If you’re looking for an alternative to a crib, bassinet, or playpen for your baby, you may be wondering if an air mattress is safe. Air mattresses are safe and popular among adults for camping and traveling, but can they also be used safely for infants and toddlers?
Most parents have heard of the dangers of using a crib incorrectly, but far fewer have heard anything about the possible dangers of using an air mattress for small children. While some people believe that air mattresses are safe for babies and toddlers, the truth is that they can pose a number of health and safety risks.
When it comes to choosing a bed for your child, you want to make sure that you’re getting the safest bed possible. So here’s what you need to know about the safety of using an air mattress for infants and small children.
Why Using Air Mattresses for Babies and Small Children Is Attractive to Cash-Strapped Parents
There are actually several reasons why parents who are unaware of any possible risks associated with air mattresses find the idea of their baby or small child sleeping on one attractive. Some of the main reasons for their popularity include their low cost, portability, ease of use, how easy they are to clean, and the perception that they are resistant to bed bugs.
It can be difficult for parents to make ends meet financially, especially when having to pay for essentials like food, clothing, and shelter, as well as child care. So for families that are feeling cashed-strapped, the most common reason why parents would consider choosing an air mattress for babies and small children is that they are much less expensive than cribs and traditional beds.
While using an air mattress instead of a traditional bed or crib may feel like all they can afford or like a way for families to save money. Know that there are city and state programs out there as well as local non-profits that offer cribs and kid’s beds for families in need. A quick Google search can help you find the resources in your area.
Whether you’re looking to move them to another room or hit the road and visit family or friends, air mattresses are a popular choice because they can fold up and fit into the trunk of a car, making them easier to transport. In addition, many air mattresses come with built-in pumps which make inflating and deflating them a breeze.
Parents know that kids make messes and accidents happen. So the fact that air mattresses are easy to clean, whether you are vacuuming them or wiping down the surface, is also viewed as a plus.
Perceived Resistance to Bed Bugs
Air mattresses also offer parents a sense of relief because they are perceived as being less vulnerable to bed bugs than traditional beds and cribs. It is true that due to the way they are constructed and sealed you don’t have to worry about bed bugs getting inside of them. However, there is nothing about air mattresses that prevent bud bugs from crawling on the outside of them. So this perception is not entirely true.
Is It Safe for My Baby to Sleep on an Air Mattress?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies sleep on firm surfaces, such as a crib, a bassinet or a bed. This is because a soft surface can lead to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Due to their propensity to lose air over time or for people not filling them up fully – due to their not interpreting “firm” in the same way that health care providers and safety advocates do – air mattresses are often not very firm. Even when they are fully inflated, air mattresses pose a suffocation risk for infants, according to the American Journal of Public Health.
Evidence of the risks air mattresses pose to infants can be found in data collected from 24 states between 2004 and 2015, by the National Child Death Review Case Reporting System, where it was found that an air mattress was the incident sleep place for 108 infants whose deaths were either during sleep or in a sleep environment.
What Are the Dangers of Air Mattresses for Babies?
When you put a baby or toddler on an air mattress, there are many potential hazards. Let’s take a closer look at some of the specific dangers that public health officials are warning us about.
- Getting injured if they roll or fall off the edge of the mattress (This risk only increases with taller air mattresses.)
- Suffocation if they roll off the edge of the mattress and get stuck between the mattress and wall or another object
- Suffocation if the infant rolls from his or her back onto their stomach allowing the surface of the air mattress, or bedding placed on top of it, to obstruct their airway
- If the mattress leaks, it can cause a baby to suffocate as they sink into the mattress.
At What Age Can a Child Sleep on an Air Mattress?
The idea of when it is safe for an infant or toddler to sleep on an air mattress has to do with when they will have the size, and probably more importantly, the strength to lift their head off the mattress and reposition themselves should they roll over onto their stomach or side.
The current recommendation is that children 0 – 15 months of age shouldn’t sleep on an air mattress. In other words, you shouldn’t consider letting your child sleep on an inflatable air mattress until they are over 15 months. However, even if your child is over 15 months old, you may want to err on the side of caution and consult with a medical professional before allowing them to sleep on an air mattress if they don’t have the typical size or strength for their age.
In a report that appeared on NPR, the Acting Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Ann Marie Buerkle, was quoted as saying, “We recommend that infants under the age of 15 months should not be put to sleep on an inflatable air mattress.” This industry-wide recommendation is why you will see warnings printed on air mattresses like the one shown below.
It is a good thing that the guidance on when a child can safely sleep on an air mattress is based on age as it helps to eliminate any confusion.
The problem with talking about infants, babies, or toddlers is that everyone seems to have their own definition of what those terms mean. More specifically the age range of children who fall under those categories or labels.
Not only might my definition vary from yours, but different organizations and websites will often have slightly different definitions of what those terms mean as well. So I like to go with the CDC’s definitions of what an infant or toddler is. The CDC defines an infant as being up to 1 year of age. Their age range for a toddler is between the ages of one and three years of age.
So using the CDC’s definitions of infant and toddler along with the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) guidance about when it is safe to sleep on an air mattress let’s address some commonly asked questions about air mattress safety for young children.
Is It Safe for a Newborn or Infant to Sleep on an Air Mattress?
No, it is not safe to have your newborn or infant sleep on an air mattress. The CDC’s definition of an infant, which is from birth to 1 year of age, is clearly not even close to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recommendation of being over 15 months old before allowing children to sleep on an air mattress.
At that age, babies simply don’t have the strength to help themselves if they’re in distress while sleeping on an air mattress.
Is It Safe for a Toddler to Sleep on an Air Mattress?
The term toddler actually covers a large time period for children that includes a lot of physical growth and developmental milestones. A toddler, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition, covers the time between one and three years of age. While it isn’t safe for small children to sleep on an air mattress for the entire time they are a toddler, once they get over 15 months of age it should be safe for them to sleep on an air mattress according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Once they are older than 15 months I would still want to feel confident that my toddler is strong enough to reposition themselves as needed before letting them sleep on an air mattress. I would also want to take a few basic precautions that are specific to small children sleeping on air mattresses which we will go over below.
Is It Ok for a 1-Year-Old to Sleep on an Air Mattress?
When your baby turns one it is a big milestone and while they are officially a toddler according to the CDC’s definition of the term, they are still pretty little, but they are growing fast. So while it isn’t safe for them to sleep on an air mattress for the entire time between their first and second birthdays, according to the CPSC it should be safe for them once they are over 15 months old.
I would still want to ensure that my toddler is physically able to reposition themselves as needed before letting them sleep on an air mattress, even though they are over 15 months old. I would also want to take a few extra precautions that are specific to small children sleeping on air mattresses. We will cover these precautions below.
Is It Ok for a 2-Year-Old to Sleep on an Air Mattress?
While 2-year-olds are still considered to be toddlers according to the CDC’s definition, once they reach their second birthday they are long past the CPSC’s recommendation of needing to be over 15 months before sleeping on an air mattress. So yes, it should be safe for 2-year-olds to sleep on an air mattress.
Even though they are old enough to sleep on an air mattress, I would still want to take a few extra precautions that are specific to small children sleeping on air mattresses before letting my two-year-old sleep on one. These precautions are outlined below.
How to Use an Air Mattress Safely With Toddlers and Small Kids?
Even when a child is old enough to sleep on an inflatable air mattress by themselves accidents can still happen, but you can help prevent them by taking a few easy safety precautions to make sure that your child is safe.
Make Sure the Mattress Is Always Fully Inflated
As we discussed earlier one of the biggest risks for children 0-15 months old who sleep on an air mattress is suffocation if the mattress isn’t firm enough. So maintaining the air pressure inside the air mattress is crucial.
If you are using an air mattress for small children, always make sure that the mattress is fully inflated. You don’t want to use an old mattress that has a leak, as this could be dangerous for the child. To help ensure that the mattress stays inflated to the proper level of firmness, you could consider buying an air mattress with sensors that will activate a secondary pump that will keep the mattress at your preferred level of firmness should the mattress experience a drop in air pressure throughout the night.
Keep a Safe Distance Between the Air Mattress and Its Surroundings
Another risk for children 0-15 months old who sleep on an air mattress is entrapment. This is when a child gets stuck between the mattress and the wall or another piece of furniture. This can happen to children over 15 months of age as well. To help prevent this from happening, make sure that the mattress is at least shoulder-width away from the wall and any other piece of furniture. That way if the child rolls off the mattress they won’t be trapped.
Use Air Mattresses That Aren’t as Tall
It is common to find air mattresses that are between 18 and 22 inches tall.
Adults will enjoy the ease of getting on and off a mattress that is higher off the ground they might not be such a great idea for toddlers and other small children for a couple of reasons. First, they may be too tall for them to get onto by themselves. Second, and more importantly, if your child is a restless sleeper like many children are, they could roll off the mattress and if it is 22″ off the ground the risk of injury will be greater than if they were sleeping closer to the ground.
So if you need an air mattress for small children to sleep on, pick one with a lower profile so they’ll be closer to the ground.
Consider Buying a Toddler’s Air Mattress With the Safety Rails
With traditional air mattresses, there is nothing to stop toddlers from rolling off the mattress and onto the floor. However, you can purchase an air mattress for toddlers that comes with safety rails, or sides. These rails are built into the mattress and will keep your child from rolling off and getting hurt.
If your child is a particularly restless sleeper and somehow managed to go over the top of the rails, you will be happy to know that toddler air mattresses have a low profile so your child isn’t sleeping high off the ground. So if they were to fall off the mattress, the chances of injury would be small.
Best Selling Toddler Air Mattresses on Amazon
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Is Co-sleeping on an Air Mattress Safe?
If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard of the term “co-sleeping,” which is the practice of sharing a bed with your baby or young child. Co-sleeping is a great way for parents to bond with their children. However, it’s important to keep in mind that co-sleeping isn’t always safe for infants and toddlers. This is especially true if you plan on using an air mattress to sleep on.
The worry that a mattress might deflate or not be firm enough, leading to suffocation, remains for infants and toddlers even if they are sleeping with a parent. One of the ways this can happen when co-sleeping is that if the mattress leaks, the baby could roll toward the parent, and if the parent’s weight goes on them, the baby could get injured or suffocate. This happened to me when I was sleeping on an air mattress while camping with one of my kids when they were 9. Thankfully he was older at the time so when our mattress deflated and he rolled toward me he was able to avoid being pinned under my weight.
Air mattresses are a great way to make sleeping on the floor or on the ground when camping easier and more comfortable. However, they are not the best option for infants and some small children. It is important to consider your child’s age when determining if they are ready to sleep on one. Once your child is ready to sleep on an air mattress you can take a few easy precautions to ensure their safety.
If you are unsure about whether your child is ready to use an air mattress, you can always ask a pediatrician or other healthcare professional for advice.