Table of Contents
- Why It’s Crucial to Get the Right Crib Mattress for Your Baby
- Baby Crib Mattress Buying Guide
- Review of the 5 Top-Rated Baby Crib Mattresses
- Final Word
A crib mattress is more than a place where your baby sleeps. It is their living quarters, where they grow and develop. Naturally, you want the newest member of the family to have all they need when they finally arrive. Right at the top of the essentials list for a new baby is a crib mattress. For the baby’s sake, you should spare no expense and get them a crib mattress designed with their health, safety, and comfort in mind.
The right crib mattress isn’t what every adult shopper would assume it to be. This article will discuss the features and attributes of a good crib mattress and everything you need to know about this essential sleep accessory. After that, we will review our five picks for the best crib mattresses you can buy today.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive right into it.
Why It’s Crucial to Get the Right Crib Mattress for Your Baby
Newborn babies sleep up to 18 hours a day, which means they spend most of their time in their cribs. In those first few weeks, babies have no control over their movements. All their movements are reflexive or involuntary.
Because your baby can’t control their body movements, they can roll onto their face and not be able to readjust their body to face upwards. This can interfere with their breathing and cause them to suffocate.
A soft, fluffy crib mattress is a suffocation hazard
Suffocation is one of the leading causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which claims the lives of 3,500 babies every year in the United States. The best way to protect your baby from suffocation in their sleep is to use a firm crib mattress.
Now, as adults, we prefer a soft mattress because it is more comfortable. So, we feel for softness before buying our mattresses. For infant babies, you must look for an extra firm crib mattress.
A firm crib mattress is the safest sleeping surface for your baby. Even if they roll onto their face, a firm mattress will not smother their faces and stop their breathing.
Besides the suffocation risk, a soft mattress will affect your baby’s general sleep quality. Since babies’ airways tend to kink, they need to maintain a straight posture when they sleep to ensure their breathing is not disturbed.
If their breathing is labored, your baby will struggle to sleep. Their naps will be shorter as a result, which can also make them quite irritable. So, a firm crib mattress will mean longer and deeper naps for your little one. That also frees up time for you to do your chores.
Another major cause of SIDS, or crib death as it’s also known, is overheating while sleeping. Again, soft crib mattresses are a risk factor. A mattress that’s too soft smothers your baby’s body, trapping heat around them.
A soft crib mattress that does not fit the crib tightly also presents an entrapment risk for your baby. Since newborn babies can’t recognize danger, they can easily wedge their legs and trap themselves between the mattress and the crib frame. That can easily cause injuries if the leg is trapped in an unnatural position.
A firm mattress is more supportive for babies growing bones
Your baby will grow quite rapidly in its first year, and much of that growth happens during their sleep. It is in these first few months of their life that they are at their most vulnerable. A firm crib mattress protects your baby and gives its body the support it needs to properly develop.
At this young age, babies’ bones are also not fully developed. Some are merely cartilage that must merge into stronger bones. A firm mattress will ensure the bones fuse in the right shape.
At 6 months, your baby can sit, lift its head, and roll its body on its own. This significantly lowers the risk of SIDS, but not the importance of a firm mattress. As it gets stronger and develops, your baby will start to learn to sit on its own and, further on, to stand. They will need the resistance that a firm mattress offers.
A soft mattress makes an unsteady surface that will make it difficult for your baby to balance its body as it learns to sit up and stand on its own. That can severely slow your little one’s development.
Baby Crib Mattress Buying Guide
How to Choose the Right Crib Mattress
Besides firmness, the crib mattress needs to have the right dimensions too. If it does not fit the crib frame snugly, it may expose your baby to entrapment risks.
Even though a crib mattress must be extra firm, it does not discount the need for comfort and a crib mattress can be comfortable without being too soft. This is as much a factor of the mattress core as its cushioning.
Below we will discuss the most important crib mattress specifications, so you have a clear idea of what to look for when you go out to buy a crib mattress for your precious sweetling.
Crib Mattress Specifications
Choosing the right crib mattress benefits your baby in many ways. But unless you have experience raising children from infancy, you wouldn’t immediately know what features and qualities to prioritize when researching options for a crib mattress.
That’s hardly surprising, especially with the sometimes-conflicting advice you get when you ask your network for recommendations. So, we are going to make it easy and break down the crib mattress specifications you need to pay attention to.
For your baby’s safety, a crib mattress must fit the crib frame as snugly as possible, without any space left in between. For this, you want to stick to standard-size crib mattresses, which by law should fit all standard-size crib frames.
Standard-size crib mattress dimensions are federally regulated – a product of much research into safe sleep for infants. The CPSC (Consumer Safety Protection Commission) requires that all standard crib mattresses be 52.375 inches long, 24 inches wide, and no more than 6 inches thick.
Crib frame sizes are also government-controlled, with dimensions designed to ensure a perfect fit with standard crib mattresses. So, you should still be OK if you buy the frame and mattress separately. That said, it is best to buy them as a set.
On the other hand, the law demands that all non-standard crib mattresses and frames be bought as a set to ensure they are a snug fit.
There are two main types of crib mattresses. These are foam and innerspring mattresses. The two types identify the type of material or technology used for the mattress’s core, which is the central part of the baby mattress that gives it structure, firmness, and bouncy feel.
Nowadays, if you choose a reputable brand, it shouldn’t matter if you choose a crib mattress with foam or innerspring core. Either will work just fine.
Foam mattresses tend to be lighter and more comfortable but not as firm as innerspring mattresses. Because they tend to be cheaper, they may be a more appealing option for parents on a tight budget.
Even though they cost a bit more than foam mattresses, innerspring mattresses are firmer, bouncier, and generally last longer. They are a good choice if you are looking for a crib mattress your child will use until they’ve outgrown the crib.
Pocket springs are a more premium type of innerspring mattresses where steel coils are individually wrapped to give better, localized support for your baby’s body. Instead of foam or steel coils, some crib mattresses use cashmere, lambswool, coir, coconut, or latex, which offer superior moisture absorption qualities.
The weight of a crib mattress is determined by its material composition, especially its core. An innerspring core is heavier than foam, for example, while for the cushioning or filling material, polyester, cotton, and memory foam are all options that come with different weights.
The lightest mattresses can weigh as little as 8 pounds, while the heavier innerspring options can tip the scale at 25 pounds. Memory foam, which is an especially dense foam, can be just as heavy as innerspring mattresses.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission does not insist that a standard crib be a specific weight. It is you who should decide whether a heavy or light mattress is preferable. Ordinarily, light crib mattresses will make it less strenuous to change the bedding.
The core material, whether it is foam or innerspring, gives a crib mattress its structure and ensures your baby has the support it needs when learning to sit or stand.
The crib mattress must not be hard, but it shouldn’t be too soft either. The material the manufacturer chooses for the cushioning must therefore strike a balance between comfort and support.
Choices for cushioning materials include polyester, cotton, memory foam, and gel foam. These of course offer different levels of comfort. Others are natural while some are not.
A breathable mattress allows air to pass through the cover, cushioning, and the core itself. That enhances your baby’s safety as it allows them to breathe straight through the mattress if they somehow end up sleeping with their face down. With a less breathable mattress, they would run out of air and suffocate.
Breathability also enables a crib mattress to more efficiently disperse heat and helps to regulate your baby’s body temperature. Wovenaire mattresses are known to be quite breathable while memory foam is among the least breathable.
While there is some debate on their usefulness, some crib mattresses are designed with vents or ventilation holes on the side to improve their breathability. In theory, the vents should also make it easier for moisture and heat to escape, which helps to prevent mold and mildew.
Newborn babies lack bladder control, and a diaper accident can never be discounted. So, it will help to keep a dry and safe bed for your baby if the mattress is waterproof.
While there are crib mattresses that are waterproof from cover to core, only some will come with a removable waterproof cover. Choose what’s more convenient for you, but a removable cover that you can wash separately is usually more convenient and guarantees the mattress lasts and looks newer for longer.
Another important reason to pay attention to the materials your crib mattress is made from is that some of the materials contain harmful chemicals. Common culprits are polyurethane foam and flame retardants.
You will find that the crib mattress will release the same hazardous chemicals as fumes in a process called off-gassing. This can contaminate the air your baby breathes and make them sick.
Pay attention to the cheap crib mattresses as they tend to contain these chemicals, but don’t neglect to check for them in the more expensive mattresses too.
Mattresses made from certified organic cotton and other natural materials are your best bet for non-toxic options. But how can you be sure that your crib mattress is non-toxic?
Crib mattresses must satisfy the requirements set by the CPSC and the American Society for Testing and Materials. There are also independent testing bodies, including GreenGuard, CertPUR-US, Global Organic Testing Standards, and the Environmental Working Group that aren’t specifically mandated for by the law, but which provide an assurance of a crib mattress’s quality and safety.
A GreenGuard seal on a crib mattress, for example, certifies that it is made from non-toxic materials and is, thus, eco-friendly and creates a safe sleeping environment for your baby. The Global Organic Testing Standards tests all mattresses claimed to be made from organic materials. Certification, however, does not mean the mattress is 100% organic.
CertiPUR-US is the certification badge you need to look for when shopping for a foam crib mattress. The body independently tests the foam used in mattresses to make sure it meets standards for emissions, flammability, and durability. CertiPUR-US periodically updates its testing standards to make sure crib mattresses meet the latest safety and environmental regulations.
Dual-sided crib mattresses
As you research your options, you may also come across crib mattresses described as 2-stage. These are dual-sided mattresses that are firm on one side and soft on the other.
Dual-sided mattresses can be used on either side, with the softer side being reserved for when your baby is older and doesn’t need the protection of a firm mattress. The benefit is you won’t need to replace your crib mattress with a toddler-specific one; you simply flip it and use the softer side.
Baby Crib Mattress Shopping Tips
It matters for your baby’s safety what type and brand of mattress you buy, but it also matters how you buy it. If the shopping process is not clear and convenient, you can wind up paying more or being stuck with a faulty mattress you have no way of returning.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Check for product safety badges
When shopping, most of us reflexively look for the price. But for a crib mattress, it is crucial to first look for pointers of product safety. Your little one depends on you to make sure the crib mattress you will put them to sleep on is safe.
So, before anything else, look for CertiPUR-US and GreenGuard-Certified badges as proof the mattress is made from non-toxic materials. We would even go as far as saying these badges are a more reliable gauge of the quality and value a crib mattress offers.
Check Return policies
Returns are a reality of commerce and many reasons for them aren’t always about quality. Sometimes a wrong crib mattress is shipped, other times the mattress is damaged during shipping, or it ships with missing components.
Most manufacturers publish their return policies for specific products. As some of these policies may make it less attractive to buy that specific brand, return policies aren’t always prominently displayed on the product, website, or manual. You have to look for it so you know if there will be any recourse if you are not completely satisfied with the shipped crib mattress.
Check the warranty
Crib mattresses typically have long warranties of up to 10 years. But most have explicit terms, to the effect that you may think certain damages are covered when they are not. So, you should study the warranty before you buy the crib mattress and be sure that the warranty is enforceable.
Check delivery Information
Retail sites like Amazon offer free shipping and, in some cases, same-day delivery. Others charge a shipping fee, which will add to the price you pay. So, a retailer may seem cheap simply because you have not factored in the shipping cost.
Before you hit the buy button, study the delivery information. This is important not just for the cost of shipping but also for knowing when you can expect your crib mattress to arrive.
You may want to take time off work or make arrangements so there is someone to receive the mattress when it comes. We have read stories where wrong and damaged items were delivered in the buyers’ absence, which is also the reason why the next tip is useful.
Check Customer Reviews
Customer reviews offer more reliable feedback on the quality of a product. If a customer is not incentivized to leave a review, you can trust their feedback to be unbiased and a true reflection of their experience buying and using a product.
Take time to read customer reviews of crib mattresses you are considering. Make note of the issues people are constantly raising about the crib mattress and decide if you can look past them. If you can’t, it is a good reason to keep shopping.
Manufacturers will typically promote their mattresses as firm and snug-fitting. Don’t take their word for it. When the crib mattress arrives, test to see if the claims are true.
Check for firmness by pressing down on the mattress with your fingers. A firm crib mattress should spring back up. If it feels soft and comfortable for you, it is too soft and possibly unsafe for your baby.
Foam mattresses require you to let them sit for 48 hours so they can fully expand and release any chemical fumes and smells trapped in the packaging. Give them the time to fully expand and air out before using them in your baby’s crib.
You also have to physically measure the crib mattress and make sure it conforms to the dimensions claimed by the manufacturer. Then check to see that the mattress fits the crib frame. You shouldn’t be able to fit three fingers between the frame and the mattress.
If the crib mattress does not meet the minimum standards for safe sleep, you should seriously consider returning it. This is, of course, assuming you had reviewed the return policy for the crib mattress before buying it.
When gauging quality, especially when buying online, never assume that an expensive crib mattress necessarily means it’s of good quality. You could simply be paying more for luxury features that do not affect the safety or quality of the mattress.
While it follows that you get what you pay for, you will be surprised at the quality of some lower-priced crib mattresses. So, keep an open mind when you shop. Some manufacturers have the advantage of more efficient supply chains and economies of scale that all help to keep their costs low.
That said, good-quality crib mattresses start in the $60 range. For a budget lower than that, you can only get mini-crib mattresses and often poor-quality standard-size crib mattresses that have not been independently tested for their safety.
Always buy new
There are many benefits to reusing, but with crib mattresses, you should aim to buy a new one. Old crib mattresses that have not been used for a while are a good breeding ground for bacteria and dust mites and can seriously harm your baby’s health. Avoid them if you can.
Review of the 5 Top-Rated Baby Crib Mattresses
The Graco crib & toddler mattress ticks so many boxes it’s no wonder it has sold so many units, is well-rated, and maintains an impressive review count. A proud recipient of the Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA) Seal of Approval, this crib mattress is built with safety in mind. As proof of this, it has a GreenGuard Gold certification, which means it has been tested against 1,000s VOCs.
With a memory foam core that is CertiPUR-US-approved, you can be sure that the mattress will not emit fumes that will poison the air your baby breathes. This mattress is safe for both your child and the environment.
Being double-sided, it is like you are buying two mattresses for the price of one. In practice, it means you have a firm side to use while your baby is still an infant and a softer side more suitable for a toddler. So, this is a mattress your baby will grow with, which saves you money.
We like that the crib mattress has a removable cover that is waterproof and 100% machine-washable. It guarantees that your baby’s bed will remain dry, which wads off infections and odors.
Many people invest in a Pack ‘n Play as a secondary crib for their babies. Such investment makes sense because it allows you to take it with you on your travels or to move it between rooms at home.
The Hiccapop Pack ‘n Play mattress pad is our pick for the best value mini-crib mattress. It is a 2-stage mattress with a firm infant-safe side and a softer toddler-appropriate side. This means you should be able to get at least two years of use out of it. Together, the soft and firm sides have a thick memory foam core that provides excellent support for your baby’s growing bones.
The playpen mattress is designed to fit most Pack ‘n Play cribs without leaving any gaps on the sides. It has a waterproof and hypoallergenic Jacquard cover that is lock-stitched to reduce leaks and stains. The cover is machine-washable, which reduces your washing burden. The playpen mattress has been rigorously tested by CertiPUR-US to ensure it meets the highest standards of foam quality and durability.
Memory foam mattresses like the previous two from Graco and Hiccapop work just fine, with the right level of firmness but for a more durable and bouncy crib mattress, innerspring mattresses offer a little bit more. This one from Dream On Me, a reputable child sleep products brand, will make an excellent choice for your precious bundle of joy.
The crib mattress has 88 interwoven coils that are made from heat-treated 6-gauge steel for extra durability. It is reasonably priced and comes with features that promote safe sleep for your little one.
While it is firm enough to support your baby’s growing bones and prevent suffocation risks, the reinforced plastic cover is plush enough to ensure the sleeping surface is not too hard for your baby.
In case you are worried about the safety of the materials used to make the crib mattress, you need not be. The mattress has GreenGuard Gold certification, which means it has been independently tested and found to be safe from hazardous chemicals.
This crib mattress is well made, with a 2-stage design that guarantees long use life. And if the mattress breaks down too soon, you have the 10-year warranty to fall back on.
The Milliard brand has built itself a nice reputation for making safe, high-quality crib mattresses that are affordably priced. This one is no different. The mattress’s dimensions meet the safe sleep guidelines set by the CPSC and are designed – as the company says – to reduce tossing and turning.
What sets this 2-stage mattress apart is the unique blend of foam it uses. The foam blend has a softer 1.5-inch top cushioning layer of luxurious memory foam and a 4-inch middle layer of denser foam that is firmer and more supportive.
Because the mattress is comfortable for your growing baby, they will sleep longer and deeper. That unfortunately increases the chances that your baby may wet their bed. Thanks to the washable cover that protects the mattress and keeps it dry, that shouldn’t worry you too much.
Even though the mattress comes rolled up it does not take long to fully expand, though you may need to give it a day or two to air out. While it does not cause any issues with toddlers, the mattress is a tad too soft. Being that soft, you may want to consider another option if you are buying for an infant baby.
Too many infants suffocate in their sleep in the United States. A Moms’ Choice award winner, this Newton crib mattress was designed to fix that problem. How does it do that? For one, the mattress is 100 percent breathable, thanks to the innovative breathe-thru technology that makes it easier for infants to breathe right through the mattress should they ever sleep with their face down.
The crib mattress’s Amazon listing references an independent test that proved that the mattress is 17 times more effective at preventing suffocation than most organic mattresses. You should get this crib mattress if your baby sleeps face down and all your efforts to train them otherwise have failed.
Another benefit of the mattress’s high breathability is it ensures your baby’s bed doesn’t get too warm. But this Newton mattress isn’t just breathable, the company also proudly reminds buyers that it is 100% waterproof as well. This protects the mattress and helps to ensure a sanitary sleeping environment for your baby.
The makers of this crib mattress make some bold claims, including that it is the only washable crib mattress and is less toxic than an organic mattress. But do these attributes justify the high price? Consumers who have purchased it tend to agree that it does live up to its price.
There is a lot that goes into selecting a baby crib mattress, with just as many options available. We feel the five options we have reviewed constitute the best crib mattresses there are in terms of safety, durability, and value. We hope the crib mattress you choose will deliver the level of safety and comfort your baby needs to grow strong and develop into a healthy toddler.
The best mattress for a newborn is one that is firm, flat, and fits the crib frame snugly. Unlike a soft mattress, a firm mattress will not smother your baby and cause them to suffocate. A firm crib mattress provides the support your baby’s growing bones need. It also helps if the mattress is breathable as that will aid the baby’s breathing and help regulate their body temperature.
A crib mattress needs to be firm and fit the crib frame tightly, and it can do that without being expensive. However, you will generally pay more for fully washable, breathable, and certified-organic mattresses. So if you are paying the extra money for premium features that will improve the safety and convenience of using the crib mattress, it may be worth it to pay a higher price.
To be safe, a crib mattress needs to be firm and fit the crib frame without leaving gaps in between that may entrap the baby. It must also be made from non-toxic materials, which you can tell by checking for certification badges like the GreenGuard Gold, CertiPUR-US, Global Organic Testing Standards, and others.
You can reuse an old crib mattress if it is still in a good condition. The mattress must not be torn, soiled, or have a loose-fitting cover. That said, it is always better to buy a new crib mattress as that will give your newborn baby the best possible start. In other words, a new crib mattress is safer than an old one.
Babies should sleep on a firm crib mattress for the first full year of their life. By this time, they should have developed their motor skills enough to consciously roll their bodies and sit up on their own. By this, the risk of suffocation and entrapment will have reduced significantly.