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Considering how much time babies and toddlers spend asleep, choosing the right crib mattress requires a great deal of research and consideration. Unlike choosing a mattress for an adult, comfort takes a back seat to safety when it comes to top considerations. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that one of the best things parents can do for their babies is to provide a safe sleep environment, which includes choosing a safe, firm mattress that fits snugly in the crib.
While the federal government regulates the size and thickness of crib mattresses, shoppers still have plenty of options when it comes to choosing the right mattress model. Most crib mattresses belong to one of three construction categories: foam, innerspring or organic materials. Mattresses may also be designed specifically for infants or toddlers, though dual-sided mattresses can accommodate both age groups. Shoppers should also compare mattress performance based on factors like support, firmness, breathability and temperature regulation, ease of cleaning and price. Certification of materials is also crucial.
This page will look at the major considerations for crib mattress shoppers, as well as the top-rated models in different categories.
Designed with your baby’s safety in mind, the Newton crib mattress is one of the more innovative crib mattresses on the market. This firm mattress is made from fine filaments of food-grade plastic polymer, dubbed “Wovenaire,” that are spun together and encased in a polyester cover. The result is an extremely breathable mattress that is intended to decrease suffocation risk if babies ever roll over to be facedown. It’s also known for its temperature regulation, which is important in helping prevent babies from overheating.
Made with no foam, glue, latex or springs, the Newton is 100 percent recyclable, and it’s GREENGUARD Gold-certified so it won’t release any harmful substances. Not only is the cover machine washable, but the core itself can be washed in a bathtub or shower, which reduces the chance of bacteria buildup. Adding to its longevity is its dual-firmness design, with a firm side for infants and a softer side for toddlers.
Newborns sleep up to 18 hours a day, so you want to feel good about where they’re laying their little heads. The Sol Organics Crib Mattress incorporates natural, organic materials so you can sleep soundly knowing your baby is on a healthy sleep surface. The innerspring mattress is supported by a layer of breathable and natural coconut coir. It includes a layer of GOTS-certified wool as a fire barrier to avoid the use of chemical fire retardants. Wool is naturally resistant to mold, mildew and dust mites and tends to sleep cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
The firm mattress is dual-sided and is covered with a GOTS-certified organic cotton shell. The cover can be spot cleaned but is not removable, so you may want to purchase an additional water resistant, machine-washable cover.
Infants and toddlers have different mattress firmness needs, but you likely don’t want to purchase two crib mattresses. The Little Dreamer by Moonlight Slumber is dual-sided, meaning it has a firm side for infants and a more plush side for toddlers. Made from plant-based foam, the mattress also contains a woven fire barrier with no chemicals used. It’s encased in a non-toxic, medical-grade nylon cover that’s water, antimicrobial and odor resistant. Your child will have accidents, so this kind of protection is great.
The Little Dreamer is GREENGUARD Gold-certified, so you can rest assured it doesn’t contain potentially harmful materials. Because it’s made from foam, the mattress is only about 10 pounds, making it much easier to change the sheets.
If you want a quality crib mattress that won’t break the bank, the Heavenly Dreams by Safety 1st is the one for you. The core of this 5” mattress is made from thermo-bonded polyester fibers, making it firm but also very light at only about 7 pounds. The cover is made from vinyl laminated with polypropylene, so it’s very durable and water resistant. It can easily be wiped off and also resists odors.
The Heavenly Dreams is GREENGUARD Gold-certified, meaning it has passed rigorous standards for low emissions of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) indoors. It’s also free of phthalates and lead, so you don’t have to worry about your baby sleeping near any suspicious chemicals. The Heavenly Dreams mattress is built to last and a fraction of the cost of other crib mattresses.
As they get older, some babies simply insist on sleeping on their stomachs even if they’re placed in their cribs on their backs. The Breathe Easy Baby Crib Mattress gives parents peace of mind with its unique, breathable design. The mattress is actually comprised of two parts. The sleep surface is made from medical-grade, 100% spun polyester spacer fabric, which the company claims in 330 times more permeable than other mattresses. It fits over a firm, poplar base that can sit in any standard-sized crib.
Because of its porous design, the Breathe Easy Baby also helps with temperature regulation. Babies sleep better and more safely when their sleep surface is cool. The mattress is also easy to clean. The surface can be removed and machine-washed, and the base can be easily wiped or disinfected.
To help you choose the perfect crib mattress for you and your baby, we’ll outline different crib mattress types, shopping considerations and information related to SIDS and mattresses.
The vast majority of crib mattresses sold today fall under at least one of the following categories:
These mattresses are usually made from polyurethane foam. They typically weigh less than other crib mattresses and usually measure four to six inches thick
Firmness: The foam used in standard mattresses may range from very soft to very firm, but most crib mattresses are rated as “medium firm” or higher. Firm mattresses are considered the safest for infants
Support: Support in a foam mattress is tied to its density, which indicates the foam’s weight in pounds per cubic foot (or PCF). Foams with higher densities tends to offer better support than lower-density foams
Innerspring mattresses feature steel coils in the support core. They also feature at least one cushioning layer of foam or cotton, as well as an insulator pad that acts as a buffer between the child’s body and the springs. Innerspring crib mattresses tend to be heavy, typically 15 to 20 pounds, and those made with organic comfort layer materials may weigh even more.
Firmness: Most innerspring crib mattresses are firm enough for newborns and infants, and pose a minimal rollover risk.
Support: Crib mattresses with springs offer targeted support based on how the child’s body weight is distributed. As a result, they tend to offer more support than foam-based mattresses.
The term “organic” refers to any mattress that has been certified through the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Most organic crib mattresses are considered “foam” models, but some organic innersprings are also available. It’s important to note that organic mattresses are never 100% organic; rather, the GOTS certification is given to materials that are at least 70% organic—such as organic cotton, latex, or wool—and contain polyurethane foam that has been CertiPUR-US certified.
Firmness: Organic crib mattresses may be designed with single- or dual-firmness surfaces. In either case, at least one side should be sufficiently firm for an infant.
Support: The support of an organic mattress will vary from model to model, but—like with foam mattresses—it is tied to foam density, as well as mattress thickness.
When comparing mattress models for a child’s crib, here are a few key factors to consider.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), mattresses used in cribs must be at least 27 1/4 inches wide and 51 1/4 inches long, and must also measure no more than six inches thick. CPSC standards also call for mattresses that snugly fit inside the crib with little to no space on the sides so babies aren’t able to become trapped.
Also known as the ticking, the cover is the outermost layer of material on a mattress. Some crib mattresses feature waterproof covers made from vinyl or polyethylene, either single- or multi-layer, which are ventilated to prevent a buildup of leakage when accidents occur. Other covers are made from cloth fabrics like cotton; these are not usually waterproof, but covers with nylon layers offer more fluid resistance. Be sure to check the cover for certification labels. Some vinyl materials may contain phthalates, or plasticizers, which can be harmful to a child’s health. A high-quality mattress should be phthalate-free.
To reduce the risk of SIDS, babies should sleep on their backs because it’s easiest to breathe in this position. Infants placed to sleep on their stomachs are also at a higher risk of suffocation. A supportive mattress helps babies remain on their backs, while mattresses that lack sufficient support may lead to the child rolling onto his or her stomach.
Firmness is another mattress factor that impacts the risk of SIDS. Firmer mattresses are considered the safest option for infants. Softer mattresses that conform to the baby’s body may lead to them sinking too deeply and/or rolling over and potentially suffocating. Soft mattresses may be more suitable for toddlers who have more control over their movements. Some mattresses sold today offer different firmness levels on each side of the mattress, typically a firmer side for infants and a softer side for toddlers.
Models that are on the heavier side may be more difficult to remove from the crib for cleaning or changing the sheet. Most crib mattresses weigh less than 20 pounds. Foam mattresses tend to be the lightest, followed by innersprings.
Some crib mattresses lack reinforced support along the edges. This can cause the edges to sink when a young child rolls over, which elevates the risk of physical injury, as well as suffocation. It can also be dangerous for little ones who like to stand at the edge of their cribs. For these reasons, shoppers should not only make sure their mattress snugly fits inside the crib, but also that the edges don’t sink too deeply.
Overheating is a leading cause of SIDS, so it’s important for parents to look out for mattresses that help control body temperature. Temperature regulation is often tied to how breathable the mattress materials are, particularly in the cover. Cloth covers, for example, retain more heat than vinyl covers. However, cloth tends to be more breathable, though many vinyl covers are perforated or aerated to make them more breathable.
Vinyl covers for crib mattresses may produce squeaking sounds when the child rolls around, which can lead to sleep disruptions. Cloth covers tend to be much quieter. By the same token, foam mattresses are fairly quiet compared to spring-based mattresses.
Because accidents do happen, a mattress with a washable cover and core is generally recommended. Multi-layered vinyl or polyethylene covers can help resist leaks and stains, and removable cloth covers can be washed. A mattress that resists stains and is easy to clean can be helpful for parents and also create a more sanitary sleeping space for the child.
The price-point of a crib mattress may vary by mattress type, but generally speaking these models are priced much lower than standard-sized mattresses. Foam crib mattresses, for example, are often priced lower than $100, while innerspring crib mattresses typically cost between $75 and $150. Crib mattresses made of natural or organic materials are usually more expensive—as much as $300 to $400, in some cases. The cover material may also impact price; vinyl covers are often more expensive since they are considered more breathable and easier to clean than cloth covers.
Most mattresses emit smells known as off-gassing when they are removed from their original packaging. These odors can be unpleasant, but they usually dissipate within a day or two, especially in well-ventilated rooms. Foam mattresses tend to produce more off-gassing than innersprings. However, crib mattresses are designed to emit minimal odor, and they must be certified as such (see next entry).
Crib mattresses may be certified in multiple areas. All models should be GREENGUARD Gold-certified for minimal emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs); Greenguard Gold certification applies to VOCs, as well as other chemical components that carry health risks. Additionally, foam mattresses should be CertiPUR-US certified. This designation ensures that the foam doesn’t contain certain materials, such as formaldehyde or lead. Crib mattresses sold as “organic” should be Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified, as well.
SIDS is the unexplained death of an infant, usually during sleep, so it’s a major consideration when shopping for a crib mattress. SIDS claims the lives of nearly 2,000 newborns and infants each year, and is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. for children between the ages of one month and one year. While specific causes are unknown, there are certain factors that put babies at a higher risk.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following groups are among the most vulnerable:
In addition to health factors, some environmental factors can also make babies more vulnerable to SIDS.
The Mayo Clinic lists additional risk factors for SIDS.
Fortunately, parents can help reduce their baby’s risk of developing SIDS by exercising the following precautionary measures: