A Parent’s Guide to Buying the Right Baby Crib Mattress


how to choose the best mattress for a crib

A crib is one of the main items you buy for your baby even before she is born. You must have spent more than one hour choosing a design that fits into the room and selecting cute bedding made of natural materials.

Stop right here.

Did you choose the mattress?

It is a key element of the crib. And considering the fact that babies spend most of their time in their crib, it should be given special attention.

So, let me outline the main criteria that you should know before you go shopping for the perfect crib mattress.

What to Consider When Choosing a Baby Crib Mattress

Let me start by telling you this one thing:

You should only use mattresses designed specifically for baby cribs.

Cutting your Queen sized mattress topper or anything of this kind to fit into a crib is a bad idea. Although it may eventually fit, it isn’t designed for babies.

Thus, it’s unsafe for them.

Size and Form

According to the CPSC standards, all full-sized baby cribs must be equipped with a full-size mattress.

A full-size crib is the one that is 28 ± 5/8 inches in width and 52 3/8 ± 5/8 inches in length. Therefore, a mattress that fits perfectly and saves the baby’s head — as well as legs, arms, and fingers — from being stuck between the mattress and the bed measures at least 27 1/4 inches x 51 1/4 inches, and its thickness should not exceed 6 inches.

“Federal law regulation greatly simplifies the process of choosing a mattress. Thus, you can buy that pretty little crib from Amazon and then order a mattress from any well-known manufacturer and in most cases, they will work together well.”

There also are oval and round cribs. But this is the case when you need to choose between a fancy design and availability of options to choose from.

Firmness and Support

We all know that a firm mattress can help prevent SIDS. It provides even support to a baby’s body and doesn’t allow your little one to turn to their stomach.

Why is that important?

Because sleeping on the stomach increases the risk of suffocation.

At the same time, back sleeping is considered the safest position for newborns since it’s the easiest position for breathing.

“To find out how firm the mattress is, apply some pressure with your hand right at the center of the surface. If it quickly bounces back to its original state, that’s a good sign.”

Washable Covers

Accidents will happen, believe me. No one is immune to them. And they can easily ruin the whole mattress.

To save yourself from extra spendings, consider models with a removable, washable, and waterproof cover. They can significantly facilitate the care for a mattress. Or, consider buying a separate waterproof protector.


This point is directly bound to the previous one. Most likely, the first time of the tot’s life, you will often have to change their bed.

And when I say “often”, you can definitely triple the number you associate with this word.

Therefore, the weight of the mattress should be easy enough for you to lift it and change sheets or mattress cover even being bleary-eyed in the middle of the night. Models weighing from 10 to 20 pounds will work just fine.


Since the first months of life, your little one will spend a lot of time in their crib. That’s why good breathability of a mattress is a necessity. This is especially important criteria for foam mattresses.

Good air circulation will not only protect the mattress from mold and bacteria growth but also make sure your baby won’t sleep hot.

Innerspring vs Foam: Pros and Cons of Two Most Popular Materials for a Crib Mattress

how to choose cot mattress

When you browse the Web in search of a crib mattress for your baby, you will most likely have to choose between innerspring and foam models.

What are the pros and cons of each of these materials?

And what to consider when making a choice?

Let’s start with the innerspring ones.

Inside, they have coils, either single-block or individually pocketed ones, as well as one or several cushioning layers of various materials.


  • Supportive. A higher coil count creates reliable support for the baby. If you choose a mattress with a solid spring block, pay attention to the gauge of steel wire. The bigger it is, the thicker the steel is, and accordingly, the better the support.
  • Prevents injuries. Some innerspring mattresses feature enhanced edge support, which reduces the risks of your baby’s little fingers being stuck between the edge of a mattress and the side of the crib.
  • More durable. Innersprings are able to withstand more intensive use and are less prone to sagging.
  • A coil system allows better airflow inside the mattress, thus ensuring your baby a more comfortable (in terms of temperature) sleep.


  • Heavier. The innerspring construction may result in the weight of the mattress reaching up to 20 pounds.
  • Prone to rusting. If moisture accidentally gets inside the mattress (and with babies, we all know how it may happen), the coils might rust, which will affect their overall performance.
  • Pricier. Especially if you are looking for a higher coil count.

Now, foam mattresses are popular primarily because of their affordable price. They can be made from polyurethane foam or from memory foam.


  • Lightweight. Foam is a combination of lightweight and convenient support for the baby. Look for the one that has a density of 1.5 pounds per cubic foot and more.
  • Hypoallergenic. Foam mattresses do not emit any toxic chemicals into the air, which is another means of protection from SIDS.
  • Supportive. A good foam mattress is made of high-density foam, which is firm and supportive to ensure your baby’s healthy spine development.
  • Available in a great variety of options. There are lots of models of different thickness, weight, and extra features.
  • Affordable. As mentioned above, these mattresses usually come at a lower price. However, some organic options might be more expensive.


  • Hot. Some types of foam have a closed-cell structure, which means they cannot withdraw heat properly.
  • Prone to sagging. Even the most durable foam tends to sag, which results in the inability to support your baby’s body properly with time.
  • Might have an odor. Some models come with that fresh-from-the-factory smell, which usually disappears within a day or so but can be pretty annoying.

Foam models are often double-sided. One side is firmer hence more suitable for an infant, while the other usually has a softer feel that is more suitable for toddlers.

Organic Mattresses: Are They Really Worth It, or Is It Just Another Marketing Trick?

The organic boom has not let go of America yet.

And when it comes to choosing products for your tot, organic options can be found in all types of items. Including mattresses.

So yes, it’s not just a marketing trick. Organic options do exist, but it’s important to check the materials used in an allegedly natural product to see if it actually lives up to the label.

So, what makes an “organic” mattress organic?

No PVC’s and Phthalates

The first thing to look at is the absence of substances such as phthalates and polyvinyl chloride among the materials inside the mattress. It is proven that these toxic substances can be released into the air and come into contact with the skin. For newborns, the consequences can be even more pronounced.

PVC is responsible for the waterproof properties of the mattress cover. So, if you want to protect your baby, choose polyurethane instead.

Proper Certification

Some organizations, mainly CertiPUR and GREENGUARD, analyze materials from most well-known manufacturers on the market to ensure that their mattresses are made without the use of heavy metals, formaldehyde, chlorine, and substances that reduce the ozone depleters. Therefore, if you see their logos on your chosen model, you can be calm.


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