We always recommend using a mattress protector in your cot or bassinet/cradle. There are many different types of mattress protectors available. Typically they consist of a fabric top (such as cotton or bamboo) with a waterproof backing (such as polyurethane). The main reasons for using a mattress protector are:
Hygiene: mattress protectors are machine washable and can be regularly washed to maintain freshness. Baby's spend a lot of time asleep and therefore the hygiene and freshness of the sleep surface is important. If the mattress gets moisture in it from sweat, vomit, soiling the bed, spilt milk etc. this can be difficult to clean.
Most mattresses do not have a removable / washable cover - therefore you will need to spot clean the mattress cover which may not clean it thoroughly. However, even if the mattress does have a removable / washable cover, if the mattress core gets soiled this is not likely to be washable. A mattress protector stops any soiling getting into the mattress and therefore keeps the mattress fresh and hygienic. It also avoids exposure to dust mites and allergens.
Convenience: as stated above, often mattresses do not have a washable cover. Therefore if the mattress is soiled, it is difficult to clean. A mattress protector can be machine washed. If the bedding is soiled, the mattress protector along with the sheet can be washed.
Consider if your child wets the bed in the middle of the night. You can just remove the bedding and protector and replace them, and wash the bedding the next day. If you didn't have a protector, the mattress could be wet and they would not be able to sleep on it for the rest of the night.
Longevity of your mattress: if the mattress gets soiled often without a protector, there will come a time when you will no longer want to use the mattress. Using a protector means your mattress will last at least as long as your child needs the mattress for.
Based on this it seems quite logical to use a mattress protector, but are there are any other concerns that need to be addressed? Many parents and parents-to-be ensure they are buying a premium cot mattress which is breathable. We believe this is a great choice. These parents then have a concern that putting a waterproof mattress protector will remove the benefit of the breathability. This is a valid concern, so let's address it.
The main benefits of a breathable cot or bassinet/cradle mattress are:
Ventilation: if your child ends up face down in the mattress, they can still breathe.
Temperature regulation: having a mattress that allows air-flow means that the temperature of the sleeping surface is regulated. A non-breathable mattress can result in the temperature building up which can lead to an uncomfortable sleep environment for the baby. There is also a correlation between overheating and SUDI (sudden unexpected death in infancy).
Hygiene: temperature regulation and airflow helps keep the mattress materials fresh and hygienic and avoids build up of dust mites and allergens.
So does using a mattress protector remove the benefits of a breathable mattress?
No. Let's take a look at how a mattress protector impacts the main benefits of a breathable cot or bassinet/cradle mattress.
Ventilation: in reality, it is unlikely your baby is going to actually breathe through the mattress if you follow guidelines regarding firmness of the mattress, no loose bedding or pillows, sleep baby on their back etc. If the mattress meets the firmness standard and the mattress protector and bedding is snug, then your baby will not sink into the mattress enough to need to breathe through the mattress.
Temperature regulation: a mattress protector may reduce the airflow through the mattress slightly and therefore reduce the benefit of temperature regulation. However, a breathable mattress will still allow for airflow through the mattress beneath the mattress protector and will therefore avoid the overheating. Also, often the waterproof backing of a mattress protector is made from polyurethane which is a material that allows for some airflow through the protector, while not allowing for moisture particles to go through.
Hygiene: as above, with the mattress allowing for airflow beneath the mattress protector, this will help maintain a fresh and hygienic mattress. It will be more hygienic as the protector will stop moisture and soiling of the mattress. We would recommend that you regularly remove the protector when the mattress isn't being used, to allow the mattress to air out.
Our recommendation is to use a breathable cot or bassinet/cradle mattress with a well fitted mattress protector on top, and a fitted sheet on top of the protector, made from natural fibres (such as cotton or bamboo).
We have been developing and manufacturing baby bedding products for Australian parents for over 40 years. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to our team - we'd be glad to help. Contact Us.