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Exactly What to Look for in a Kids’ Mattress, According to a Pediatric Chiropractor

Fact: Sleep is crucial for the health and development of growing children. The thing is, there’s more to helping your kid get the sleep they need than reading them bedtime stories and singing lullabies. It turns out the mattress your child sleeps on plays a huge role in whether or not they’ll be able to get quality rest.

We sat down with pediatric chiropractor Anna Saylor to get the scoop on finding the right mattress for your child’s growing body, from the crib through their teenage years.

Q: What’s the ideal time to switch your child from a crib to a “real” bed?

The longer you can keep a child in their crib, the better. Because cribs are more contained and have the structures to make them a really safe space, they help babies and young children get the deep sleep they need. In a bed, though, they can crawl out and stay awake, which you don’t want!

Keep them in their crib as close to age three as you can. You can lower the crib mattress as far down as possible so they can’t get out. Once your kiddo is uncomfortable in a toddler bed or constantly trying to get out, it’s time for the official “big kid” bed.

Related: How to choose the best mattress for your child

Q: Is there a type of mattress that’s better for children than others?

For me, the most important thing is the quality of the materials used to make the mattress. We prioritize feeding our kids organic food, and I think we should prioritize organic or natural mattresses. Organic cotton, natural latex, or even wool would be ideal.

Your typical foam mattress gives off a lot of gas—and kids spend a lot of time in bed, so whatever we can do to limit their exposure to chemicals and any gasses potentially released by a mattress, the better.

I find that people tend to give their kids old mattresses because they’re little, but it’s worth the investment to get them a new, high-quality mattress.

image of little boy in bed

Young children need a lightly firmer mattress to help support their growing bodies.

Q: What should you look for in a kids’ mattress when buying one for the first time?

The firmer the better, because their growing bodies need the support and to be able to stay in a natural body position—especially for their spine. You don’t want to push a growing spine out of alignment on a super-soft mattress.

I also recommend having two layers of waterproofing protection, because if bed-wetting is a regular problem, you don’t want to have to worry about anything getting through that one layer and into the mattress.

Another reason to invest in a new mattress for your little one: Most have built-in edge support, so you can sit on the edge of the bed and read or curl up with your child without having to worry about the side of the bed sagging.

Q: How long would you recommend keeping this mattress for your child? When will they be ready for their next bed?

You can typically get about a good 10 years out of a quality mattress. I think kids can generally use a new mattress around when they hit their growth spurt in adolescence, when they get to the point that they’re close to as big as they’re going to be as adults.

Related: A mom explains why high school start times need to change

Q: How can the right mattress help a teen get better sleep?

When so many other lifestyle factors are standing in between teens and proper sleep, having a quality mattress that teens feel comfortable on and supported by can really move the needle. If our bodies don’t feel good, it’s harder for us to truly relax and drift off.

“I think kids can generally use a new mattress around when they hit their growth spurt in adolescence, when they get to the point that they’re close to as big as they’re going to be as adults.”

Q: Any particular features to look for if you’re buying a teen a new mattress?

Teens may prefer a softer or firmer mattress, so if they can, they should go do a sleep test to find out how much support and firmness they need.

We also chatted with a sleep coach for tips on helping your child catch the Z’s they need. Here’s her five-step plan for getting your kids to sleep.

Lauren Del Turco is a writer, editor, and content manager passionate about all things health and wellness. Her work has been featured in Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan, Prevention, and more. When she’s not writing or buried in a good book, you’ll find her perusing the produce aisle or hiking a new trail.