what type of mattress is best for a baby crib

What Type Of Mattress Is Best For A Baby Crib?

Sleeping safely and comfortably is important for everyone but even more so for babies, considering the majority of their first few months are spent sleeping in your arms and their cribs.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns up to 3-month-olds need between 14 and 17 hours of sleep a day—sounds like a dream.

We've rounded up the best crib mattresses to ensure little ones are in good hands when they aren't (literally) in yours. These baby beds are functional for both babies and toddlers, feature firm surfaces, and fit standard full-size and mini cribs.

FAQs About Baby Crib

Your baby's cot mattress should be firm, flat and supportive. This is because a soft surface is more likely to contour to your baby's body and could increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Don't choose a mattress that feels comfortable for you!

You'll want to make sure the mattress fits properly in the crib you've selected without gaps that could pose a danger to your baby. And the mattress should be firm. A soft one can conform to the shape of your baby's head or face, increasing the risk of suffocation or even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Note: No matter what crib mattress you choose, make sure to follow safe sleep guidelines to reduce your baby's risk of SIDS. Use a firm mattress with no loose blankets, pillows, or other soft bedding.

 

A spring inner core will support your baby. These mattresses also tend to hold their shape well. If you choose a cot bed, you may prefer a coil spring mattress as they tend to be longer lasting than foam. The space within the spring lattice allows for increased airflow through the mattress.

As you might guess from the name, the standard crib mattress is the typical mattress size for baby cribs. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, a standard (or regular) crib mattress should be no more than 6 inches thick and measure at least 27 1/4 inches wide and 51 1/4 inches long.

 

What To Look For in a Crib Mattress

Shopping for baby essentials requires a lot more research than your purchases. Below, we've highlighted important factors to consider when buying the best crib mattress for your bundle of joy. 

Crib mattresses are similar to adult mattresses but with a few special considerations. Here’s what to look for in a crib mattress:

  • Firmness: Crib mattresses are firmer than adult ones to keep babies safe and support growing bones while they sleep. Make sure the mattress is rated for infant use.
  • Waterproof: Crib mattresses should have a vinyl or polyethylene surface to make them waterproof and resist mould. If yours is fabric, be sure to use a waterproof cover.
  • Fit: The mattress should fit snugly against the frame. You shouldn’t be able to fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib. If you choose a mini crib or bassinet, the same sizing rules apply.
  • Materials: Some parents prefer mattresses made from natural and organic materials to avoid chemicals used in standard mattress production. (Note: No health effects have been evaluated yet).

Size

Standard full-size crib mattresses should be at least 27.25 inches wide by 51.25 inches long and less than 6 inches thick, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The average size of mini crib mattresses is 24 inches wide by 38 inches long. 

Fit

The CPSC suggests using your fingers as a guide to know whether or not your mattress is a secure fit. If the gap between the mattress and the crib frame is wider than two fingers, the space is unsafe for your baby. Large gaps increase the risk of injury and suffocation. 

Firmness

While adults have preferences for mattress firmness, there's no other option than extremely firm for infants. This is because soft surfaces increase the risk of SIDS due to the possibility of plush bedding conforming to their small heads. 

It's also important to note that babies should always sleep on their backs, as opposed to their stomachs or side, and shouldn't have anything in their cribs besides a tightly fitted sheet.

Room to Grow

It's no secret that kids grow out of things quickly. To avoid buying a new mattress once your baby turns 1, choose a reversible crib mattress, with one firm side and one soft side. Toddlers can sleep safely on mattresses that provide a balance of comfort and support.

Certifications

Many crib mattresses have a GreenGuard Gold Certification, but what does that mean? This seal ensures the product has been tested for toxins and confirmed that it contains little to no chemical emissions. 

Another certification is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which verifies that the product contains a minimum of 70 per cent organic fibres. Lastly, the CertiPUR-US seal means the product contains flexible polyurethane foam tested and certified to ensure it's safe. 

Whether you prefer organic materials or an affordable option, there's a baby bed perfect for your little one. Keep scrolling to shop for the best crib mattresses on the market. 

What Are the Types of Crib Mattresses?

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There are different crib mattresses to choose from, but what matters most is getting a quality one. Which type you end up buying is more a matter of personal preference. Here are the options:

Innerspring mattresses: This traditional mattress type has steel coils inside, making it resilient and sturdy. Above the coils, innerspring mattresses have layers of different cushioning materials, such as polyester, cotton or foam.

You’ll see innerspring described by their coil count (that’s the number of steel coils in the mattress; the more coils, the more supportive) and steel gauge (the thickness of the coil; the lower numbers are thicker). Some models also have metal border rods that provide stability around the edges.

Innerspring mattresses can be pricey, especially if you’re looking into a higher coil count. Reliable brands range from $80 to $300. These mattresses also tend to weigh more (something to consider when you have to change crib sheets in the night).

Foam mattresses: These are typically made from polyurethane, a foam resin. Foam mattresses can be a great choice because they’re lightweight and durable and usually the least-expensive mattress option.

When choosing a foam crib mattress, you want to make sure it’s resilient. Test this by pressing your hand on the mattress and seeing how long the surface takes to regain its shape (the faster, the better).

Also, look for a mattress that has a higher density, which makes it firmer. You can test this by how heavy it is (denser mattresses are typically heavier) or by squeezing the sides of the mattress (you won’t be able to press that hard on denser models).

Double-sided mattresses: 2 for 1! These mattresses have a firmer infant side and a softer side that is more appropriate for toddlers who still use a crib or convertible toddler bed. Just flip it over to give your tot a softer, more comfortable mattress.

Keep in mind, though. These models might be more expensive than some infant crib mattresses. And, you’ll have to remember to place the right side of the mattress facing up when you’re changing the crib sheets.

Crib Mattress Safety Guidelines

Your baby’s safety is a top priority. Here are a few safety basics to keep in mind when choosing a crib mattress:

  • Avoid second-hand if possible: Because of the dangers associated with mould and bacteria, it’s best to avoid a used mattress, especially if you don’t know the history of the product. Reusing one from another one of your children? Ensure there aren’t any openings in the waterproof cover where mould could’ve taken root.
  • Keep the crib empty: Although they look lovely, pillows, bumpers, stuffed animals and blankets shouldn’t be in a baby’s crib. That’s because they can wind up covering your baby’s face and be a suffocation hazard. Could you keep it to a fitted sheet only?
  • Place the baby on its back: The safest sleeping position for your baby is on the back. It reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the leading cause of death in the first year of life.
  • Check before you flip the mattress: If you have a double-sided mattress, check with your pediatrician to see if the time is right to flip it over to the toddler side. Most parents make the switch when their children are about 12 months old.

Getting enough good quality sleep plays a vital part in ensuring infant health and well-being. It is typical for a newborn to sleep for 14–17 hours per day and for an infant to sleep for 12–15 hours.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a crib with a firm mattress as a safe sleep environment for infants.

Putting an infant to sleep on their back can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). A crib and crib mattress can provide a flat and immovable surface that can further reduce the likelihood of SIDS and suffocation.

The AAP provides the following recommendations for crib mattress safety:

  • A crib mattress should be firm and fit the crib properly, leaving no gaps at the side.
  • Cover the crib mattress with a fitted sheet suitable for the mattress.
  • Any mattress toppers or sheets should fit tightly on the mattress to do not move, bunch up, or create gaps during sleep. They should never cover the infant.
  • People should not use alternatives to a crib mattress, such as cushions or pillows. Also, do not use these in addition to a crib mattress.
  • Do not use damaged or worn crib mattresses that may change shape during sleep.

The AAP also states that commercial products that claim to prevent SIDS may not offer any actual benefits.

Safety Standards

Because safety is central to choosing a crib and mattress, the dimensions of full-size cribs and mattresses have been standardized under federal regulations. That makes it easy to buy the two separately without worrying about fit.

These regulations aim to prevent accidental head entrapment and suffocation between the mattress and the crib sides. The laws were enacted by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and officially went into effect in 2011.

 

The same rule doesn't apply to non-full-size cribs, however. Therefore, by law, these must be sold with the mattress included.

Measurements

A full-size crib mattress must be at least 27 1/4 inches wide, 51 1/4 inches long, and no more than six inches thick. At these dimensions, the standard crib mattress will fit safely in a full-size crib, which can have an interior width of between 27 3/8 inches and 28 5/8 inches and an interior length of between 51 3/4 inches to 53 inches.

These dimensions and those of the mattress must be listed on both the retail carton and assembly instructions. Non-standard crib mattresses (say, for round or mini-cribs) can vary in size but must meet non-full-size crib standards, and all non-full-size cribs must be sold with a mattress included.

When a mattress is placed in the centre of the crib, there cannot be a gap of more than a half-inch at any point. If the mattress is pushed to one side, there cannot be a gap of more than an inch at any point. Again, this shouldn't worry consumers, as non-standard cribs and mattresses are sold assets. But it may be a concern if you consider using an older, hand-me-down crib.

Cost

While you don't want to cut corners when buying a crib mattress, you also don't have to blow your entire nursery budget either. A good quality mattress will cost between $90 and $200.

However, some special features come with a higher price tag. If you are looking for a mattress made of strictly organic materials or one that has an allergen-reducing cover, for example, you may need to spend more than $200.

If you are considering buying a used crib mattress to save money, you may very well find one that is suitable and up-to-standard. But confirming that is quite difficult, considering that it may be hard to determine if it was stored properly or was ever soiled. If at all possible, buying new is best.

Mattress Covers

Many crib mattresses come with a cover to help protect your investment from diaper accidents and other spills. They can also be purchased separately. Since this is the surface closest to the baby (only a thin fitted sheet separates the baby from this cover), look for one that does not have toxic chemicals, such as the organic, waterproof mattress protectors from Sleep & Beyond or Naturepedic. You may want a cover that offers:

  • Waterproofing (again, look for a chemical-free option)
  • Breathability (to keep baby cooler and more comfortable)
  • A hypoallergenic barrier (to keep allergens out)

Regardless of the features it offers, checks to see if the cover's seams appear sturdy. Plastic seams can have sharp edges, so that you will avoid those. Check fabric seams to ensure they are not stretched/strained and liable to rip.

Replacing a Crib Mattress

If you need to replace the mattress in your crib, always check the warning label on the crib for the correct dimensions. If you don't see a label, it may be that the crib is older or has been modified. If in doubt, replace the crib entirely.

If you buy a mattress and find it doesn't fit correctly, return it immediately and get another one that does. Never try to make do by shoring up the edges with fabric or foam. Anything other than a snug fit is a safety hazard.

In this regard, while online shopping may be convenient, you may be better served shopping for mattresses at a brick-and-mortar store. You can then do a proper check of dimensions and firmness before purchasing.

Best Innerspring Mattresses

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Naturepedic Classic Organic Crib Mattress Lightweight

This lightweight mattress is certified organic and non-toxic by the Global Organic Textile Standard. This means that it meets strict environmental standards and contains no harmful materials or chemicals.

The two-sided design makes it suitable for both infants and toddlers. It also features organic cotton batting, which reportedly provides firmness and comfort.

This mattress has a stain-resistant, food-grade polyethylene waterproof surface that is easy to clean. It also has a built-in dust mite and bed bug barrier.

Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer Mini Crib Mattress

This crib mattress is suitable for both newborns and toddlers. People can flip it depending on what they require. For example, the infant side consists of firm, high-density foam, while the toddler side uses cool gel memory foam.

The mattress is nontoxic, hypoallergenic, and resistant to odours and stains. It is also polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-free and eco-friendly. It is GREENGUARD Gold certified, meaning that it contains no harmful chemicals.

The manufacturer states that there are no indentations or stitching, which are possible sources of germ buildup.

Safety 1st Heavenly Dreams Mattress

This GREENGUARD Gold-certified mattress features what the manufacturers call a high density, thermo-bonded foam core. The core offers support and is 100% polyester.

There is a wipe-clean cover that is waterproof and stain and odour resistant. The mattress is also tearproof and designed to withstand wear.

The mattress is also lightweight, weighing under 8 pounds (lb). However, it is worth noting that it can only bear up to 50 lb.

Lullaby Earth Super Lightweight Eco-Plus Crib Mattress

This GREENGUARD Gold-certified mattress is lightweight, at just over 7 lb. The mattress has a patented WaveSupport core, providing comfort and support.

This crib mattress is waterproof and made from recyclable, food-safe materials. It is also easy to wipe clean.

It contains no vinyl, PVC, phthalates, perfluorinated compounds, or allergens.

Graco Premium Foam Crib and Toddler Bed Mattress

This GREENGUARD Gold-certified mattress is light and affordable. It features a removable cover that is hand washable.

This mattress comes conveniently rolled up. However, people must lay it out flat within two weeks of purchase and allow it to expand over 72 hours before use.

The foam mattress is firm and contains no lead or phthalates. Its material consists of antimicrobial and antistatic substances.

Colgate Eco Classica III Crib Mattress

This two-sided mattress can suit both infants and toddlers. The firm infant side supports newborns and infants, while the softer side offers comfort for toddlers.

The mattress is water-resistant and easy to clean and features a soft cotton cover that is certified organic. While these mattresses are not 100% organic, Colgate makes them using sustainable plant oils.

This mattress is GREENGUARD Gold, and CertiPUR-US certified, making it safe and eco-friendly. It is also hypoallergenic and phthalate-free.

Sealy Soybean Foam-Core Crib Mattress

Sealy constructs this mattress using soybean oils produced by United States farmers. This use of natural, renewable resources makes it an environmentally friendly product. It is GREENGUARD Gold, and CertiPUR-US certified.

The mattress has a removable waterproof cover and is odour resistant and stain-resistant. However, it is worth noting that people cannot wash the whole mattress.

It is also very firm, ideal for infants, but it might be too firm for toddlers.

 

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