How to Select the Best Mattress for Your Baby’s Crib

Choosing the right mattress for your baby’s crib can be a daunting task for new parents. Your baby’s comfort and safety are paramount, making ‘Baby Mattress Selection’ a critical decision. This article sheds light on key factors you need to consider, ensuring your little one gets the best possible sleep.

How to Select the Best Mattress for Your Baby’s Crib

Welcoming a new baby into your life means being prepared with essentials like a crib and a crib mattress. The task of choosing a crib mattress is relatively simpler than selecting the perfect crib, yet there are certain considerations you should not overlook. Many of these considerations revolve around safety, along with some personal and aesthetic factors.

When shopping within the U.S., you can be assured of a certain standard of safety as long as you opt for a new crib mattress. Adhering to some safety guidelines and maintaining cleanliness can ensure that your choice keeps your baby safe and comfortable.

Parenthood, particularly for the first time, comes with its share of worries. The purpose of this guide is not to add to those stresses, but to provide you with all the necessary information to make an informed decision.

In the following sections, we delve into safety guidelines and factors that should be taken into account during your purchase. We will also discuss the construction of crib mattresses, their price ranges, and some optional features you may wish to consider in your baby mattress selection.

The Basics

As you prepare the sleeping environment for your yet-to-be-born baby, remember one guiding principle: minimalism is key. The crib should be as bare and uncluttered as possible, devoid of items like stuffed toys, blankets, crib bumpers, or anything else posing a risk of entrapment. Items like crib bumpers and blankets have the potential to cause suffocation. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain the simplicity and safety of your baby’s sleeping space when considering your baby mattress selection.

Make Sure the Mattress Fits

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) plays a vital role in ensuring product safety, including for baby and kid items. They enforce various guidelines for crib mattresses sold in the U.S., helping parents make safe choices during their baby mattress selection.

One such regulation pertains to the dimensions of a standard-sized crib mattress. According to CPSC guidelines, these mattresses should be no more than 6 inches thick. Additionally, their width and length should measure at least 27¼ inches and 51¼ inches, respectively.

Furthermore, the CPSC stresses the importance of a snug fit between the mattress and the crib’s perimeter. The gap should not exceed ½ inch if the mattress is sold along with a crib. This rule aims to eliminate any potential risk factors that could jeopardize your baby’s safety.

However, keep in mind that not all cribs adhere to standard sizes. Mini cribs or oval cribs, for example, will require non-standardized mattresses. In such cases, each nonstandard crib should come with a corresponding mattress that leaves no more than a ½-inch gap between the mattress and the crib perimeter. This ensures a safe and comfortable sleeping environment for your baby, regardless of the crib’s size or shape.

Make Sure It’s Firm

It may surprise some parents, but a baby’s mattress should be noticeably firmer than what would typically be considered comfortable for an adult. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) underscored this reality in late 2022 by introducing new crib mattress safety standards, which included a firmness test. This new requirement was a response to several tragic incidents where excessively soft mattresses were linked to infant fatalities.

Beware of Memory Foam

Another crucial factor to remember in your baby mattress selection is to avoid memory foam mattresses. Unlike crib mattresses, these options are designed to soften and mold themselves to the weight of the body – a feature that’s unsuitable for babies. A crib mattress needs to be firm enough that it does not sink under your baby’s weight.

Protection Against Messes

An undeniable fact of parenthood is that babies can be messy. Leaky diapers and spit-ups can soil the mattress, leading to dampness and grime, which could potentially foster mildew and mold. To combat this, it’s advisable to purchase a separate mattress cover. This additional layer can protect the mattress from microbes that may pose a threat to your baby’s health.

Follow Sleep Recommendations

Lastly, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly suggests that babies should have their own dedicated sleeping space. This means no bed-sharing, not even with siblings or parents. Adult beds often come with accessories like blankets and pillows that are unnecessary and potentially hazardous for babies. These items can increase the risk of suffocation and strangulation. If there are instances where you fall asleep with your baby in your bed, ensure to move them to their own crib when you wake up.

Types of Crib Mattresses

Foam Mattresses

Foam mattresses are typically crafted from high-density polyurethane foam. Weighing about 8 to 13 pounds, they are much lighter than their innerspring counterparts, making them easier to handle when you’re changing sheets or adjusting the crib mattress height. Moreover, foam mattresses are usually less expensive than innerspring mattresses, with prices ranging from around $40 to $400. However, their lifespan tends to be shorter—if the mattress begins to soften and compress under your baby’s weight, it’s time for a replacement. Remember, this is different from memory foam, or “viscoelastic foam,” which is designed to slowly conform to a shape that’s placed on it. In the case of a baby’s mattress, the surface should always remain firm.

Innerspring Mattresses

Innerspring crib mattresses are constructed with steel coils, encased in cotton or foam cushioning. They are generally more expensive than foam mattresses, costing between $60 and $1,300 or more, and are heavier, weighing between 10 and 20 pounds. Their robust construction usually leads to a longer lifespan, according to Jenny Son, Vice President and General Merchandising Manager at Buybuy Baby. The firmness and quality of an innerspring mattress can be evaluated by its coil count—the more coils, the better the support. Also, the thickness of the coil springs, referred to as the steel gauge, is another aspect to consider. Lower numbers signify thicker gauges, translating to a firmer mattress. Some high-quality innerspring mattresses also feature border rods, steel bars around the edges, for enhanced firmness.

Hybrid Mattresses

Also known as two-stage, dual firm, or convertible crib mattresses, hybrid mattresses are two-sided and suitable for use from the early days through toddlerhood. While the infant side of the mattress is firm, the toddler side is slightly softer. However, it’s crucial to note that both sides must be sufficiently firm to ensure safety for a newborn. These mattresses generally come with instructions on the appropriate time to flip them.

Always bear in mind, when buying a mattress, that it should be firm enough not to indent when your baby lies on it, and it should fit snugly into the crib, leaving no gaps. These two factors are the most crucial to consider for your baby’s safety and comfort.

Crib Mattress Covers

A clean and hygienic crib mattress is essential for your little one’s health and safety. Babies are messy and prone to diaper leaks, spit-ups, and other liquid spills that can soil their crib mattress. This can lead to the growth of harmful mold, bacteria, and other germs, which can be particularly dangerous for the fragile immune system of your baby.

The best solution to this challenge is the use of a waterproof, washable crib mattress cover. As suggested by expert Harvey, a separate waterproof cover is highly recommended. Such covers are safe and indeed endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). They recommend a flannel-backed, waterproof mattress cover that is both comfortable and cool for your baby.

When selecting a mattress cover, it is important to ensure a perfect fit over the mattress. The cover should not compromise the firmness of the mattress. Vinyl covers are a popular choice owing to their efficacy.

There are concerns over the potential harm posed by residual phthalates in vinyl, which can negatively impact a baby’s development, particularly male reproductive development. To ensure safety, seek out products that are explicitly labeled as ‘vinyl-free’ or ‘phthalate-free’. These are readily available, with many companies advertising these features on their packaging or online.

If you choose to avoid vinyl, an all-fabric route is also feasible. This would involve multiple thin layers rather than a single thick layer. As long as there is an adequate barrier to prevent stains from reaching the mattress itself, your baby’s crib environment can be maintained as clean and safe.

Do You Need a ‘Breathable’ Crib Mattress?

The Concept of ‘Breathable’ Crib Mattresses

In recent years, the term ‘breathable’ has gained popularity in the baby gear industry, with many companies promoting their ‘breathable’ mattresses as a safer choice. They claim these mattresses help prevent risks such as suffocation, overheating, and ‘rebreathing’—where the baby inhales their own exhaled carbon dioxide. It’s hypothesized that ‘rebreathing’ may contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Scientific Stand on ‘Breathable’ Mattresses

However, it’s important to note that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated there is not yet concrete evidence supporting the link between ‘rebreathing’ and SIDS. Furthermore, no epidemiological evidence currently exists to validate that ‘breathable’ mattresses can indeed offer protection against SIDS.

Choosing a ‘Breathable’ Mattress

This is not to say that purchasing a ‘breathable’ mattress is a wrong choice. If you do choose one, ensure it is firm and fits snugly within the crib. These are fundamental safety features that should not be compromised.

Importance of Waterproof Mattress Cover

Regardless of the type of mattress, it is recommended to use a waterproof mattress cover. This prevents accumulation of mold, mildew, and other harmful microbes that can be detrimental to your baby’s health.

Organic, Natural, and Other Designations

The term “organic” in relation to mattresses is regulated by the Department of Agriculture. To bear an “organic” seal, a mattress should consist of at least 95 percent organic material. However, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) doesn’t provide specific regulations for crib mattresses outside of the general USDA regulations.

Despite this, crib mattresses are mandated to meet certain safety standards, such as limits on phthalate and lead content. If you’re looking to go a step further with safety certifications, there are several you could consider.

Greenguard Gold is one such certification, which sets boundaries on chemical emissions and conducts tests accordingly. Another valuable certification is CertiPUR-US, which establishes standards and carries out tests for the emissions of formaldehyde, heavy metals, and volatile organic compounds.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is another notable label. To earn the “organic” grade from GOTS, at least 95 percent of a crib mattress’s materials must be certified organic. This label also bans certain harmful compounds, including phthalates and chemical flame retardants.

The Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) is a significant certification for crib mattresses made with latex. This standard ensures that these mattresses contain 95 percent latex rubber sap harvested from organic-certified rubber tree plantations.

How to Clean a Crib Mattress

The importance of a waterproof mattress cover can’t be overstated – it makes the task of cleaning so much easier. To clean the cover, simply wipe it down with a damp cloth or sponge using soapy water, then let it dry before replacing the clean sheets. Avoid using harsh cleaning products or bleach, as these could potentially damage the waterproof layer.

Some mattress covers can be machine-washed and tumble dried on a low setting. You should wash the cover as needed, for instance when your baby has an accident. Your usual laundry detergent will suffice for this task. However, if you notice signs of skin allergies in your baby, or if you prefer to switch to a gentler alternative, consider using a detergent like Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean Free & Clear, which has been rated very well by Consumer Reports.

Ideally, your crib mattress cover should be of such high quality that you won’t need to clean the mattress itself. However, in case a stain does end up seeping through to the mattress, start by soaking up any liquid with a dry rag. Spot clean the mattress with soap and water, then let it dry completely before replacing the cover and sheets. Always refer to the product instructions for specific guidance on cleaning your crib mattress.


In conclusion, making an informed decision for your ‘Baby Mattress Selection’ is crucial to ensure your baby’s safety and comfort. From considering ‘breathable’ options to organic certifications, every detail counts. Always opt for a firm, snug fit and do not overlook the importance of an easy-to-clean, waterproof cover. The well-being of your child starts with the choices you make today.

Kieran Howells

Kieran Howells is a father of a nine months old daughter and an expert of baby products from Iowa. He reviews the products that parents need for their newborns. He knows stuff. He is dedicated to extensive researching and testing of various products from car seats to nail clippers to make sure that Baby Loves Care provides you only with the best quality products and features honest to God reviews.

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