How can I reuse or recycle baby cot mattresses?

We’ve had an email from Maggie:

I’m due to have my second baby in January but everyone has screamed at me when I mentioned reusing the cot so I’m going to get a new mattress. What can I do with the old one?

I don’t have kids so I’m not exactly knowledge but from what I’ve read on the subject, it sounds a bit like car seats – you can reuse them yourself if they’re still in good condition for your other children but it’s best not to buy/receive a second-hand one with an unknown history. You know how much it’s been used, what it’s been, um, soaked with and know how well it has been cleaned. Having said that, I can understand why people don’t want to risk it (although obviously so do baby mattress manufacturers…).

Some crib mattresses are fully sprung but others, particularly cheaper ones, are just slabs of foam so in theory, they could be reused for any spot needing a bit of foam cushioning.

When we were talking about reusing the actual cot last year, some people talked about turning them into essentially a day bed for the growing toddler/small child – if you had the space, you could keep the first mattress to use as extra seat padding or cushioning on the side/back.

Any other ideas?

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13 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle baby cot mattresses?”

  1. strowger says:

    we looked in to this a lot.

    there is no problem with re-using cots as far as i know – both of ours are second hand. they are easy enough to clean with bleach in the bath if you’re paranoid in that way.

    there is a *theory* that re-using mattresses can contribute to cot death. the idea is that bodily fluids soaking into the foam cause it to start to break down, releasing small amounts of toxins.

    the risk of cot death is small but noticable (about 1 per day in the uk on average; there are 2000 births per day).

    many mattresses have a waterproof plastic outer, which probably removes this problem. we tested our second-hand mattress, with plastic outer (bathtub full of water again) and determined that it leaked, so we replaced it. £20, probably unnecessary.

    we didn’t, of course, replace our carpets, bed mattress, cat, nor many of the other foul & stinking repositories of bodily fluids in the home.

    the marketing of baby .* is *particularly* pernicious, the items ludicrously expensive, and people who should know better tell wild fairly stories about how baby will come to harm if you don’t buy new.

    • louisa says:

      there is no problem with re-using cots as far as i know

      When I was reading about it, I saw some people talking about cots and the worries seemed to be design (old school designs that moved in a way considered dangerous now) and durability (fittings worked lose/joints separated to the extent that small fingers etc could get trapped in there) – but the most of the latter could be tightened/fixed.

  2. anna says:

    Clean it, wash it, and make a new cover for it, and then keep the bed sheet clean. You can easily buy second hand without having to go with “unknown” history – ask friends and people at work etc, that way you know who’s baby has used it so it’s not unknown.

    If babies died because they had to sleep on a mattress that wasn’t new for each baby or family, the humanity would have been extinct for hundreds of thousands of years. I would boldly guess that they don’t buy a new mattress for each baby born in the hospitals either. So it’s all marketing. New parents are especially vulnerable since they tend to want to do everything right for their offspring, and not care about the cost (as long as it’s within their means).

  3. I cut one in two and used them to create the base cushion and back cushion for a chair (used for an art project, then a schools project and now sitting in my living room). Good and sturdy. The other mattress has been kept for small people to sleep over and is used for building dens.

  4. carol says:

    How about making a frame for it and making a dog bed? I bet there is lots of life left in those mattress. I work in Labor and Delivery, and the mattress in the baby cribs are decades old!

  5. Trish says:

    I’d upholster it and give it to my mother to use as a dog bed. Though, crib mattresses DO fit in toddler beds, so if your child is moving to a toddler bed, I’d just move it to the new bed and buy a new mattress for the new baby.

  6. louisa says:

    Love the dog/cat bed ideas. I’ve seen some very cute ones made from nice old suitcases – foam mattresses could easily be cut to fit one of those — two reuses in one project :)

  7. Sheri says:

    I have seen photos of old mattress used as garden beds

  8. Becki Woods says:

    I agree with a lot of the advice. It’s easy to get very worried about recycling things. Imagine how expensive that is however for families like mine with five children! Personally, I’d lose the mattress and keep the actual cot as long as it was sturdy and I’d bought it in the last five years.

  9. Jo says:

    we reuse cot mattress with the rescue dogs we foster, the wipe clean outer means we can sterilise between dogs and as they are waterproof, it isn’t a problem when looking after yet to be housetrained dogs :)

  10. Jenni Smyth says:

    Hi I am just starting up a new business trying to save Cot Bed Mattresses from going to landfill, based in Southend Essex.

    I cut to size, re-cover with waterproof fabric then make unique covers for them. If anyone in the area has one to get rid of please email me and I will put it to good use.

    As yet haven’t made any progess with our local council/Cory Environmental to divert from landfill :(

  11. Jenny says:

    you can always turn a cot into a desk. these are so cool

    Also my son now 7 uses the matteress for sleepovers.

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