How to Choose a Crib Mattress, Plus 9 Best Crib Mattresses for Baby

Pacifier On Baby Crib Mattress
Getty Images / assalve

You may have spent quite a lot of time buying your baby's crib and the lovely bedding to go inside. But what about choosing the the best crib mattress? Babies aren't generally that picky when it comes to sleeping spaces, so you don't need to worry much about buying a crib mattress that is comfy enough. Safety, though, is a big issue with crib mattresses, so read on for advice on how to choose the best crib mattress for your little one.

It Must Be a Crib Mattress

This advice applies...MORE whether you're looking for a traditional crib-size mattress, or a smaller mattress for a bassinet, cradle, or play yard. The best crib mattress is one that is designed for babies to sleep on, for that type of sleep space. Even if another mattress type or other cushy, pillowy product can fit inside the crib or cradle, you shouldn't use it if it isn't designed for baby. This includes regular pillows and memory foam toppers cut to fit a crib. Don't improvise when it comes to baby's sleep safety.

Size Is Important

Most cribs and mattresses sold in the U.S. are a fairly standard size because the minimum and maximum sizes are federally mandated. That means you can buy a crib of almost any brand and then buy a crib mattress of a different brand, and they will most likely work together well. However, some cribs may be an unusual shape, and a little bit of size difference is allowed by the federal standards.

Crib mattresses sold in the U.S. must be a minimum of 27-1/4 inches by 51-5/8 inches, and they cannot be more than 6 inches thick. The interior space in a crib is traditionally 28 inches by 52-3/8 inches, but the federal crib safety standards allow some deviation to larger or smaller dimensions.

It's important that the crib mattress fits snugly inside the crib. A good rule of thumb is that there shouldn't be a gap of more than an inch between the crib mattress and the sides of the crib.

If you're interested in a round crib, you'll need to check out specially shaped mattresses just for odd-shaped cribs. Another example of a crib that requires a different type of mattress is the Stokke Sleepi system (Buy on Amazon). The oval shape of the crib means a traditional mattress will not fit, and you must be sure to buy a mattress specifically for this crib.

Mini cribs are increasingly popular, and these sized-down cribs also need special mattresses. Examples include the Bloom Alma Mini Crib (Buy on Amazon) and the Babyletto Origami Mini Crib (Buy on Amazon). Both companies sell a mini crib mattress to fit these cribs. Just like with a full size crib mattress, the mini crib mattress must fit snugly inside the crib.

Not Too Cushy

Thanks to modern safety standards, you won't find any super-pillowy crib mattresses. Any crib mattress sold in the U.S. will meet federal safety standards, which include a maximum measure of how much a baby can sink into the surface and still be safe. That's because babies need a firm sleep surface since they can't move themselves out of positions where their face sinks into the mattress if they get turned over. All of the crib mattresses will be relatively firm to your adult senses. That's OK. Babies have been sleeping just fine for decades on what might feel like a rock to you.

If you're concerned about long term comfort, consider a mattress with a firmer side for infants and a softer side for toddlers. When you're ready to switch to a toddler bed, just turn the mattress over. Just be sure you use the firmer side at first, according to the instructions.

Crib Mattress Materials

Foam or coils? It doesn't really matter. Foam crib mattresses are usually less expensive than coil mattresses, and are just as safe, as long as they aren't too soft. Again, the firmness is regulated by the safety standards, so you won't find vast differences.

Foam mattresses are often lighter when you pick them up to change sheets, though some memory foam mattresses may be heavier than a coil mattress. For coil mattresses, you can check the number of coils since more coils mean a firmer mattress, but it's unlikely that your baby will complain that you didn't splurge on the highest number of coils. Crib mattresses tend to be used for a short time frame, and for lighter-weight people, so a low coil mattress isn't likely to sag or break down.

Cover It Up

Some crib mattresses have an anti-microbial layer on top to help cut down on germs from spit-ups and diaper accidents. Check to see how the mattress cover is sealed. Do the plastic seams appear sturdy, or weak and ready to split open? If plastic seams are sharp, you may end up with scrapes and cuts when you change the sheets. Fabric seams should be smooth, not stressed and ready to pop open. If allergies run in the family, a fully sealed mattress may be a good choice to keep dust and allergens at bay.

Two things to consider when it comes to the mattress cover are waterproofing and breathability. The air flow around baby helps keep the sleep surface cool and comfortable. Waterproofing will keep the mattress in good shape longer, and a wipe-clean surface that doesn't absorb any moisture will help you get baby back to bed faster if you need to change the sheets after a midnight mess.

Cost

If you're on a budget, don't worry. Crib mattresses actually don't have to be expensive to be safe, durable or useful. Expect to spend $75 to $100 for a good crib mattress. You can find mattresses for less, but if you then need to add a waterproof cover, that may make up the difference in cost quickly. If the seams aren't durable and they come open before your child is done using the mattress, having to buy a second crib mattress negates the initial cost savings, too.

Of course, you can spend more, but with crib mattresses, you don't necessarily get any more useful features or added benefits with the heftier price tag. Exceptions to this are crib mattresses with allergy-reducing covers, natural materials or organic crib mattresses. These specialty mattresses are more expensive, but worth every penny if they properly fill a need for your baby or your family.

The following crib mattresses come in a variety of prices and with different features. These are some of the best crib mattresses available today.

  • 01 of 09

    This foam crib mattress is made with lots of natural materials, from coconut in the padding to eucalyptus in the cover. There are layers of air flow material built in so the mattress stays cool. This one also has a firmer infant side and a softer toddler side. The Pebble mattress is water and stain resistant and comes in seven fantastic colors. You can purchase additional Pebble wraps, or covers, and switch between them, or you can add a traditional crib sheet on top.

  • 02 of 09

    The Eco Classica III has an organic cotton cover, 

    CertiPUR-US® certified safe foam, and is Greenguard Gold certified to have no harmful emissions. This is also a dual firmness mattress, so it's great for infants and toddlers. It's completely waterproof and it's even made in the U.S.

  • 03 of 09

    Completely waterproof, hypoallergenic, and Greenguard Gold certified, this mattress also has an anti-microbial nylon cover that wipes clean instantly. It's a dual-firmness mattress, and the foam is CertiPUR certified. Moonlight Slumber mattresses are known to be quite durable, too. We've used one through three kids in cribs or toddler beds, and the mattress still looks new.

  • 04 of 09

    The foam in this mattress is made from soybeans grown in the U.S. It's Greenguard Gold certified, CertiPUR certified, and has an organic cotton cover that is Oeko-Tex certified. The cover is waterproof and provides an allergen barrier, as well. The Soybean Serenity mattress is one of the less expensive options among those with organic and natural materials.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    If breathability is high on your priority list, the AirWeave material in this Colgate mattress is just right. It allows air to flow freely through the foam for cooler sleep. The material in this mattress is also 100% recycled and recyclable, hypoallergenic, and Greenguard Gold certified.

  • 06 of 09

    There are 132 coils in this mattress, so it's plenty firm for a safe sleep space, but it's also wrapped in a soft foam for comfort. This Dream On Me mattress is inexpensive but it's already waterproof and hypoallergenic and has an edge support system.

  • 07 of 09

    Organic cotton fabric and filling, a seamless waterproof cover, and an easy wipe-clean surface combine with 150 coils and edge support to create a luxurious sleep space for baby. The seams are so flawless at keeping contaminants out, they even meet food contact standards, if you should decide to have a picnic on baby's crib.

  • 08 of 09

    The soft parts of this Sealy mattress are 100% organic cotton, including the cover, which is treated with Crypton Clean Sleep that protects from germ growth and stains. You can wipe away messes easily. It's also Greenguard certified and Oeko-Tex certified. There are 204 coils in this mattress.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Safety 1st Transitions Baby and Toddler Mattress

    Safety 1st Transitions Crib Mattress
    Amazon.com

    An inexpensive option from Safety 1st, this mattress has a softer toddler side and a firmer infant side. It's also Greenguard Gold certified, lightweight, and water resistant. This is a basic but effective crib mattress at a great price.