Have you bought a crib for your baby, but don’t know which mattress to buy? The choices are overwhelming and, let’s face it, a crib mattress is not the most exciting item to purchase! It is important, though.
When it comes to mattresses for your child, it’s all about safety. When I had my first child, I assumed all mattresses were equal. However, in reality, there are factors you may want to consider to ensure your mattress is the perfect fit for your crib.
Mattresses for children come in different sizes, materials, and weights. These differences can have impacts on everyday habits, like changing the sheets. They can also impact bigger things, like your child’s exposure to chemicals.
We reviewed the best mattresses in the market and made our recommendations for every kind of scenario. We’ll give you all the tips you need to decide on a mattress, so you can be sure your baby is safe and sound when asleep.
Bare and Back Are Best
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has done tons of work to promote safe sleeping habits for infants and their mattresses. As a result, infant deaths related to sleep have dropped dramatically since the 1990s (1).
While these practices don’t remove all risk, there are conscious choices caregivers can make to protect babies while they sleep. There’s even a helpful alliteration to make them easier to remember: “Bare and back are best.” What does it mean?
- Bare mattress: Your baby’s crib should have nothing in it except your baby, a tightly-fitted sheet, and the mattress. The CDC recommends removing blankets, toys, crib bumpers, and other items from the area. It might look lonely in there, but it’s the safest way to sleep.
- Back to bed: Babies should always be put to sleep on their back. If you’re worried about spit up in the middle of the night, check out this useful diagram on baby’s anatomy, or watch the video below (2).
The CDC also recommends keeping the baby’s crib or bassinet in your room for at least six months (3). This allows you to quickly know if something is wrong, and minimizes reaction time to address it. It’s also great for bonding and breastfeeding.
Finding the Right Mattress: A Step by Step Guide
When you first begin the search for a crib mattress, the number of things to consider can seem endless. As is the case for many baby items, it’s important to be realistic about your family’s lifestyle. A mattress that works for someone else won’t always work for you.
Different cribs call for different mattress sizes. If a mattress doesn’t fit your crib properly, it can leave gaps on the sides that can hurt your child.
Luckily, crib sizes have been standardized by law since 2011, to ensure mattress and crib safety. Most crib packaging will tell you the crib size and also recommend a mattress size that fits perfectly for that particular crib.
Check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website for periodic recalls and new standards (4).
Today, a standard, full-size crib has a width of approximately 28 inches, and a length of around 52 inches (5).
A standard, non-full-size crib has a length greater than 55 inches, or shorter than around 49 inches, with a width greater than 30 inches or smaller than approximately 25 inches (6). These cribs include foldable models and other variations.
If you want to learn more about the national standards for crib safety, head over to the CPSC’s website for an informative explanation (7).
2. Density and Resilience
If you’re like me, you love a mattress that you can sink into. And, for adults, that may be fine. Babies, however, need something firmer.
Firm mattresses not only provide support for growing bodies, but they also protect against suffocation. As baby begins to roll over, softer mattresses can trap them on their stomach and make it more difficult to return to their backs.
When you are at the store to buy your mattress, push down with your hands and watch what happens. Did the mattress conform to your hand? If so, it’s probably best to find something firmer.
I’m going to be honest: I never thought, not once, about the weight of my baby’s mattress until it was too late. After the pediatrician gave us the go-ahead to move her to her own bed in her own room, I asked my husband to get it ready for her.
When I went to change her sheets for the first time, I was shocked. Changing sheets for a baby crib is essentially picking up dead weight from the worst possible angle. It’s not great for the back.
Mattress weights can vary greatly, and its material make-up will be a huge factor. I highly recommend picking it up in the store and pretending to change a sheet. New moms will look at you like you’re crazy, but veteran moms will get it.
4. Foam or Coil?
Mattresses can be made with a lot of different materials. The material used can affect the weight of the mattress and the cleaning protocol. Our recommendations below include a variety of foam and coil mattresses, and both types have pros and cons.
Here are some general differences between foam and coil mattresses, to help you decide which kind is best for you:
- Foam mattress: These are generally the lighter, cheaper option. However, they can also offer more ventilation. They have a variety of firmness levels, so they’re not the same across the board.
- Coil mattress: These mattresses usually cost more and are heavier to lift. However, they’re likely to last longer and are more resilient to the potential damage that comes with babies and toddlers.
5. Organic, Eco-Friendly, or Conventional
Like many other retail goods, the crib mattress market has a growing organic and eco-friendly niche. Many brands will use the terms “natural” or “organic” for their mattresses, but it’s not as black and white as it seems.
Organic mattresses are made of materials that have reduced levels of chemicals, such as flame retardants. In 2017, the CPSC recommended manufacturers stop using organohalogen flame retardants in mattresses, due to potential health effects (8).
Eco-friendly mattresses may be organic, or the manufacturer might just prioritize using a more sustainable supply chain. They could also use materials that make mattresses easier to break down after they reach the end of their useful life.
One thing is certain
There are a variety of standards in use to help consumers verify products, and here are a few:
- GOTS and GOLS: These standards certify that at least 95 percent of the material in the mattress is certified organic. They also prohibit the use of chemical flame retardants (9) (10).
- Oeko-Tex Standard 100: Sets limits on emissions of formaldehyde and other chemicals (11).
- CertiPUR-US: Requires testing of certain chemicals, and prohibits the use of others, in foam mattresses (12).
6. New or Used
Do you have a mattress left over from your oldest child that you would like to reuse? Maybe your best friend has a child a few years older and wouldn’t mind passing theirs down. Buying a brand new mattress for each child can seem wasteful, but are used mattresses safe?
It depends. Buying a used crib mattress from someone else, even your BFF, can be risky. You never know how it was taken care of, and mattresses can easily mold if accidents and diaper leaks aren’t cleaned up properly.
If the mattress was yours, then you know if you took all the proper precautions in maintaining and storing it. If the mattress stayed somewhere dry, continues to meet current standards, and is not warped or worn, you can consider using it again.
The Best Crib Mattresses of 2020
Now that we’ve reviewed the most important factors to consider when choosing a crib mattress, it’s time to see what the best options on the market are. What follows is a list of mattresses that can cater to your family and your priorities.
Remember, it’s best to choose a crib before choosing the mattress. Not every mattress will fit well in every crib. The type of crib you buy will determine your available range of mattresses to choose from.
1. Newton Baby Crib Mattress
Infants can be super sensitive to their environments. Their immune systems are still developing and, depending on where you live, there could be a host of allergens in the air. Because mattresses are so close to baby’s mouth and nose, hypoallergenic mattresses are a good way to reduce exposure to environmental irritants.
This specialized mattress is made with a technology that encourages air to move more freely. Made from 90 percent air (yes, you read correctly) and 10 percent food-grade polymer, this limits the potential for allergen buildup, while also allowing for more oxygen to flow through.
The mattress is also designed to regulate temperature. Regulating temperature reduces the potential for baby to heat up at night, which can cause them to wake up when you really need them to sleep. It’s also Greenguard Gold certified and 100 percent recyclable.
At 11 pounds, this mattress is heavier than some others. However, it weighs less than most coil mattresses.
- 100 percent recyclable (eco-friendly).
- Hypoallergenic technology.
- Greenguard Gold certified.
- Temperature regulation features.
- More expensive than other mattresses.
2. Safety 1st Heavenly Dreams
Newborns wake up at least every two to three hours. If a comfortable mattress can extend that time in the slightest, any parent will tell you, it’s worth the cost. The most important factor in a newborn crib is that it’s firm enough to avoid mattress sagging over time. If not, it can be a suffocation risk.
This BPA-free mattress has a little bit of everything for your newborn. It’s affordable, but also incorporates a few features of the more costly mattresses.
This foam mattress is Greenguard Gold certified, so parents can feel comfortable knowing it contains reduced levels of chemicals. It’s covered in 100 percent vinyl, which means it’s water resistant and super easy to clean.
At 7.5 pounds, this is as lightweight as they come, meaning it won’t take a team of people to help you lift it from the crib. In 2017, Safety 1st won the Women’s Choice award for Most Recommended Brand for Crib & Toddler Mattress.
- Water resistant and hypoallergenic.
- Trusted brand.
- Not organic.
3. Milliard Memory Foam Crib Mattress
Toddlers go through a lot of changes, and their sleeping patterns are no exception. If your toddler’s sleep cycle is a little erratic, you’ll do everything you can to encourage a good sleep routine and switch to a more comfortable mattress.
This one is made for toddlers that are still in the crib, but it can also be used for toddlers transitioning to “big kid” beds. The mattress itself is made from ultra-firm foam. However, it’s also topped with a memory foam layer, making it softer and more comfortable for kids old enough to be secure sleeping on it.
The foam is hypoallergenic and CertiPUR certified, but the mattress also comes with a removable bamboo cover. This is great for kids still working on nighttime potty training.
The mattress weighs 11 pounds, which is heavy for a foam mattress. However, it’s still lighter than many coil mattresses.
- Soft and comfortable.
- Easy to clean.
- Removable cover.
- Good size for crib-to-bed transitioning.
- Not organic.
- Heavier than most foam mattresses.
4. Dream on Me Portable Crib Mattress
There are many uses for a portable crib. Whatever your reason for going with a portable crib, it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice on comfort. Today’s portable crib mattresses can be just as strong, supportive, and healthy as traditional crib mattresses. If you travel often or use a babysitter outside your home on a regular basis, this might be worth checking out.
This mattress fits most standard portable cribs, while also offering many of the benefits that a traditional crib mattress does. It comes with a hypoallergenic, antibacterial cover that makes it easy to clean. This is especially important for portable cribs that may see a variety of environments.
It’s lightweight and Greenguard Gold certified, so it contains reduced levels of chemicals. For all of these benefits, the mattress is extremely affordable. It’s no surprise that it has rave reviews online.
At only 3 pounds, this is the lightest mattress we reviewed. When looking for a portable crib mattress, you want something easy to carry and move, and this mattress certainly allows for that.
- Hypoallergenic, antibacterial cover.
- Extremely lightweight.
- Greenguard Gold certified.
- Extremely affordable.
- Not organic.
5. Sealy Baby Firm Rest
Depending on how early they arrived, premature babies can be vulnerable to bacteria and allergens. For preemies, it’s super important to make sure your mattress has tons of support and is easy to keep clean. This will help to ensure your baby has minimal exposure to anything that can cause irritation or harm.
This coil mattress is reinforced for support. It has an awesome anti-sag system which makes sure baby’s weight is distributed evenly. This helps with posture for the baby’s developing skeletal system, and also ensures that a premature baby won’t get too entrenched in the mattress.
The mattress comes with a hospital-grade antibacterial cover that makes it easy to keep clean. It’s also hypoallergenic, which is critical for premature babies. At 13 pounds, it is lighter than many coil mattresses, but still provides the extra firmness needed for a preemie.
- Ultra firm for premature babies.
- Easy to clean.
- Tested for flame retardants and other chemicals.
- Lightweight for a coil mattress.
- Some reported a crinkly surface which could be noisy.
6. Graco Premium Foam Mattress
Having a baby can be expensive, as you may know. Between hospital bills, new gear, and childcare, costs can add up quickly. Cribs and mattresses come in a wide range of prices. There are great crib mattresses on the market that are both affordable and offer a safe sleeping environment for your child, so no need for the added financial stress.
This mattress is made of breathable foam to help with air flow. It comes with a water-resistant lining to keep baby dry and protect against diaper leaks or accidents.
Because it will fit any full-size crib, it can also be used into the toddler years as your child transitions to a big kid bed. Its foam material ensures that it’s on the lighter side, for parents that don’t want to throw their back out trying to clean or change the sheets.
The mattress weighs 10 pounds, which is slightly more than other foam mattresses, but still manageable for one person. The extra weight is most likely from additional layers of breathable foam, which helps to add ventilation for baby, so it’s worth it.
- Quite affordable.
- Water-resistant lining.
- Can be used for toddlers and infants.
- Not organic or certified for reduced chemicals.
7. Dream on Me Coil Mini Mattress
Babies only stay in mini cribs for so long, but it’s during some of the most important sleep time in their lives. Your little one is only going to sleep in the mini crib for six to eight months maximum. However, it’s critical that you still follow all the safety guidelines as you would for a traditional crib mattress.
This is one of the more expensive mini crib mattresses. It might, therefore, be best for parents intending to use a mini crib full-time for longer than usual.
The coil mattress is sturdy and firm, which is great for infants. As with any coil mattress, you may want to check it out in person to test how you feel when picking it up to change the sheets. The mattress is also Greenguard Gold certified, which assures owners that the product has been made using minimal chemicals.
This mattress weighs around 5 pounds, which is extremely light for a coil mattress. This will make changing sheets and cleaning easier.
- Strong support provided by coils.
- Greenguard Gold certified.
- Conducive to more airflow.
- Extremely lightweight for a coil mattress.
- Not water resistant.
- More costly within its class.
8. Emily Organic Crib Mattress
A wide array of products in today’s marketplace are manufactured using chemicals that have the potential to impact your baby’s health. Baby products are no different. Many parents want to reduce exposure to these chemicals in every way possible. Organic mattresses ensure that your baby’s sleep environment has minimal exposure to chemicals. However, they can also mean more maintenance and upkeep.
This coil mattress provides the firm support that infants need. At the same time, it’s able to do that with GOTS certified material. This certification assures parents that most of the material is organic.
The mattress is covered with 100 percent quilted eco-wool (a natural flame retardant), adding an extra level of water protection. These materials are used on both sides, which allows you to flip the mattress as needed, and ensure equal wear.
At 24 pounds, this mattress is pretty heavy, which definitely should be taken into consideration. It might be best to go in person to the store and ensure you’re comfortable lifting this amount of weight. Due to its organic status, the mattress is also more expensive than most other mattresses.
- Made with GOTS certified organic cotton.
- 100 percent eco-wool quilted cover.
- Two-sided design for flipping capabilities.
- Coil springs provide strong support.
- Limited waterproofing.
- Heavier than many mattresses.
9. Serta Tranquility Eco Firm
As any parent knows, infants and toddlers have a lot of accidents. If liquids are allowed to seep into a mattress, it can cause mold to grow inside and impact your baby’s health. Most of the time, accidents happen in the middle of the night. A waterproof mattress can help reduce awake-time by making it simpler to clean.
This coil mattress comes with a waterproof vinyl cover to protect against spills and stains. But in many cases, waterproofing can mean added chemicals. This mattress, however, is Greenguard Gold certified, ensuring it has reduced levels of chemicals.
Coil mattresses tend to be on the heavier side when compared with foam mattresses. This mattress is about average, at 16 pounds. However, the coil does ensure that the mattress remains firm enough for your baby over time.
Finally, this crib is two-sided for infant and toddler needs. That means, if taken care of properly, it can grow with your child for several years. This mattress prices out in the middle of the range, but you still get some advantages you’d get with a more expensive mattress.
- Waterproof vinyl cover included.
- Lightweight construction.
- Greenguard Gold certified.
- Not organic.
- Heavier than foam mattresses.
10. My First Crib Mattress
When it comes to sleeping, it’s hard to know if an infant is comfortable. Even when it’s clear that something is wrong, it’s difficult to know whether or not it’s the mattress. Foam crib mattresses have the potential to be more comfortable for baby. A good, firm foam mattress can help reduce sound and make your baby feel really comfortable in their crib.
This is a certiPUR certified foam mattress, which ensures it has minimal chemicals in the foam. It’s also hypoallergenic to help protect baby from allergens and mites.
The mattress comes with a soft, washable, and waterproof cover to make cleanup easy. The cover’s material has led many parents to mention how quiet the mattress is compared with plastic or vinyl covers.
It’s more expensive when compared to others in the “foam” class. However, it’s reasonably priced in comparison to coil crib mattresses. At around 12 pounds, the weight of this mattress is mid-range.
- Comfortable for baby.
- Waterproof, washable cover.
- CertiPUR certified.
- Not organic.
- More expensive within its class.
How to Clean Your Crib Mattress
Crib mattresses go through a lot. Babies have diaper blowouts, spit up, and they get sick. All of these things mean liquids, germs, and other allergens are getting into the mattress your baby sleeps on every night.
Knowing this, it’s super important to keep your mattress clean. There are a couple of ways to do this, depending on the amount of gear you want to buy and your baby’s sensitivity to different materials.
Waterproof Mattress Pads
The easiest way to keep your mattress clean is to buy a waterproof mattress pad. Pads add an extra layer of protection between liquids and your mattress, and there are other benefits as well.
Let’s say, one morning, you notice quite a bit of spit up after a nighttime feeding. With a mattress pad, you can quickly take off the sheets and the mattress pad and throw them in the laundry. All you need to do is put on your replacement pad, a new pair of sheets, and baby can be back to bed in less than 10 minutes.
Mattress pads, especially zippered pads, can also protect against bed bugs, mites, or other things that can irritate or harm your child. My baby was especially sensitive to dust, and changing to a zippered pad worked wonders. Many pads now come in cotton to keep the pads noiseless.
Detergents and Cleansers
If you would rather not buy a mattress pad, or the spill was so bad that it breached the pad, no worries. There are still options to keep the mattress clean.
For most spills, mixing a bit of baby-safe laundry detergent with water will do the trick. Make sure to soak up any liquid from the accident with a rag or paper towel before wiping clean. This will keep you from pushing liquids further into the mattress.
If you’re worried about bacteria, you can use rubbing alcohol on the spot after you’ve wiped it clean with detergent. This will kill anything that’s still lingering from that naptime diaper blowout.
Ensuring your mattress is dry before putting it back in the crib is critical, to avoid the growth of mold. For smaller spills, a few dabs with a dry paper towel after cleaning may be enough. For larger spills, you may want to find a sunny, well-ventilated area of your home to air dry it for a few hours.
Your baby will spend a significant amount of time on the crib mattress. Because of this, it’s so important to prioritize safety when picking a mattress. Choosing a firm, dry mattress that can support your growing child will give you peace of mind and allow you to enjoy the time when your baby sleeps.
My favorite product overall is the Newton Baby Crib Mattress. The mattress is 100 percent recyclable, which reduces its impact on the environment. It’s made with reduced chemicals and also regulates temperature for baby, which was always a worry for me.
Whether you want the most organic mattress possible, or you need something small for the first few months, I hope this review of the best crib mattresses has helped you.
If you’ve used any of these mattresses, we’d love to know your thoughts in the comment section!