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When it’s time to graduate your toddler from a cot to a bed, it’s important that you do some research before you rush out and buy a new bed. You need to consider the weight and age of your child, and what type of mattress is suitable for them.

Pediatric sleep experts recommend an innerspring mattress for young children who are lightweight. A decent spring mattress with a pillow-top is ideal as it offers enough support for their spines but don’t cost a fortune. You can graduate your child with a memory foam or latex mattress when they get bigger.

Support is important to choose a good quality spring mattress and avoid using a slim foam mattress. This is because a child’s spine is rapidly developing and growing between the ages of 18 and 36 months and needs to spinal support during this growth period.

The child’s spine and neck must be in a neutral position as this minimizes stress on pressure points and allows the spine to grow without restrictions. The experts say a toddler’s spine can grow as much as 1.5cm during the night, which mainly comes from the intervertebral discs in between their vertebrae filling up with water. So, the mattress has to be soft enough to be comfortable but firm enough to prevent the child from sinking deep into it.

Apart from it being an unnecessary cost at such an early age, the sleep experts point out that memory foam and latex mattresses pose a danger to small children. This is because the body-contouring properties of memory foam and latex can restrict a child’s movement in bed, purely because they’re small and lightweight.

A sleeper sinks slightly deeper into a memory foam mattress while the foam surrounding the body remains firm. This makes it difficult for a small child to turn easily on a memory foam mattress. The soft, contouring foam can restrict movement in a child which is dangerous if a child has turned over onto its stomach. Sleep experts say it’s better to buy an innerspring mattress for a child with a pillow-top for comfort and graduate them to memory foam or latex mattress when they are older.

Bunk beds are not recommended for small children, based on the number of injuries that doctors see because of kids either falling or jumping off the top bunk.

An important factor to consider when buying a new bed for a young child is cleanliness. Most modern beds are treated for dust mites before they’re sold, but over time these pesky creatures build up in the folds of the fabric. They come to feed off body fluid and skin flakes left behind after a good night’s sleep.

Memory foam and latex mattresses are ideal because dust mites live on the top of the dense material. But if you’ve opted to buy an innerspring mattress, don’t worry. You can buy two good quality mattress protectors that protect a child against allergies and moisture buildup. Don’t resort to using a chemical spray on a bare mattress. Inhaling a cocktail of chemicals which also rub into their skin is definitely not good for small children.

On a weekly basis, strip the bed and air it for at least two hours before putting new linen on it. Run a good quality vacuum cleaner over the mattress, but only if you’re sure it’s not going to put more dust mites back on the bed than it’s going to remove.

The general consensus is you should buy a new less-expensive mattress for your child every three years until they are old enough to graduate to a modern bed with all the benefits of advanced sleep technology. If you do opt for a latex foam mattress and pillows, go for natural latex for the sake of your child’s health.