How to Choose a Mattress for Your Toddler

Once your baby has started to develop some coordination, including the ability to stand and walk, it’s common for them to try to escape their crib. If you’ve noticed your toddler is doing their best to leave their crib every night, then it’s probably time to move them to a big-kid bed. Here’s what you need to know about buying a toddler mattress and how to make your choice. 

Why Get a Toddler Bed

One of the biggest risks of cribs is the chance your baby could fall. When they’re unable to easily stand and walk, a crib can easily contain them as long as the walls are tall enough. Once your toddler can start to climb, they’re at risk of pulling themselves up over the edge and falling out. Toddler beds are designed to be low to the ground and big enough to contain your growing child, keeping them safe and able to spread out.

When to Get a Mattress for Your Toddler

There’s no one age that’s the perfect time to transition your child to a big-kid bed. Instead, it depends on your child’s height, weight, and tendency to climb things. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you move your child from a crib to another bed when they’re about 35 inches tall. 

This height is about when your child is tall enough to pull themselves over the edge of the crib walls. If your child is particularly good at climbing or your crib walls are shorter than 27 inches, then move your child to another bed sooner. 

Types of Toddler Beds

There are three basic kinds of toddler beds: convertible cribs, toddler-size beds and mattresses, and twin-sized beds. Choosing the right bed can help your toddler get the 12 to 14 hours of sleep they need each day. Each of these toddler mattresses comes with its own pros and cons. 

Convertible cribs. A convertible crib can be reconfigured to work as a toddler bed. Generally, the sides of the crib can be lowered to act as guardrails instead of crib walls. 

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If you already have a convertible crib, or if you’re planning on having more children who would benefit from a crib in the future, then this is a great option. If your current crib doesn’t convert and you’re not planning on more children, then another option may be better. 

Toddler-sized beds. The official definition of a toddler bed is any bed frame that’s intended to hold a crib-sized mattress while still letting your child get into and out of bed on their own. These beds are rated to hold up to 50 pounds. 

These bed frames and mattresses are relatively small, just right for your child. If you’re tight on space, these mini mattresses can keep more floor space available. Since they’re small and only rated to hold a certain amount of weight, they aren’t a lifelong solution. 

Twin-sized beds. Finally, if you want to make a longer-lasting investment, toddlers can safely sleep in twin-sized beds with a few safety precautions. As long as you install guardrails around the bed and choose a bed frame that’s low to the ground, your child can happily move straight to a twin-sized mattress. 

This solution costs a little more upfront than a toddler mattress in most cases, but your child will also be able to use that mattress for years to come. 

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What to Look for in a Toddler Bed

You can follow guidelines to keep your toddler sleeping safe and sound even in their new bed, whichever option you choose. Look for a toddler mattress and bed frame that meet the following safety standards:

  • There should be no recalls on the mattress or bed frame.
  • The bed frame and mattress combined should be low enough that your child can get in and out on their own easily.
  • Toddler beds should come with guardrails included, and twin-sized beds should be able to have guardrails installed easily.
  • Guardrails should rise at least five inches above the top of the mattress and have a sticker from JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association), a trade group that runs a voluntary certification program.
  • Restless sleepers need mesh guardrails, while calm sleepers can use wood or metal guardrails.
  • Bed frames and guardrails should have rounded edges and no hardware sticking out.
  • The mattress should fit snugly in the frame and the guardrails should be against the mattress to keep your child from getting their limbs stuck.
  • Never use an air mattress or waterbed for your toddler, because these can pose a suffocation hazard.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on February 22, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Make Baby’s Room Safe: Parent Checklist.”

Consumer Reports: “Safety bed rails for kids.”

Federal Register: “Safety Standards for Toddler Beds.”

University of Rochester Medical Center Health Encyclopedia: “Moving Your Toddler from Crib to Bed.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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