We purchase every product we review with our own funds—we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
A child's safety is one of the most important things in the world to parents, and the wrong crib mattress can be problematic and even hazardous.
As a parent, you want your baby to sleep comfortably. An uncomfortable child is a cranky child, and the ill effects of a sleepless night or two can quickly snowball, exhausting all members of a household. The right crib mattress can help with that.
Furthermore, studies have suggested that a too-soft mattress may increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and a too-small mattress can pose an entrapment risk. You most certainly don’t want to invite any hazards into your baby’s bed.
Without question, it's vital that you put some thought into which crib mattress you buy for your new arrival. But how do you know which crib mattresses are good and which are not?
At BestReviews, we’re here to help!
We performed extensive product research, gathering information from existing customers and talking with our expert consultant, pediatric occupational therapist Aimee Ketchum, for guidance.
The shopping guide below provides all the information you need to make an informed purchasing decision.
Please read on to find out more about crib mattresses, and when you’re ready to buy one, please scroll up to see our top five choices in the product matrix.
Aimee is a pediatric occupational therapist practicing in the neonatal intensive care unit and pediatric out-patient at Central Pennsylvania Rehab Services at the Heart of Lancaster Hospital. She has been working in pediatrics for 18 years and is also the owner/operator of Aimee’s Babies LLC, a child development company. Aimee has published 3 DVDs and 9 apps which have been featured on the Rachael Ray Show and iPhone Essentials Magazine. Also certified in newborn massage and instructing yoga to children with special needs, Aimee Ketchum lives in Lititz, PA with her husband and two daughters.
When you buy a mattress for an adult, you’re faced with some choices – including which type of material you’d like your bed to be made of.
The same applies to crib mattresses.
Below, we take a closer look at the two main types of crib mattress: innerspring and foam.
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) certification ensures quality and safety testing for babies.
Innerspring crib mattresses have metal coils, or springs, at their core. Layers of padding, such as foam or polyester, surround the springs to prevent them from digging into the sleeper.
Innerspring crib mattresses tend to be more durable, supportive, and long-lasting than inexpensive foam crib mattresses. Notably, however, they are not necessarily more durable than high-end foam crib mattresses.
Innerspring crib mattresses generally cost more than foam crib mattresses. And if you opt for a cheaper innerspring mattress, it may be uncomfortable, squeaky, or heavy.
Basic innerspring crib mattresses start at about $50, though we'd recommend spending closer to $100 for a more comfortable and supportive option. High-end organic innerspring crib mattresses can cost as much as $500.
With an innerspring mattress, more coils don’t always equal better quality.
For a baby, you can find basic foam mattresses as well as high-end memory foam and gel foam options.
Foam crib mattresses tend to be less expensive than innerspring crib mattresses. They are also more lightweight and potentially more comfortable. However, high-end foam crib mattresses can be pricey.
Low-cost crib mattresses made of foam may be filled with poor-quality foam that's not dense enough. What’s more, memory foam can get hot in summer.
The most basic foam crib mattress can cost as little as $25. However, it's worth spending at least $50 to get a firmer and more durable mattress for baby. High-end foam mattresses made from natural or organic materials may cost as much as $300, but you can find high-end options closer to $150 or $200.
The denser a foam crib mattress is, the better. The reason: denser mattresses are also firmer. Look for a mattress that holds at least 1.5 pounds per cubic foot.
For parents on a budget, some baby gear can be safely bought secondhand. But crib mattresses should be purchased new, not used. Let's examine the reasons why.
In 2002, the British Medical Journal published a study that showed a correlation between used crib mattresses and an increased risk of SIDS. This could come down to a number of outside factors, but we don't think it's worth taking the risk.
Used crib mattresses may can contain mold spores, especially if they don't have a waterproof cover.
Babies might be cute, but they certainly aren't in control of their bodily fluids, so a used crib mattress is likely to be unsanitary.
A used mattress may not be as firm as it was when new, and it's important that young babies sleep on firm mattresses.
The steel gauge of an innerspring mattress will tell you more about its firmness than the coil count. Confusingly, the lower the steel gauge, the thicker the steel. We recommend a steel gauge of 15.5 or below for an adequately firm crib mattress.
Your first thought might be to opt for a soft mattress for increased comfort. But your baby will be much safer on a firm sleeping surface.
In fact, The National Institute of Child Health & Human Development recommends that all babies sleep on firm mattresses to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Your baby will probably sleep in a crib for up to three years, so a fairly good mattress is worth the investment.
For safety reasons, it's vital that your baby's crib mattress fits snugly in the crib.
There should be no gap between the mattress and the edge of the crib; even a small gap poses a risk of entrapment and suffocation.
The size of cribs and crib mattresses is standardized and, by law, all full-size crib mattresses sold in North America must measure between 27 5/8 inches and 28 5/8 inches wide and between 51 3/4 inches and 53 inches long. They should also be no more than six inches deep.
Check that your crib mattress fits snugly in the crib well in advance of when you want your baby to start sleeping in it. That way, you have time to return the mattress and replace it with a larger one if it's too small.
Some crib mattresses are made from natural or organic materials. While this isn't an essential feature, some parents prefer it.
If you have a baby with allergies, breathing problems, or sensitive skin, a mattress containing natural or organic materials could be especially beneficial.
There are hypoallergenic, green, eco-friendly, natural mattresses. They are more expensive, but some people find that very important.
As the caretaker of an infant, you’ll be changing soiled sheets regularly. As such, you want a mattress you can easily lift in order to properly install fresh sheets.
Make sure your chosen crib mattress isn't too heavy for you to comfortably maneuver.
You can buy “dual-firmness” mattresses that are firm on one side (for infants) and soft on the other side (for toddlers). These are particularly useful if yur baby's crib converts into a toddler bed.
The following tips will help you choose the best crib mattress and make the most of it:
To avoid overheating, look for a crib mattress with ventilation holes, especially if you live in a warm climate.
If you opt for an innerspring crib mattress, make sure it has border rods, which prevent sagging at the edges.
Rotate your baby's crib mattress every three months to help it wear more evenly and avoid sagging.
If you're concerned about weight, foam crib mattresses are lighter than innerspring varieties.
In you live in a humid environment, a dehumidifier set to below 50% humidity could help prevent dust mites from settling in and around the mattress.
If you're concerned about chemical emissions from your baby's crib mattress, look for one that's been GREENGUARD certified.
You can buy hypoallergenic crib mattresses, which are ideal if your little one suffers from allergies or asthma.
Ideally, look for a mattress with a machine-washable cover. You'll thank yourself for it later.
Q. Should I choose a crib mattress with a waterproof cover?
A. Unless you have magic diapers, there will be some occasional leakage at night, which is why waterproof covers are an important extra for a crib mattress. However, don't worry too much if your chosen mattress doesn't have a waterproof cover. Instead, consider buying a waterproof sheet to put under the regular sheet.
Q. Are all crib mattresses flame-retardant?
A. U.S. law dictates that all crib mattresses must meet specified flammability standards. While this doesn't mean you can safely forgo all other fire precautions, it should afford you some peace of mind.
Q. What safety precautions should I take regarding my baby's crib mattress?
A. It's important to provide a safe sleeping environment for your baby to lessen the risk of suffocation or SIDS. We've touched on some of these topics above, but here's a quick summary of how to keep your baby safe in her crib.
Ensure the crib mattress fits correctly with no gaps between the mattress and the edge of the crib.
Choose a firm mattress that's new, not used.
Be cautious with bedding. Our expert Aimee advises, "Make sure sheets are the right fit and will not pop off of the mattress."
Don't cover an infant with loose blankets. Either swaddle the child securely or use a correctly fitted baby sleeping bag.
Remove any bumpers from the edge of the crib.
Always lay your baby to sleep on her back with her feet at the bottom end of the crib.
Never use a pillow or let your baby sleep with a blanket or soft toy.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.