Selecting firmness for children?

We are in the process of picking out mattresses for the kids new bunkbed (15" rails) and are looking at the Ultimate Dream Latex. Part of what we are struggling with is the appropriate firmness for them. The kids are 5 and 7 and ~50 lbs and sleep in many various positions… upside down, limbs dangling over the side, on mountains of stuffed animals. Right now their mattresses are coils and are very firm. They’ve been waking up lately complaining about sore necks and backs. Suggestions?

Hi swkeist5,

There is no consensus on which mattress or material is “best” for children but one of the most important issues for most parents is that their child’s mattress uses “safe” materials. There is also a lot more information in post #2 here and the more detailed posts and information it links to about safe, natural, organic, “chemical free”, and “green” mattresses and mattress materials that can help you sort through some of the marketing information and terminology that you will encounter in the industry and can help you differentiate between them and answer “how safe is safe enough for me” and that can help you decide on the type of materials and components you are most comfortable having in your child’s mattress and help you answer “how safe is safe enough for me”. These types of issues are complex and are generally specific to each person and their individual sensitivities, circumstances, criteria, beliefs, and lifestyle choices.

The only reliable way to to assess the “safety” of different materials in more general terms is based on lab tests and the certifications they have for harmful substances and VOCs so that you have some assurance than the VOCs are below the testing limits for the certification (see post #2 here for more information about some of the more reliable “safety” certifications). If the materials in a mattress or the mattress itself has a reliable “safety” certification then for most people they would certainly be “safe enough” … regardless of the type of material or the name of the manufacturer on the label.

While this applies more to babies and younger infants that are not yet able to change position … with too much soft material in a mattress the risk of suffocation with stomach sleeping increases for infants. This is more of an issue with memory foam than other materials (this of course is in addition to any chemical or offgassing issues from synthetic materials that young children may be more sensitive to than adults). I would avoid memory foam for younger children in particular (see post #2 here).

Once you have decided on the types of materials you are comfortable with then there are also some general firmness guidelines in post #2 here for choosing a mattress for a child in different age ranges that may also be helpful.

Any mattress that uses materials that are “durable enough” (see the durability guidelines here) that you would also consider to be “safe enough” and is in a suitable firmness range for their age would generally be a suitable choice for a child. The choice between different mattresses that meet these criteria (outside of memory foam) would really be more of a budget and preference choice than a “better/worse” choice (see this article).

There are also many forum posts and topics that discuss the different needs of children that may be helpful which also include some good sources for children’s mattresses as well. The better ones include this topic, and this topic, and this topic, and this topic, along with post #21 here and this topic, and this topic, and this topic and this topic and this topic, and this topic, and post #2 here, and this topic and this topic, and this topic, and this topic, and this topic and this topic (which includes links to some good information about cosleeping and bed sharing).

This topic and this topic and this topic and this topic and this topic also include some information and sources for crib mattresses

While this may seem like a lot of reading … most of the topics are fairly short and they include some very good options and sources for mattresses for children of all ages and will give you a very good sense of the types of mattresses and materials that will be the best “match” for your child and for the criteria that are most important to you. They would be well worth the hour or two it will take to read them and to read about the many good options that they include.

With the ages of your children … I wouldn’t be quite as concerned with offgassing and completely natural materials may not be as important as they would be for many people if their children were younger but this would be a judgement choice that each parent will need to make for their own children (although I still wouldn’t choose memory foam for younger children). Because children aren’t as developed and generally need firmer support and have different needs than adults … I would tend towards slightly firmer choices than the lighter, curvier, and more developed bodies of an adult would normally require. A mattress that would be comfortable for adults that prefer softer and more conforming comfort layers would likely be too soft for a child. You can also add a softer topper to any firmer childrens’ mattress when they get older and develop more adult proportions if and when they need a softer comfort layer in their “sleeping system”.

This means that a latex choice with a sleeping surface in the range of 28 - 32 ILD (medium range) would generally be better than softer as a general guideline although with more supportive materials like latex with smaller children then slightly softer would be less risky than other materials because of their lighter weight and frames and may also make a suitable choice. The quilting foam would also give them a little extra “cush” without affecting alignment and support.

Girls tend to prefer softer than boys.

Hope this helps.


Wow, thank you so much for all this info! The links were very helpful!

I have it narrowed down to 3 each is the same price–a great price-- so $ isn’t a factor in this decision…

  1. The Ultimate Dreams mattress

I like because of the latex cover and great reviews

  1. a local mattress factory called Gardiner mattress that will build a mattress with a thin layer of talalay on top of their cotton spring mattress (usually the top is foam, but he will change it to talalay)

I like because it’s local, and latex on top

  1. the Pure Echo mattress at green I don’t see any mention of them on your site-- have you heard of them? My Green Pattress Pure Echo

I like because it is all organic (though no latex)

Finally, isn’t the latex semi-waterproof, so if the kids had an accident I could actually clean it up fairly well (don’t have to get a mattress pad)?

Do you know these other 2 companies, or have any words of wisdom for me???

thank you again for your help in this decision!


Hi momof3,

Well you certainly are choosing between very good choices IMO so there is really no right or wrong between them. Two of your choices are members of this site (which means that I think that they are among the best quality/value in the country) and the third (Gardner) is a very high quality local manufacturer that I also think very highly of. (NOTE ADDED: They are now a member of this site as well)

Some thoughts that may help you decide …

The Ultimate dreams is a great value and has 3" of Talalay latex (a more costly material) but it also has some polyurethane quilting in the sleeping surface. While for an adult this is not in any way an issue (the reflex foam is North American made and certified as “safe”) … it is also not a natural material and for some parents avoiding synthetic polyfoam or memory foam or using materials that are as natural as possible is more important than others (although your kids are past the baby and infant stages so this may not be as big an issue). It also has the advantage of being able to choose the firmness of the comfort layer so each of them could have their own comfort level.

The Gardner uses more natural materials in the sleeping surface (cotton and a thinner talalay layer ) and is a local purchase where you can see what you are buying. This is also important to many people. It is sort of “in between” the other two in terms of materials.

My Green Mattress is an invited member of this site and a search on either mygreenmattress or on qualitysleep (you can just click these) will bring up many comments about their quality and service so I certainly know about them and think very highly of them :).

The Pure Echo is also available as a two sided mattress and there is also a version with a layer of latex.

I am also a believer in the benefits of sleeping on wool and it’s ability to regulate temperature and encourage deeper sleep so while the basic model wouldn’t have the latex as you mentioned … it is probably the most “natural” and perhaps the “healthiest” of your choices. Missing the foam though may make it a little firmer on top and if you spend any time on your kids mattresses reading etc it may not be quite as comfortable or conforming as a layer of latex.

The two manufacturers that are members here also provide a discount/bonus to the members of the forum (you just have to tell them you’re a member here). Dreamfoam provides a free shredded latex pillow with each Amazon mattress purchase (if they fulfil it) and a 5% discount on the mattresses on their own Brooklyn Bedding site and My Green Mattress provides a 5% discount.

So the bottom line is that all of your choices are very good ones and the choice would depend on which of the tradeoffs was most important to you for your children. IMO … you really can’t go wrong with any of these and any of them would be a better choice in terms of quality and value than the vast majority of parents who buy mattresses for their children.


I know this is an old thread, but here’s hoping:

How would you say the Ultimate Dream mattress compares to Ikea’s Sultan Edsele?

I’m curious both for adults and my toddler’s first non-crib mattress. We’re in the market for a King size for us, as well as his.

Hi rktrump,

They are very much an apples to oranges comparison and are very different mattresses. The Ultimate Dreams is a latex hybrid with a polyfoam quilting layer and support core and a blended Talalay comfort layer. The Sultan Edsel is a single layer that is all Dunlop latex with a wool quilted cover.

The Edsele has only one firmness choice and it will either “work” or it won’t based on your testing for PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences). For many adults it may need a topper to add a softer comfort layer but this will depend on body type, sleeping positions, and individual perceptions and preferences but for children it would likely be fine as it is. The Ultimate Dreams has several comfort options so it can be customized for each person’s preference and isn’t likely to need a topper if you make a suitable comfort choice and it can be chosen in a firmness level (@ medium firm) that is suitable for children. It is also less costly but has less latex.

Both use good quality materials and are good value but the choice between them would be based on material preference, budget, on the importance of having all latex vs a latex/polyfoam hybrid, and on which parts of each person’s (or parent’s) personal value equation are most important to them.


Thanks for the feedback!

I am currently planning to purchase new latex mattresses for my both kids, age 11 & 4. However, as my 4yro son has an Ikea Kura bunk bed, most standard latex mattress are too thick. This has led me to think about DIY option - 3" latex with a layer of wool batt wrapped in a double knit cotton ticking plus a wool pad. I have approached 3 difeerent companies about this: one says it’s not a good idea as 3" latex does not provide enough support, one suggested medium firm latex, the last thinks I should go for firm (30-35ILD) to extra firm (36-42ILD). Unless there is a company that sells latex mattresses not more than 5 1/8" that I haven’t known, I appreciate some guidence on the appropriate ILD a 40Ibs 4 yro requires and the combination (latex+wool batt + wool pad) meets the Californian fire code.

Hi viva_dc,

I think if you were to call 3 other manufacturers you may have an additional 3 different opinions because there are so many variables involved that you aren’t likely to find any specific consensus and this isn’t an exact science.

Since you asked … I’ll throw my own thoughts into the ring as well but I wouldn’t put more weight on it than your other suggestions because the truth is there isn’t one “perfect” suggestion that would be the “best” for any situation and many combinations may work equally well. The only thing I would be cautious about is a mattress that is too soft for children because they tend to need firmer and more “supportive” mattresses than adults that have more developed and “curvy” bodies.

I would tend to use thicker layers of latex than 3" because it would be more suitable as your child gets older and heavier because thicker mattresses can “adapt” to different body types and sleeping positions more effectively than thinner mattresses or layers. There is more about the effect of thickness in post #14 here.

If you are looking at a DIY construction and are limited to about 5" of latex then you can choose a combination of layer thicknesses that add up to any height you wish (such as a 3" layer with a 2" layer on top of it). Some of the better sources for latex layers I’m aware of are listed in post #4 here.

I would also consider using less wool unless you have a specific reason for using both wool batting inside the mattress (which may shift or get “lumpy” over time) and an additional wool topper on top of the mattress. For most people a latex mattress with a wool quilted cover would allow the latex to contour more effectively and still provide the temperature regulating properties of wool. If you prefer a mattress that uses thicker layers of wool for the sleeping surface (which would also be suitable for a child because wool tends to compress and become firmer than softer foam) then I would build a latex mattress with a thin stretch knit cover and then add a 2" or 3" wool topper on top of it.

If you were to use a single 3" layer I would probably use something in the medium to medium firm range (about 28 - 32 ILD) because lighter body weights will compress the latex less and a medium layer would be firmer for a child than it would be for an adult with a heavier body weight. Thinner mattresses will also tend to be firmer than thicker mattresses using the same material. Also in very general terms, girls will tend to prefer a little softer than boys (and boys will also tend to get heavier as they mature).

If you choose multiple layers then I would go with something in the firm range in a bottom 3" layer and then in the medium range for the top 2" layer.

The component post I linked also includes some good sources for covers.

There are two fire regulations that a mattress needs to pass before it can be sold in the US and both of them are national regulations not state regulations. The first is CFR 16 part 1632 (the cigarette smoldering test) and the second is CFR 16 part 1633 (the open flame test). Both of these require actually burning a prototype not putting together a mattress based on specs or individual components. If you are building your own mattress out of your own components and layers then it isn’t required to pass the fire regulations (which only apply to mattresses that are sold as a complete mattress and not individual components) but you would also have no way of knowing whether your mattress design would have passed the test.

Post #2 here also includes links to the better topics and posts in the forum about mattresses and children that includes many good sources for children’s mattresses and may be useful as well.


Hi Phoenix,

Thank you so much. I haven’t thought about the combimation of 2" + 3" until now. My intention was to start with 3" and add another 3 when my son grows out of Kura, may be at around age 12. It makes sense to go for 5" now if that can last him till college. Thanks for the advice on wool batting, too. Now I have 1 less thing to think about.


Hi Phoenix,

I went back to one of the stores and was told that a cotton cover alone will not be good enough to stop the latex mattress from biodegrading and with a thin inner cotton and a heavy organic double net will prolong the lifespan of their mattresses. I am wondering if they are necessary (as they bring the cost up) but at the same time, I would like to see that the mattress can last at least 15 years.


Hi viva_dc,

There is certainly “some” truth to this and latex can oxidize with exposure to air/oxygen/ozone, and ultraviolet light along with some of the other substances that are listed here. The type of cover can affect how quickly latex oxidizes but it’s not just a black and white or “good and bad” comparison because there are also other tradeoffs involved and some people prefer to sleep more directly on the latex and others do best with a cover that is quilted with various materials or fibers. In general though it’s correct that thinner covers can affect the oxidation of latex more and you can see some examples of this in post #3 here and in post #3 here. For those that do decide that a thinner stretch knit cover is their preference then I would at least make sure that it is designed for use as a mattress cover and not just a very thin cover that will wear down and become thinner or threadbare more quickly and potentially have an even bigger effect on the oxidation of the latex.

I would also be aware that an expectation of a mattress lasting 15 years may not be realistic because especially with children that are still growing their needs and preferences may change over time faster than that even if the mattress is still in good condition. Of course with a component latex mattress you can always add an additional layer or replace layers instead of replacing the entire mattress if that ends up being necessary.


Reviving this thread as we’re searching for a mattress for my child. Looking into Sleep on Latex for my 4 yr old. Their 9" mattresses have 3 different firmnesses:
Soft - 6" 24 ILD with 2" 20 ILD
Medium - 6" 34 ILD with 2" 20 ILD
Firm - 6" 44 ILD with 2" 20 ILD
My daughter tends to sleep in various positions, she’s not a solid side, back or stomach sleeper. She’s a little over 30lb but ideally whatever we purchase would last her well into her teenage years. Any guidance on choosing a firmness? Their ILDs I’m finding are a little out of the typical ranges I’m finding when looking into ILD ranges.


Hi susiebmck.

While the mattress uses great quality/value materials in the case of being used by a growing child, I would tend to choose a firmer top layer mainly because children tend to do better on firmer and more supportive mattresses. As your daughter moved into preschooler/early childhood stage it is best to adjust her sleeping surface towards the medium, medium firm. While growing children can adapt to almost anything you’d still want to lean toward a bit of a “firmer” especially with children sleeping in multiple positions over the course of the night.

Sleep On Latex has several good options that can be adapted to suit growing children. If you wish to stay with the thicker 9" mattress then I’d probably move the 2" Dunlop uppermost layer firmness one notch up with something in the range 28-32(medium) to ensure good posture and support during the forming of her epiphyseal plates. The upper 2" @ 20 ILD layer in the 9" firm version may still be too soft to keep your daughter’s proper alignment …I’d recommend calling SOL to ask if they would be willing to replace the 2" soft with one of the 2" medium (30 ILD) topper. Pure Green has a zippered cover and one of the advantages of having a component style system is that later when she develops more adult proportions and her comfort needs change you can easily change the top layer to something softer for extra cushioning.

Because generally, children won’t really need more than about 6" of latex another option you may wish to consider is the 7" Pure Green version and when your daughter grows older you can add a topper for some additional thickness or softness or even add another layer inside a new cover.
Either way, I’d make sure to call Sleep On Latex to discuss all your options. As you probably are aware, they are a Trusted member of our site. which means that I think very highly of them and that I believe that they compete well with the best in the industry in terms of quality or their products, value, service, knowledge, and transparency. You may also wish to peruse post #2 here and Post #2 in this very topic which includes links to most of the better forum posts and topics about mattresses and children.


Hi, just reading this old thread. Any insight on the ILD and density ratings on the Pure Green mattress?

Hey psyclonejack,

Thanks for the post, sorry for the delay, this post slipped through. Sleep on Latex is one of our trusted mattress membersand you can email them anytime and they are very helpful and transparent with their info. The last info I saw posted were the densities listed below, but please visit Sleep on Latex to comfirm.

Sleep on Latex’s 9" Pure Green mattress medium:

2" 20 ILD (of 4 lb/ft3) Dunlop top comfort layer
6" 30 ILD (of 4.9 lb/ft3) Dunlop support layer

And the 9" PG Firm Version:

2" 30 ILD Dunlop top comfort layer
6" 44 ILD Dunlop support layer