How to Tell If Your Used Crib Mattress Is Safe

baby sleeping in crib
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If you’re working with a tight nursery budget, paying several hundred dollars for a crib mattress can be a tough financial decision—especially if you already have a recently vacated mattress on hand. However, a used crib mattress (even those used by close family members and friends) might not be as safe as you think.

Firstly, a baby’s mattress must be firm. Over time, the surface of an old crib mattress can settle and become soft and uneven. Re-enforced edging (which stops the edge of the mattress from caving down under your baby’s body weight) can also weaken with time. Without a firm edge, your little one could become trapped between the mattress and the crib rails, which could result in injury or even death.

Using a Secondhand Crib Mattress

If you purchased the mattress new for an older sibling, and if it appears to be clean and in good condition, you might be able to reuse it, provided that it meets the following safety standards.

Proper Fit

Mattress size matters. Most cribs use a standard-sized crib mattress, but you will also find those that do not. An ill-fitting mattress can pose a serious safety hazard for your child.

To see if your potential mattress is a good fit, try the "two-finger" test. There should be no more than two finger-widths of space between the side of the mattress and the crib frame. Any larger and your baby could become entrapped between the two, resulting in injury or suffocation.

Firmness and Resiliency

The mattress surface should appear firm and even. If you notice any sagging or signs of body contouring, the mattress should be replaced.

To test its firmness, press your hand into the center and around the edges of your mattress. When you remove it, note how quickly it regains its shape. A firm and resilient mattress will snap back quickly.

Frame Integrity

The overall frame of your mattress should be in good repair. If you find any evidence of a broken frame or support bars, if your mattress rattles when moved, or if you can feel the springs sticking up through the cushioning, do not use the mattress.

A Clean Record

Just because a mattress looks clean does not mean that it is clean. Experts normally advise against using a secondhand mattress because you don't have intimate knowledge of its past. Even a close friend or family member might fail to mention an accident or two—especially if the mattress appears no worse the wear.

That said, no one knows your mattress’ history better than you. If you’re planning on reusing your existing crib mattress, be honest with yourself. If it ever experienced a good soaking, you probably do not want to use it.

Any mattress that you use needs to be able to withstand a thorough inspection. If it does, cover and store it in a clean and dry place while you await its next occupant. Once in use, invest in a water-resistant mattress cover, and don’t forget to conduct regular inspections to ensure your little one’s mattress is holding up.

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