What Type of Mattress is Best for a Crib?
Finding Safety and Comfort

As with everything that impacts your baby’s comfort and safety, choosing a new crib mattress is an important decision. Crib mattresses generally fit toddler beds as well (eg, race-car beds and the like), so you may continue to use a high-quality crib mattress long after your child has outgrown the crib.

How to Buy a Crib Mattress

Here are a few things to look for when choosing a new baby mattress for your child.

Firmness is important. For adults, the right firmness is a matter of personal preference. For babies, there’s only one option: firm. Babies can’t lift their heads to adjust if their breathing is obstructed, and a crib mattress that’s too soft can pose a suffocation risk. To check for firmness, press down on the mattress at the center and around the edges. The mattress should offer sufficient resistance, and should return immediately to its original shape without conforming to your hand. If the mattress feels comfortable to you, it’s probably too soft for a baby.

Sizing should be as precise as possible. The standard size for baby crib mattresses is technically 51 5/8” x 27 1/4”, although it’s often listed as 52” x 28” and actual sizes do vary slightly among both cribs and crib mattresses. The baby mattress you choose should fit snugly into your crib, with less than two finger-widths – approximately one inch – of space between the mattress and the side of the crib. If you can fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib, your baby could get stuck in that space and risk suffocation.

Look for hypo-allergenic and waterproof covers. The cover of a baby mattress should be durable and water-resistant, a feature that your baby will almost surely test at some point. Many higher-end crib mattresses have double or triple laminated vinyl covers reinforced with nylon, which gives the cover some stretch and flexibility while providing more protection against fluids. Be aware that child mattresses using more natural or organic cover materials may not offer quite the same degree of water resistance. That said, even with the best covering, your baby’s crib mattress may not be entirely waterproof, so you may want to consider a separate waterproof cover to further protect your mattress from diaper leaks and the like.

Check for ventilation. Many higher-end crib mattresses come with vents, either in the form of small, circular eyelets or larger, longer vents arranged in rows along the sides of the mattress. These vents allow air to circulate inside the mattress, keeping it fresh and helping to eliminate odors. However, the air released from such vents can contain dust and other allergens, so be sure the vents are not positioned near your baby’s head.

Is a Foam or Coil Mattress Better for a Baby?

As with traditional mattresses, baby mattresses come in two main types: innerspring (coil) and foam. Innerspring / coil mattresses tend to be the most common, and come in a wide range of prices and feature levels. Ordinary polyurethane foam is also quite common and tends to be the least expensive.

One certification you might see is Greenguard Gold Certification, which ensures the mattress materials have been certified for the lowest levels of VOCs and off-gassing -- low enough that these products are certified for use in the most sensitive environments: schools and hospitals. Read more on mattress certifications.

Crib Mattress Reviews

Reviews written by parents are a good way to evaluate a particular mattress. We have sorted user ratings at Amazon.com to identify models that have been highly rated by parents. If you choose to buy one, GoodBed will receive a small commission to support our work.

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