

Disposable or washable underpads are waterproof pads that have a soft, absorbent top layer with a waterproof backing. You can put an underpad on top or underneath the bottom sheet. Some tuck in on either side of the mattress.

10. Mattress Pad or Mattress Topper for Cribs?

You should consider a mattress pad if:

  • Your baby sweat a lot during the night and want to prevent mattress stains;
  • You don’t need a thick topper but still want to add a layer of softness;
  • You want something light to protect your mattress that can be easily removed, machine washed, and packed for storage.

You should consider a mattress topper if:

  • Your baby’s old mattress is too firm or uneven, but you can’t or don’t want to buy a new one just yet;
  • You have a temporary need for a softer sleep surface, for example due to an injury.

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