Beds for babies (and beyond)

By Mir
June 30, 2006

Today, I am sleepy. Let’s talk about beds! (Was that the smoothest segue you ever did see? Truly, I am a master at this stuff.)

Your extremely comprehensive and helpful entry on bedding brought to mind something I will be in the market for sometime soon: a new bed for my son.

He is three and in a toddler bed. He doesn’t grow for some reason, so we haven’t been in a big hurry to upgrade the bed, but we figure that he’ll need a twin by high school or his friends may tease him. We’d planned on going to Ikea, where they seem to have absolutely everything and don’t charge the totally outrageous prices of our dangerous baby/kids’ furniture “boutique warehouse” down the street. If you have any other ideas please share!


After reading this I am a tad more concerned that perhaps Bec has an infant-sized 3-year-old than I am about where the poor child is going to be sleeping, but I shall forge ahead on the assumption that she’s handling that.

Beds. Ahhhhhh, beds. Some of my very favorite things happen in beds. (Sleeping, people. Also? Napping. Shame on you.)

There are a few different things we need to talk about, here:

  • What is important in a mattress?
  • What is important in a bedframe?
  • How long do you expect to use this bed?
  • What purpose should it serve? (And by this, I mean does it need to be anything other than your son’s primary sleeping location?)

Once you know the answers to these four questions, you know how to proceed.

What is important in a mattress? Theoretically, we spend a third of our lives sleeping. It is a matter of good health, I would argue, to have a decent mattress. It’s not something you want to save some money on at the expense of quality.

That said, mattresses are perhaps even more convoluted when it comes to pricing than diamonds. Not only are there a million choices, you run into things like “This here Well Known Brand Mattress is on sale now because the new ones have a different color cover.” Um… what? Seriously? If you walk into a store and allow yourself to be dazzled by the Big! Sale! Now! tactics, you’re sunk.

So, know what you want, more or less, before you shop. Do some research before you shop. Learn about innerspring vs. foam and what the coil count means and all of that stuff. Yes, little kids are, well, little, and they can much more easily sleep on a lower-quality mattress without discomfort or injury, because they don’t weigh very much. That’s true. But your little boy is going to grow, and unless you are setting out with the intention to buy cheap now and replace later (which is an option—don’t get me wrong—but means more money spent overall), you want a quality mattress.

A quality mattress at a reasonable price is best purchased either at a factory-direct kind of place that specializes in mattresses (that does NOT mean Mattress Discounters or other sale! sale! sale! purveyors), or at a furniture store that doesn’t play price games. Here in New England, for example, we have Jordan’s Furniture. They don’t have sales. Ever. They have fair prices every day. I have bought a number of pieces from them, because although I can’t walk in there and get the lowest price possible, I get the best price on a quality product. Even though their commercials are really annoying.

What is important in a bedframe? Again, is this the bed Junior will use until he leaves home? That’s the most cost-effective approach, but maybe you really want a piece of “kid” furniture. That’s certainly your option if you don’t mind buying twice. If your goal is to buy The Bed he’ll use, get something that isn’t going to be embarrassing and childish when he’s in high school.

Here I pause to submit the following: No one needs a bed frame. A bed frame is a decorative piece of furniture. If money is tight, and you’re considering spending less on a mattress and/or boxspring so you have more money for a frame? Skip buying the actual bed. Get a good mattress set. (Furthermore, lots of people transition toddlers to a mattress set on the floor to deal with the whole falling-out-of-bed issue. Might not be a bad idea to start with that.)

If you do decide to invest in a bed, buying it from a store you trust, that doesn’t play price games, is probably your best bet. On the other hand, there are bargains to be had if you’re willing to buy something off of Overstock or elsewhere online and put it together yourself. (Overstock is great for furniture because the shipping is only $2.95; lots of other great internet deals on large pieces are killed by the shipping.) You have to decide how important it is to you to see it first, etc. This is one of this “your mileage may vary” things. And it’s more a matter of aesthetics than anything else.

How long do you expect to use this bed? We touched on this briefly, already. Spending a little bit more money now means not having to buy a new mattress or replace a Peter Rabbit headboard down the line. On the other hand, if you have a little Destructo on your hands, you may want to think twice about buying a nice bedframe at this point. I’ve done it both ways: my daughter has a plastic monstrosity that will need to be replaced in a few years, and my son has a Really Nice captain’s bed. There is no right or wrong, just what works for you.

What purpose should it serve? Will this be his bed and nothing more? Or might you want to use his room for guests on occasion? If you don’t have a separate guest room, you may decide it makes sense to buy a full or queen sized bed rather than a twin, because the bed will be doing double-duty, as it were.

Keep in mind that bigger beds take more expensive bedding. Don’t go bigger just for the heck of it, if cost is an issue.

And don’t get me started on all the little kids who seem to have queen-sized beds as a matter of course, these days. I’ll start muttering things like “I slept in a twin bed until I was twenty” and “Heck, I don’t even have a queen bed NOW” and before you know it, I’ll be yelling for you darn kids to get out of my yard. So.


  1. So weird. I just ordered my son’s bed last night. What I did with both of my kids is buy a headboard I like (they are around $100). Then we’ll buy the mattress and box spring from a local store we’ve bought from before and trust (eh, who am I kidding, the guy seems nice and so far our matresses haven’t fallen apart. Trust may be too strong a word for salesmen.). I think they threw in a bedframe with our first child’s bed for free, or else it was reasonably enough priced for me to remember it as free.

    The headboards I chose for each of my kids I LOVE and they go well with their rooms (for now) but I’m aware the kids may want to redecorate at some point (when Nine Inch Nails seems cooler than Barney). I think (I hope) that it is a reasonable option to just buy a new headboard at that point without having to replace the whole bed.

    Two more advantages to having headboards only – easier bed making and lower risk of a bed-jumping leading to accidental impalement.

  2. Something to think about could be the future uses of the bed, as in, getting a kind that can be altered later to make a bunk bed, and/or include a desk unit underneath, etc. Age 3 is too young to climb up a ladder to a bunk bed (I think) but if you get one that you can alter later, that might save you money in the long run. BTW, we don’t have any headboards in our house at all, and nobody misses them- Well, except for me, sometimes I dream about having one of those fancy cherry-wood fourposters with tons of intricate carvings, you know, the kind that go for $1500 or more, but like THAT’S gonna happen (NOT)- *shakes self* Anyway, about beds, my 3 year old sleeps in a regular twin bed, and has never fallen off the bed, and it’s been several months now. You can always put the old crib mattress on the floor next to the bed at night if you’re really concerned, and store that crib mattress under the bed during the day. **Love your Blog, You’re so pretty!!**

  3. I agree with Caya – you should think about getting something that can be altered later. We bought a bunk bed set when my son was less than a year old and used it as two twin beds in his room (where I spent many a night sleeping so I could get up with ‘the boy who never slept’. Now we have two kids and they each are using one of the beds in their rooms. Our daughter, however, wants something white and girl-y, so we’re going to put the beds together as bunk beds for my son – and now that he’s getting old enough to have a friend spend the night, he’ll have the extra bed. And my husband and I don’t actually have a frame for our bed. Oh, and the mattress thing – get yourself a good mattress. We bought cheap ones thinking the kids were so little it didn’t matter. But then we went to visit the in-laws and the kids slept on their expensive mattresses and slept SO MUCH BETTER. They even commented on how much nicer those beds were compared to their own. So I say go for quality. It is worth it.

  4. I live in California and have always bought all our mattresses at Mattress Discounters. (not online, their regular stores) Dh and I have a Cal King and bought our new mattress there recently. The salesman suggested we buy the mattress only (who needs to replace box springs/foundations every 5-10 years anyway?) from the clearance room in the back. We got a great deal on a very good mattress and only paid less than half what we probably would have otherwise. My kids mattresses have lasted 13 years so far without any problems, also bought at Mattress Discounters. As for your comment about your favorite things happening in beds, bwahahahahaha. I said nearly the exact same thing when dh and I were dating. We had gone to the airport to pick up some friends from their honeymoon. I had never met them before. Driving home, I said “the best part of the day is going to bed!” Stunned silence in the car, while dh gave a little cough. I have never been so embarassed in my life! Of course, what I *meant* was that I LOVE to sleep. ha ha ha

  5. Just a few minutes from where I live (in the San Francisco Bay area) is a distribution center for Simmons. I love Beautyrest mattresses. Happily, there is a discount store right across the freeway that buys up Simmons overruns, returns (refused, not used, or payment fell through), and seconds. They sell them for about 60% to 70% off retail. The owner always marks any seconds with signs that say what is wrong with them and will show you personally. And the bed you try is the bed you are delivered. The store also makes the pallets to go under mattresses in bunk or captain beds, and sells them for less than $50. They threw in the frame for the king size bed we bought, and delivered the next business day.

    Now, yes, I’m lucky to be living where I am for this great deal, but I would imagine that people living in other high population centers could find similar outlets wherever there is a distribution center for a mattress company.

    Mattresses are good for 8 to 10 years. And even if the mattress and boxspring are holding up well at the end of that time, you should probably have them replaced because bacteria will build up in the mattress. Nobody wants to sleep in a germ incubator.

  6. Another thing: if your kid is not yet night trained, you might want to consider a less-expensive mattress with an eye toward replacing it a couple years later. We just did this — bought a firmer, better quality mattress for my 6 YO son, and passed his mattress to his 3 YO sister. His old mattress is in fine condition (I always used a waterproof pad on the thing), but he now has something firmer for his (now) heavier weight.

    As for the actual bed, I bought both my kids matching gender-neutral wooden twin beds. They were about $200 each, but can be used indefinitely (till they’re 20!) and could eventually be sold as a set.

  7. Thanks for all the help, everyone! I actually was considering just getting the mattress & box spring with the standard (free?) metal bed frame thingie, and then spending a little more on cool bedding that he will love, like something with trains, planes, or construction trucks. We received a Company Store Kids catalog, which seemed to have better prices than, say, Pottery Barn Kids.

    As for my son’s size, he is bigger than his 8-month-old younger brother, but (I fear) not for long. At his last several doctor visits (sick & well), the scale said the same thing–27 pounds. The docs aren’t worried yet. They are used to this with him; as an infant he fell below the chart. And though the baby is heavier than his brother was at that age, baby’s weight gain is slow too. I guess I don’t have to worry about childhood obesity right this second!

    bec 😀

  8. when my son was 2 1/2 i moved him into a regular twin bed (came with free frame, got at 1-800-mattress, the store). i used rails on the sides until he was 4. he slept in it no problem for two years. then last year i decided to get fancy and got a low loft bed from IKEA, using the same mattress he had (storing the boxspring in garage). he’s slept in it half a dozen times since last sept. he currently sleeps most nights on a foam pad on the floor next to my bed. he’s going thru a (very lengthy) phase of being afraid of being alone. anyways, i also wanted to mention that he too is quite small for his age. he turned 7 yesterday and is 36 lbs.

  9. “Do some research before you shop” is the most important sentence in this post! IME, mattress manufacturers make it very difficult to compare their products to those of other manufacturers. It is really confusing to try to compare different brands in the store.

    I don’t think we’ll ever have another headboard…it bangs against the wall and both of our toddlers have hurt themselves on it. I’d rather invest in extra pillows!

  10. My kids both have queen size beds, but it’s so I can turn their rooms into guest rooms on the fly. They get to camp out in the basement when we have company, and my guests get a decent queen size mattress instead of the pullout couch.

  11. my 20 month old has a twin sized mattress in his room but, he chooses to sleep on the floor. Help!!!!

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