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Crib Mattress Buying Guide for Parents

Last Updated on April 9, 2020 by Ben Locke

Babies sleep for up to 17 hours a day, and considering this, picking the right mattress is of utmost importance. Being a new parent, it can be tough to know which crib mattress is the best for your newborn. It is definitely one of the most important purchases you will make for your child, thus ensure thorough research. When choosing a mattress for adults, comfort topped the priority list. The same is not the case with crib mattress; safety is what you need to consider here. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the best thing a parent can do for the newborn is to give them a safe sleep environment. To ensure this, a safe, firm, and cozy mattress is a must. If you may not know the Federal Government regulates the thickness and size of the crib mattress, you still have plenty of things to consider. To help you, we have done the research and listed a detailed crib mattress buying guide that will help you look for the best product, which includes:

  • Why should you buy the right one for your child?
  • Important considerations to note while buying
  • SIDS and crib mattress
  • Essential safety tips and
  • Answers to the commonly asked questions

Why Choosing The Right Crib Mattress Is Important?

Before we look at the crib mattress buying guide, it is essential for you to know why you should get the right and best one. Let’s get into details: The right crib mattress can benefit your baby in a number of ways. The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in their own bed.  As you know, your baby will spend around 17 hours sleeping in their crib. The right mattress will provide appropriate support to your child while growing. If the baby cannot sleep properly, he/she can become cranky. You can’t prevent them from waking up in the middle of the night, but at least that won’t be because of any discomfort while sleeping. An appropriate and safe mattress will protect the baby while sleeping, reducing the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Crib Mattress Buying Guide

To make your search simpler, we will help you with every information you require to make an informed decision of buying a crib mattress for your child. Check out the crib mattress buying guide to know the important considerations (mentioned in no particular order):

Types of Crib Mattresses

The primary aspect that you need to consider while looking for a crib mattress is its type. There are three types available, and you need to determine which will be appropriate for your child from the list below:

Foam Crib Mattress

This type is made from polyurethane foam. This weighs less when compared to the other types, and the thickness is generally between 4 to 6 inches. The foam used in this type of mattress ranges from very firm to very soft.  Most foam crib mattresses available today are rated as ‘medium firm.’ Firm mattresses are the safest option for infants. Support is one important point to consider. Support here is tied to the density of the mattress, which shows the weight in pounds per cubic foot. Foam with a higher density offers better support when compared to lower density foam. Foam mattresses are the least expensive of all the types. When compared to innerspring, this mattress provides less edge support. Foam crib mattresses may produce minimal order and hardly makes any noise when bearing weight.

Innerspring Crib Mattress

These mattresses provide great support for its steel coils in the core. The innerspring mattress has at least one cushioning layer of cotton or foam and an insulator pad between the spring and the infant’s body.  When compared to the foam mattress, this type is heavy and weighs around 20 pounds. The one made with organic materials weighs even more. The innerspring mattress provides ideal firmness for infants and newborns with minimal rollover risk. When compared to the foam mattresses, innerspring provides more targeted support to the infant based on how the bodyweight is distributed. This mattress is heavier when compared to the other types and also lasts longer. They are expensive than foam crib mattresses. Some parents find the innerspring noisy because of the squeaking coils.

Organic Crib Mattress

Last but not least is the organic crib mattress.  Any mattress has given the term ‘organic’ means it has been certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard. Before you start looking out for this option, note that none of the organic mattresses is 100% organic. The Global Organic Textile Standard certification is given to mattresses made of at least 70% organic materials like cotton, wool, or latex and has polyurethane foam, which is certified by CertiPUR-US. Ensure the organic crib mattresses is firm on at least one side because they can be designed with single or flippable firmness. The support offered by the organic mattress will vary from model to model. The foam density and thickness is the same as for mattresses. The organic matters are the most expensive of all the types. They cost at least $200.  Many parents have started opting for organic mattresses for their children, but these are not as common as the other two types. Just like the foam mattresses, these produce hardly any noise and offer average edge support.

Crib Mattress Size

The legal size of the crib mattress, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, is 27.25 inches X 51.25 inches and thickness, not more than 6 inches. Ensure that the mattress fits the crib perfectly. According to the CPSC, make sure there are no gaps of more than two fingers between the crib and the mattress, which precisely means not more than 1 inch. This avoids suffocation and the newborn’s head to get trapped.

Standards and Certifications for Crib Mattresses

Safety is the most factor in picking the right crib mattress for your child. The mattress must fulfill the safety standards set by the American Society for testing and materials and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Apart from these, there are other popular certifications you need to consider when looking for the organic crib mattresses like:

  • Global Organic Textile Standard – it is a certification for textiles made from organic fibers. Textiles can get a GOTS certification only when they are made of 70% organic fibers.
  • Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Certification – when a mattress has this certification, it means that the testing and processing were done, and the mattress has been screened for any harmful elements. Note that the entire mattress cannot be Oeko-Tex Certified, so read through the fine print before purchasing.
  • GREENGUARD Certification – This is a testing program to check air quality and chemical emissions. To meet the certification, a lab must verify that there are no hazardous chemicals used that would be harmful to infants and toddlers.

Crib Mattress Firmness

It is one of the factors that increase the risk of SIDS. Firmness mattresses are ideal and safest options for babies. Softer mattresses may conform to their body and sink too deeply while rolling, which can cause suffocation. Softer mattresses are ideal for toddlers who have control over their movements. You will find mattresses of varying firmness levels on every side, one firmer side for infants and another softer for toddlers.


Irrespective of the type of mattress you choose, ensure it’s of top quality. The cheapest innerspring and foam mattresses have low-quality vinyl covering and edges that crack and tear over time. Quality mattresses have thicker, tear-proof, double or triple laminates, puncture-proof, or fine organic cotton. An innerspring mattress having quality gauge steel and cushioning weighs more. Also, a foam mattress will weigh more when it has dense and high-quality foam. This certainly does not mean that you have to spend a lot to get a good quality mattress.  A mattress costing between $100 to $200  will serve your infant well, while prices can go above $400 as well. The expensive mattresses are organic, made of natural latex or organic cotton.


The cover is the outermost layer of the mattress. Some are made of waterproof covers like vinyl and polyethylene. These waterproof covers are ventilated to avoid the build-up of leakage during any accidents. You will also find non-waterproof covers made of cotton. Nylon covers offer fluid resistance. Consider the certification before buying because a few vinyl materials might contain phthalates, which can be harmful. Look for a phthalate-free mattress.


Make your baby sleep on the back as it is the easiest to breathe, and this reduces the risk of SIDS. A firm mattress providing enough support helps the babies to remain on the back, and the ones which are not supportive, lead the child to roll over on their stomach.

Get a New Crib Mattress

If possible, purchase a new crib mattress. The most important reason for this is hygiene.  If you get a used one, you are unsure of how it was cared for or even stored. When the matrix is stored properly, mold and bacteria can breathe on the surface. Buying a new one is a wise option, especially for your first child, and make sure to keep it clean and dry so that for a second child.

Do Not Consider The Warranty

When you go shopping for the trip mattresses, you will notice different warranty tenures offered by different brands like one year,  5 years, 7 years, or a lifetime. Don’t make a decision based on a long warranty and pays extra. Warranties are often a marketing tool to tempt the customer to pay more.  Expect your quality crib mattress,  no matter what the type, to last as long as you are going to use it covered without any rips and tears.


Mattresses that weigh more are very difficult to remove from the crib for cover changing and cleaning.  Most quality mattresses found in the market weigh less than 20 pounds. The lightest of all types is a foam mattress, followed by innerspring. It is not easy to assess the weight of the mattress when you are in stores, but you can easily get the details online.


Some innerspring mattress produces squeaking noises when the Infant moves, which can be sleep distraction. Thus avoid vinyl covers as it may lead to more noise and prefer cloth covers. Foam mattresses are sound absorbent when compared to the innerspring.


Maintaining the child’s body temperature is very important because overheating is one of the most common causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Body temperature is maintained if the mattress is made of breathable materials and also it’s cover. Buy a mattress and a cover that promotes airflow and allows your baby to breathe, especially when they roll over on their stomach. Some crib mattresses come with specially constructed vents to maintain the airflow. Cloth mattress covers hold more heat than vinyl, but it is more breathable. Some vinyl covers are aerated to offer more venting.

Edge Support

A few crib mattresses do not have reinforced edge support. This causes the edges to sink overtime when the child rolls over and over again, which increases the risk of suffocation and physical injury. It can also be dangerous for the child who likes to stand on the crib edge. Proper edge support provides extra durability and firmness, so when your child stands on it, the mattress does not sag. Thus it is important for you to consider the edge support as well and not just focus on the snugly fit of the mattress.

Layers of Crib Mattress

If you choose an innerspring crib mattress, more layers mean a better mattress. The weight of the mattress tends to increase when it has better gauge steel and cushioning inside.  A good innerspring mattress is determined by its weight, and the quality layers determine the weight.

Insulator Pads

In an innerspring mattress, there is a thick layer of insulator pad above the steel coils, which prevents the coils from poking. Another key component in the crib mattress buying guide is the quality of this pad. The innerspring mattress in which low-quality insulators can feel good on the pockets but may not hold up for a long time. Quality insulator pads have coir fiber, made of shredded coconut shells. Another type is the fiber wrap pad, which is made of pressed cloth scraps. The former type of pads are costlier than the latter, but both work well, it all depends on your choice. Avoid buying mattresses having insulator pads made of woven polyester because they are low quality, less durable, and form pockets over some time. They can also become concave at the place where the maximum baby’s weight rests, which can be a safety issue. Also, mattresses with plastic mesh insulator pads are not a good choice to buy.

Airflow Pockets

If you are planning to buy a waterproof mattress, it won’t have a breathable surface. We have a solution for you, look for mattresses having ventilation pockets.

Cushioning Layer

Cushioning is a layer above the coils in the mattress sandwich, made of polyester, cotton, or foam. The cotton and foam layer indicates quality and can be costlier. Polyester is less costly but not an ideal choice as it tends to form pockets. We suggest you not buy a crib mattress unless you know what the layers are made of. Go through the mattress description on the brand website and then take a decision wisely.

Easy to Clean

A mattress with washable covers is recommended because accidents can happen anytime. Multi-layered polyethylene and vinyl resist leaks, and the removable covers can be washed. Parents prefer mattresses that are leaks and stain resistant and also simple to clean.


The amount you will spend on the mattress varies on the type you wish to purchase. The crib mattresses are often priced comparatively higher than the standard size mattresses available. The foam crib mattress is found under $100, while the innerspring is available between $75 to $150. Mattresses made of organic or natural materials are, of course, priced on the higher side, between $300 to $400. The cover also determines the price; vinyl covers are costlier than cotton because they are more breathable and simple to clean.

Duration of Use

Some mattresses for cribs are reversible. One side is firm for infants, and the other is medium-firm for toddlers. These mattresses are called two-stage mattresses by some. They come with a marking on both sides to let you know which side to use when. If you are planning to buy these, ensure to consult with your pediatrician about when is the right time to flip.


Most mattresses smell when they are removed from their original packaging, known as off-gassing. This odor disappears within a couple of days. The foam mattresses produce more off-gassing smell than innerspring. The crib mattresses are designed to produce minimal odor.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Baby Crib Mattress

It is unexplained and unfortunate death of an infant during sleep, and thus it is a major determinant while looking for a crib mattress. SIDS is one of the leading causes of newborn death in the United States. It claims around the lives of 2,000 babies every year between one month to one year old. Particular causes of SIDS are unknown, but some considerations put newborns at a higher risk.

These are the most vulnerable:

    • Babies with brain defects, particularly the parts that control wakefulness and breathing.
    • Babies with less than normal-weight because their brain is not mature enough to control breathing.
    • Babies having respiratory infections.

Apart from these considerations, some essential environmental factors make babies exposed to SIDS.

    • Sleeping on the stomach increases the chances of suffocation. Also, babies who sleep on their side can roll onto their stomach. Thus, back sleeping is the best position for them.
    • Babies sleeping on a soft mattress. So if they roll onto their stomach, then a softer mattress makes them more vulnerable to suffocation. Thus, the crib mattress ‘has to be’ firm.
    • Babies that sleep with their parents, siblings, or pet. There is a lower risk of SIDS for babies who share a room with their parents but sleep in their own crib.

These are also risk factors for SIDS, according to the Mayo Clinic:

    • Female infants are less likely to die of SIDS when compared to male infants.
    • Most SIDS cases in the U.S. are for newborns between 2 to 4 months.
    • Babies whose siblings or cousins have died of SIDS are at a higher risk.
    • Passive smoking puts babies at higher risk. So ensure that the baby is not around in a place where someone is or has smoked.

Do not worry because there are precautionary measures that you can take to reduce the risk of developing SIDS for your babies.

    • Put your baby to sleep on their back. Wake up frequently at night to see if they are sleeping on the back and not rolled onto their stomach. They may sleep on their stomach after a year when they can move.
    • A firm crib mattress is the best. Do not keep your babies on a soft mattress or even quilts. Ensure that the crib does not have any other objects like stuff toys because the babies can develop breathing problems if they press their face against the toy.
    • It is important to regulate the temperature. Ensure they are warm in the cribs but raising the temperature above that can develop SIDS. If the temperature is cool, then layer your baby, so you can even remove it when you want. Never cover your baby’s face with a blanket, even if it is too cold.
    • Set up the baby crib in your bedroom for at least a year. Do not make your baby sleep with you in your bed.
    • Reduce the risk of developing SIDS by breastfeeding your child till their 6 months. Babies who suck a pacifier are less likely to develop SIDS but do not give a pacifier in their mouth until they are a month old. Consult a child specialist in this case.

Crib Mattress Caring Tips

Cleaning the crib mattress regularly is essential to make sure your baby enjoys a hygienic and safe sleep. This step will also ensure a longer mattress life. The caring tips include:

    • If the mattress has a fabric cover, wash it with a mild non-biological detergent
    • If the cover is PVC, then clean it with a mild solution of warm water and sterilizing solution.
    • If the mattress has non-removable covers, vacuum it regularly.
    • Flip the mattress to maintain the shape, if it’s a flippable mattress or else rotates the head to the foot to use both ends equally.
    • Do not put your baby to sleep on the mattress that hasn’t dried completely.
    • Do not dry clean the crib mattress ever because that can leave harmful chemicals.

Important Safety Tips

    • Do not use a second-hand crib mattress. Studies have stated that such mattresses increase the risk of SIDS. The researchers are not sure if the used mattress increased the risk, or it was a coincidence. But it is safe to purchase a new one always.
    • Also, if you have a crib mattress of your first child, before using it for the second child, ensure it is not worn or foam exposed because this increases bacterial growth.
    • Air mattresses are not a good option to use. The soft surface can lead to suffocation. Consumer Product Safety Commission warns, “do not put your baby to sleep on an air mattress or any other soft surface like a water bed, which are not safe for baby use.


Crib Mattress – Frequently Asked Questions

How Dangerous is Bed-Sharing?

One of the most common reasons for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is bed-sharing, particularly babies younger than 6 months old. Co-sleeping puts your baby at risk of suffocation and increases the chances of SIDS. The safest place for your baby to sleep in their own crib placed near your bed so that you can keep a watch on them.

How Firm Should the Crib Mattress be?

Firstly, ensure that the mattress fits the crib properly without leaving any gaps that could be dangerous to the infant. Yes, the crib mattress should be firm. If you choose a soft mattress that conforms to the body shape of the infant, it could increase the risk of suffocation, leading to SIDS. Press the mattress in the center and edges. It should not conform to your hand shape, and this is the firmness level you should look for.

How Long Does a Crib Mattress Last?

A crib mattress approximately lasts for 3 years if taken care of properly. If the mattress is flippable, it can last for an additional 3 years. Flippable mattresses can be turned and converted to a toddler bed. If the mattress is non-flippable, do not turn it around to use it for more years.

Why Should an Infant Sleep On a Firm Mattress?

It is safe to put your baby to sleep on a firm surface rather than a soft and snuggly one. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends a firm mattress to be safer because it reduces the chances of SIDS if the baby rolls over. Rolling over is inevitable with growth, but choosing the safe mattress for your child is in your hands.

We hope this crib mattress buying guide helps you make an informed decision. We would like to add, No matter the type you choose, ensure to follow the guidelines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians. 


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