How To Choose A Crib Mattress – Your Buying Guide

how to choose a crib mattress

How to choose a crib mattress? I can hear you now “Where do I start?” I get it. Your baby is due soon – what an exciting  – and hectic – time! Your new addition to the family will change your life forever in so many ways, whether it’s your first child or your fourth. As you anticipate the big day, there comes that moment when you realize that there’s still so much to do! High on your priority list is setting up the nursery and the single most important consideration is – where is your baby going to sleep? Once you’ve settled on a crib, your focus shifts to selecting a mattress. How To Choose A Crib Mattress – Your Buying Guide is here to help.

Let’s start at the beginning. What’s on your list for the baby? Baby bottle. Nappies. Clothes. Changing table. Crib. Crib mattress. Car seat. Capsule. Baby monitor….on and on it goes. Wow how long is this list??? How important is it to know how to choose a crib mattress?

Why Buying Baby “Sleep Stuff” Is a High Priority

Now let’s prioritize that rather long list. According to the Baby Center, a newborn can sleep 16-17 hours a day. So “sleeping stuff” moves in with the Top 3 items on your list, along with “feeding stuff” and “toilet stuff” as the “must-haves“, right? Because, let’s be honest, babies eat, poop and sleep alot.

The Baby Bed – 3 Basic Requirements

What’s most important in choosing your newborn’s bed? I’d recommend:

  1. Health and safety of your baby
  2. Their comfort, and
  3. The value you get for your money.

Health and Safety


So when you’re thinking about how to choose a crib mattress that is both healthy and safe, know that all crib mattresses sold in the United States must have the 16CFR 1632 and 1633 designation. This means they have at least met the minimum safety standards in terms of flammability.

High quality material

When you ask parents how to choose a mattress, most would prefer something made of high-quality material.

No or limited toxins

You’ve probably heard that the flame retardants in crib mattresses contain potentially damaging toxins. So most parents also want a crib mattress low in or completely free of those toxins. And whilst we’re talking about the bad things you can find in crib mattresses, most parents also don’t want heavy metals, formaldehyde and phthalates near their baby. That’s why parents prefer crib mattresses with a certification from either GREENGUARD Gold or CertiPUR.

Made in the USA

Ideally, most parents would also prefer a mattress that’s made in the USA


Naturally, your child’s comfort is important too. So you want to make sure your mattress has adequate support, yet is not too rigid. But you don’t want one that’s too soft either, due to the possible choking risks that are present with soft mattresses, toppers and anything else inside the crib like bumpers.

A study of 405 moms showed that following a bedtime routine will help babies get to sleep and sleep better. You can check out other sleep tips in the Guide To Your Baby’s Sleep and Naps. A bed that is comfortable and supportive will also improve the quality of your baby’s sleep.

Value For Money

Value for money is also important.

Now that doesn’t mean cheap!

The best value is one that delivers both comfort and security to your baby and peace of mind to you for as long as you need it. This means finding a mattress that will keep its form and won’t sag too soon and one that doesn’t pose potential hazards to your infant. One that provides healthy support and a safe environment for the next few years. That represents good value for your money.

If you’re shopping on price alone, you can find cheap alternative products. But is a lower price worth it if safety and comfort are compromised?


Introducing The How To Choose A Crib Mattress – Your Buying Guide

There are plenty of crib mattresses on the market that fall short of all of these 3 basic requirements!

So far I’ve provided a very quick summary of how to choose a crib mattress.  Armed with this basic knowledge of what to look for and what to avoid, I presentto you, How To Choose A Crib Mattress – Your Buying Guide. The guide dives much deeper into how to choose a crib mattress so you can be confident that the crib mattress you end up buying meets both the needs of your baby and your needs too.

The Basics of How To Choose a Crib Mattress – Important Features To Look For

The best possible materials for a mattress of any sort are natural and/or organic. Such options do exist today. But these are mostly newer models in the evolution of the crib mattress. Traditionally, mattresses for infants and toddlers have been made in a similar way to adult mattresses. In fact, it was done that way for decades. Somewhere along the line, someone realized that this could be problematic – particularly for kids.

The problem is that there could be a number of questionable materials either locked inside the mattress or used in the manufacturing process. These questionable materials may impact young, developing and vulnerable lungs and skin. For example, ideally, you would want a bed that has zero formaldehyde and no fire retardant chemicals in or on it.

But how do you know for sure if these kinds of toxins were used? Well, one way to know is to look for the product’s certification. If it’s not certified, there’s probably a reason for it.

In a perfect world, all crib mattresses would also be hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, breathable, and dust mite resistant. Among the better materials used in crib mattresses would be natural ingredients like cotton, wool, coconut fiber, and latex. 

How To Choose A Crib Mattress –  Conventional vs Organic

A mattress is a mattress is a mattress – or so it would seem.

All mattresses are rectangular in shape and range from about 3 inches to 6 inches in thickness.

The standard size crib mattress should fit any late model crib snugly, to minimize the risks to a child of any gaps around the perimeter. From a distance, most crib mattresses look pretty much the same. But that’s where most similarities end.

Conventional mattresses are made with metal springs connected to a frame as the foundation. They also feature a layer of foam on top and the whole thing is sealed inside a fabric cover.

Organic mattresses are absent of metals and synthetic products that may contain harmful chemicals.

Given the choice between the conventional crib mattress and the natural and organic variety, it’s pretty clear what most parents would want. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. There are many elements that factor into your choice of crib mattress for your baby.

Natural and organic may be the best way to go. But not all “natural” products are created equal. That’s why it’s important to stick to brands that are certified organic. You can read why organic is a good choice when buying mattresses here. And, organic mattresses have served many generations already. So, could they really be that bad? Truth is, dangers lurk everywhere. Being an informed consumer helps you weigh the options and make the best choice for you and your child. 

How To Choose A Crib Mattress – Look for Certifications

Manufacturers understand that buyers are better informed today than at any point in history. They know that a lot of people pay attention to this kind of detail. So if a mattress on the market could be certified – there’s no logical reason why it wouldn’t, since it would give the brand a leg up on competitors.

GreenGuard Gold certification

GreenGuard Gold certification means that comprehensive testing has been done on the product and its components. To get certified, a mattress would have to measure an acceptably low level of VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) emissions, making it safe for all individuals, particularly children.

CertiPUR certification

CertiPUR certification is set up through a non-profit organization and involves independent laboratory testing of the product for harmful emissions. If it’s CertiPUR certified – rest assured that it’s a much safer mattress than a comparable uncertified brand.

Look Types of Crib Mattresses

All mattresses, including crib mattresses, are categorized by the dominant material used in their construction. We have foam, innerspring, pocket spring and memory foam mattresses. Only the “natural and organic” category is somewhat generic. That’s due to the variety of materials used.

Foam Crib Mattresses  

Foam mattresses are basically blocks of foam enclosed in a bag that serves as a housing. It may consist of one or multiple layers of foam. A foam mattress is often among the most inexpensive of options and is lightest in weight. It’s important to keep in this mind since you’ll be changing the mattress cover and sheets frequently. Lifting the mattress up and out of the crib is easiest with a lightweight foam mattress.

A foam mattress may be best as a temporary solution, like in a portable crib where you will only be using it for shorter periods of time. It can do as a full time crib mattress too. But we recommend a dense foam for maximum support.

Foam can come in many different varieties. It can be made from polyurethane, bamboo fiber, or natural latex to name a few. It’s worth checking out what’s inside any foam mattress you might consider. Polyurethane foam is cheap – but it’s quite flexible and therefore, less supportive. Natural latex foam is more expensive but firmer and longer-lasting.

Look out for foam in various densities and levels of firmness. The denser the foam seems to be, the firmer the mattress, in a general sense. A firm crib mattress for your baby is crucial to minimizing any potential risk of suffocation.

While many foam mattresses are available at a lower cost – they tend to not be as durable as the other types of crib mattresses.

Innerspring Crib Mattresses (Coil Spring Mattresses)

This type of crib mattress is much like adult mattresses with steel springs and a frame. Coil count is important as to the quality and durability of a mattress. But the gauge of steel used for the springs is also a factor in how much it flexes – and how long it lasts. Look for a mattress with no fewer than 150 coils and a steel gauge of 15.5 – or less. The lower the gauge of steel – the thicker the wire and therefore, the firmer the mattress as there’s less compression in the spring.

This is typically the way mattresses have been constructed for years. On top of the springs is a layer of foam or padded fabric which acts to cushion the child. The cheapest spring mattresses use fewer springs of inferior quality steel. This causes the mattress to squeak with every movement your baby makes. Cheap is not he way to go – especially if you value sleeping time for both you and your baby.

A well-made spring mattress is both durable and supportive and these mattresses tend to last longer than their foam-based cousins. Disadvantages are that these mattresses are considerably heavier and more expensive. There’s also a large selection of these mattresses around. Some are of inferior quality – so you’ll have to look a little closer to accurately assess.

Pocket Spring Crib Mattresses
This version of spring mattress consists of individual coils surrounded by a fabric pocket. Instead of one spring connecting to the next, each and every spring is independent. This means that the compression of each spring acts alone according to the weight placed upon it. It’s much like the shock absorbers on each of the wheels of your car. If you hit a pothole with your left tires, your shocks on that side are the ones that absorb the impact, while the shock absorbers on the right are largely unaffected.

Pocket springs move independent of one another and that’s what sets them apart from all other spring mattresses. Compression is affected by the concentrated weight in any given spot. This provides a customized cushioning experience and a level of support that’s perfect for any baby.

These individual pocket coil spring mattresses provide stellar support and are incredibly comfortable for the baby. They also tend to last much longer than the other types of spring-loaded beds. On the downside, they are expensive. Of course – your baby worth it. But there are some other high-quality options available to consider.

Memory Foam Mattresses

Like the standard, spring-based crib mattresses, these are very similar to the adult versions in that they feature metal spring bases with foam covering as a cushion. Then a layer of memory foam (of varying thicknesses) sits on top of the foam.

Memory foam is a sensitive material that slowly molds to the body. It works the same way with an infant’s mattress. When you go to lift your baby off a memory foam bed, the foam will slowly spring back to its original condition and shape – until next time, when it conforms to comfortably “hug” your little one.

While the cushioning of memory foam is positive, it may not be a perfect solution for you. One drawback is that memory foam tends to absorb heat. As the memory foam absorbs the weight of your baby, air circulation is reduced. This is what makes the mattress feel warmer. In colder climates, a memory foam mattress top is a popular option. But it may mean that your baby gets too hot in the South.

Memory foam topped mattresses will conform to your child’s tiny body, providing a comfortable cushion. And it will spring back to its original shape after each sleep. The question is, will the reduction in air circulation make your baby a little too warm to sleep comfortably?

Another potential downside of a memory foam mattress is that since the cushioning foam is only on one side – it can only be used one way. Flipping it over isn’t an option. This could mean that the mattress doesn’t last as long as one that can be turned over.

Natural and Organic Mattresses

If we had to narrow it down to a single category – “Natural and organic” is the best way to go – in our opinion. If you have the luxury of choosing any bed – that’s the direction we tend to recommend most.  What it ultimately boils down to is this: a natural and organic mattress will help your baby avoid any potentially harsh chemicals at the earliest and most tender of ages.

Traditionally, mattresses of all types have been made from petroleum-based products. Often they are treated with flame retardant chemicals such as boric acid. This kind of chemical impedes burning, should the ravages of fire ever occur. So there’s little doubt that fire protection helps save lives. But it’s the unknown factor of potential exposure to such chemicals that raises a red flag and is a cause for concern to some parents.

Though these traditional mattresses have been sold for years, there’s no doubt that they’re not necessarily as safe as could be. A better and safer way to go is a mattress that features natural materials and fibers like organic cotton, untreated wool, coconut fiber, and natural latex. Your child will be spending plenty of time in close contact with his or her crib mattress on a daily basis – likely for the next few years. In fact, they’ll probably spend more time there than anywhere else. All things considered, natural and organic bedding is probably a healthier long-term solution than any other.

As a parent and consumer, it’s your duty to dig deeper than stated advertised claims and uncover the truth. Due to loosely worded regulations, mattresses may be advertised as being “organic” and yet only contain a small amount of natural material. So it’s a case of buyer beware. But rest assured any product we recommend meets or exceeds our standards for health and safety, comfort, and value for your dollar.

Natural and organic is always a better choice for all your bedding needs whenever it’s available because it means that your baby’s sleeping quarters will be chemical-free, gentle on allergies, and breathe well too. Quality made natural and organic mattresses also stand the test of time.

As for disadvantages, natural and organic mattresses are just not nearly as common as other types of crib mattresses. So you may not have as wide a selection to choose from as you might otherwise enjoy. It’s also more difficult to find information on these mattresses because they’re relatively new in the marketplace. For example, the level of firmness can vary considerably as well. When in doubt – ask.

How To Choose A Crib Mattress That Is Safe

Avoid buying based on cost alone.

While a bargain price on a crib mattress may look enticing, it just won’t last. Some people assume that virtually any mattress on the market will suffice – since they survived on of comparable or lesser quality. The thing is, “cheap” always has a price. A cheap mattress just won’t be comfortable for your infant over the long haul. Chances are it will sag in the middle. That means you’ll have to replace a poor quality mattress with something else. Make sure whatever crib mattress you’re considering is rated for infant use. Some are NOT. And as far your baby’s health and safety go, it’s probably safe to say it’s not a top priority for low-end manufacturers.

As a general rule – stick to the standard size crib mattress that’s firm. It’s also important to make sure the mattress will fit your crib snugly. You should opt for a mattress that offers plenty of support and one that’s no thicker than six inches in total.

Quality, well-made mattresses are not expensive. Obviously, they do cost more money than the cheap ones do. But we’re not talking about a huge amount here. Just a couple hundred dollars can make a world of difference in every important area.

Nobody every regretted buying quality and in this case, stepping up to a better-made mattress will give your baby a healthy level of comfort and support – and it won’t set you back financially. At a minimum – choose a memory foam topped mattress that has been CertiPUR or GreenGuard certified and registers a low score on their VOC emissions test.

Toxins are never a good thing for anybody – least of all, a newborn baby. Nowadays there are choices for consumers that simply didn’t exist years ago. The available variety has never been better and no that you’re armed with useful information, you can make a wise choice for your baby and your pocketbook.

One more thing – check the return policy before going forward. Chances are, you’ll choose a winner now. But just in case the mattress you’ve selected doesn’t seem to be the right fit for whatever reason – it’s always nice to know that you can return it without penalty – and choose something else.

How To Choose A Crib Mattress  – The Best Bedding To Buy

You never want the inside of the mattress to get wet. Inevitably, you’ll have those spills of multiple varieties. You’ll want to make sure that moisture doesn’t get inside the mattress since it could cause mold to grow below the surface where it can’t be easily detected.

While most crib mattresses are made with waterproof wraps, it’s also a good idea to add a removable, moisture-resistant cover. In fact, you’ll likely have to wash the cover frequently. That’s why we suggest picking up two or three covers so you always a fresh clean cover to put on the mattress.

Quilted crib mattress pads are available with a waterproof surface on the outside. Any cover chosen should fit around your mattress snugly, without any lose material that could pose a choking hazard. We don’t recommend purely plastic wraps or sheets for the simple reason that they could interfere with an infant’s breathing.

A light blanket or a sleeper that’s the weight of a blanket are other accessories you should consider along with your new crib mattress. Keep what goes inside the crib to the bare minimum.

Things you should avoid are stuffed toys, bumpers, pillows, quilts and comforters. Your baby is safest when placed in the crib flat on their back. Any loose items like those listed can come into contact with an infant’s face and impair proper air circulation. Top sheets are not recommended for babies because they could get tangled in them. For older toddlers, top sheets are usually fine.

Used crib mattresses should always be avoided. You just don’t know where they’ve been – or what they’ve been through. Was it properly cleaned and maintained? A mattress can look clean on the outside, but spills could have leaked inside allowing bacteria to thrive. Used crib mattresses can also harbor dust mites.

Right out of the gate, there are several uncertainties with a used mattress, including how much life a it might have left. Why take a chance? It’s just not worth it. Your baby deserves the best possible start in life. And nothing is more important from day one than being able to sleep safely, comfortably and happily ever after.