How Firm Should Crib Mattress Be

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How Firm is Firm Enough for a Baby Crib Mattress?

How Firm is Firm Enough for a Baby Crib Mattress?

I’ve seen several blogs and forums where people talk and ask questions about how firm a crib mattress should be. One person said “If it feels good to me, it’s okay for my baby.” Is that a good rule of thumb?

In fact, it’s not – unless you like a very firm mattress. Because babies are still growing, their spines and bones need more support than we do.

While there are no precise rules about crib mattress firmness, there are solid enough guidelines to help you choose the right one.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that a baby mattress be firm and flat.

Consumer Reports recommends buying the firmest mattress you can find. In fact, they address the exact comment made by the person on the forum: “Don’t worry that it may feel too firm. If it feels good to you, it’s too soft for your baby,"

To test a crib mattress to determine whether it’s firm enough, Consumer Reports suggests you “Press on the mattress in the center and at the edges. It should snap back readily and should not conform to the shape of your hand.”

In Naturepedic baby crib mattresses, our organic cotton batting makes the mattress surface comfortable without sacrificing firmness. Babies are pretty cozy on our mattresses and they routinely sleep through the night. Soft, comfortable and firm – just right!

How firm should a crib mattress be? We’ve got the answers. Choose a mattress that will help your baby to sleep safe and sound.

Crib Mattress Firmness: What Is Safe for Newborns and Babies?

When it comes to your little one, you want to be sure that they are getting the best night’s sleep possible in a safe sleeping environment. When purchasing a mattress for your baby’s crib, pay attention to how firm the bedding is. Manufacturers of the best crib mattresses know that for safety and developmental reasons, firm is best. But how firm should a crib mattress be? Here is everything you need to know about purchasing the best crib mattress for your child.

Crib Mattresses Should Be Firm and Flat

As tempting as it may be to purchase a soft and cloud-like mattress for your baby’s crib, you should absolutely avoid doing so. There are multiple reasons for this, including your baby’s developmental health.

Babies do a lot of growing, and a firm mattress is able to provide their spines and bones with support. Unfortunately, as comfortable as a soft mattress may seem, it is unable to provide the growth support that babies need.

Additionally, soft bedding increases the likelihood of infant death. SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, is more likely to occur in a crib with a soft mattress, as is suffocation. Alternatively, firm mattresses have proven to be safer sleeping environments for babies.

How to Determine If a Mattress Is Firm Enough

When shopping for crib mattresses, firmer is better. In fact, one good rule of thumb is to purchase the firmest mattress you can find. Even if this type of mattress isn’t comfortable for you, that’s not a problem. In fact, most mattresses that are comfortable for adults are too soft and pose a safety hazard to babies.

To test a mattress before you purchase it, press down on the mattress’s center and edges. A firm mattress won’t indent to your pressure and will instead snap back into its original position quite quickly. As an extra safety precaution, you want to be sure that your crib mattress is firm around its edges so as to prevent a gap forming between the mattress and the side of the crib when in use.

Other Mattress Precautions to Be Aware of When Shopping

Along with your mattress’s firmness, you also want to check to make sure the mattress you are going to buy isn’t being recalled. Furthermore, conducting a two-finger test between the mattress and your crib can help prevent your child from getting stuck in the gap between the mattress and crib frame. To perform the two-finger test, simply place your fingers between the mattress and the crib’s side. Only two fingers should be able to fit in that space. If there’s excess room, it’s a sign that you need a different sized crib mattress.

Also be sure that there are no springs sticking up through the cushioning, as this could be harmful to a sleeping baby. Generally, you want to avoid using secondhand mattresses if possible.

Quickly Clean Up Spills on Your Baby’s Crib Mattress

Just because a crib mattress appears clean, it might not be telling the whole story. Bacteria and other harmful elements can collect in a crib mattress if it’s not carefully cleaned and monitored. Always make sure that if your child’s diaper leaks or if anything is spilled on your baby’s crib mattress that you’re cleaning it immediately.

To clean a crib mattress, start by wiping off excess fluids with a damp sponge. From there, pat the area dry with a washcloth. You should always replace your baby’s sheets when a spill has occurred, immediately tossing the dirty sheets into the washing machine for a thorough clean.

If the spill has gone beneath the sheets, make a mixture of some soapy water and dab the spill with a sponge that has absorbed some of that mixture. You always want to avoid rubbing a spill, as it can lead to the spill going even deeper into the mattress and leaving a stain. Finally, dry the mattress by gently dabbing it with a clean washcloth.

If you think that the spill may have seeped into the mattress itself, keep an eye on it in the coming days. If discoloration begins to appear, it may be time for a new crib mattress. You may even want to consider purchasing a mattress pad to help protect your crib mattress from future spills and leaks.

Hi, I am Chelsey! I’m a writer and editor currently living in Boston, Massachusetts. Before this, I’ve called both Los Angeles, CA and Brooklyn, NY home. Prior to joining the ReviewThis team, I worked as a lifestyle writer for Bustle and City Guide NY. You can add me on Twitter (@chelseygrasso) to keep up with my latest publications and interests!

How Firm Should A Baby Crib Mattress Be?

October 13, 2017

One of the most important considerations parents should have about their baby’s mattress is the firmness level. While it’s tempting to want baby to have a cushion-soft surface that seems cozy to us as adults, it can be dangerous if a crib mattress is soft, floppy, or saggy.

Why You Don’t Want a Soft Mattress

For starters, babies’ bones are still developing and their bodies need much more support than ours do as adults. Adults may find comfort and support from a wide range of materials and firmness levels, but for babies it’s important to remember that firmer is always better. If it feels cozy to you, it’s probably too soft for your baby.

Babies, especially newborns and young infants, lack mobility and can’t get around very well. So they have a harder time lifting themselves up and repositioning like an adult would. If they stay on their back during sleep that’s one thing, but once they start rolling onto their tummies this can present a pretty serious risk. A softer mattress that is flexible at the edges can also increase the chance that arms or legs can get stuck between the mattress and the crib.

To reduce the risk of these potential hazards, it’s best to choose a firm crib mattress with firm edges. Safety recommendations also caution parents to place babies to sleep on their backs and to keep all soft materials (bedding, toys, etc.) out of the crib environment.

How Firm Should A Crib Mattress Be?

Consumer Reports recommends that you “Press on the mattress in the center and at the edges. It should snap back readily and should not conform to the shape of your hand.” So when you’re testing crib mattress firmness, feel free to put pressure on the mattress to make sure it resists the impression of your hand. It should feel a bit firmer than you’d think is comfortable. But trust us – babies need the firmer surface and sleep just fine!

The Ideal Firmness for a Crib Mattress

At Lullaby Earth, your baby’s safety is our priority. Our crib mattresses are made with firm, flat support, as recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and also feature reinforced edges for a snug fit in the crib.

Our 2-stage or “dual firmness” crib mattresses have a firm side and a cushion firm side. When baby is around one year old you can switch to the cushion firm side for a little more cushion during the toddler years!

We do recommend you confirm with your pediatrician before flipping the mattress, since some babies may need a bit more time on the firmer infant side.

The Baby Mattress Firmness Test You Need to Know About

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Last Updated on January 18, 2020

When it comes to crib mattresses, you really can’t compare what’s comfortable for an adult with what’s comfortable (and safe) for a baby. And when it comes to babies, the firmer the crib mattress, the better.

A firm crib mattress is necessary to support a babies skeleton, ensure the baby’s safety (and prevent suffocation), and more. To learn why a crib mattress is important and how to tell if a crib mattress is firm enough, keep reading.

Yes, a Firm Crib Mattress Really is Necessary for Your Baby

If you’ve spent any time reading crib mattress reviews online, you’ve probably come across one of the most common criticisms from moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas in charge of buying a baby crib mattress:

Hard as a rock! I know babies should have a firm crib mattress, but it shouldn’t feel like sleeping on a rock!

If I wanted a crib mattress this hard, I would let my baby sleep on our wooden floor.

It was just way too firm. There’s no way I would sleep on this mattress. I can’t imagine my baby sleeping on it. It just doesn’t seem comfortable.

Honestly, we get where these parents and grandparents are coming from. You want the best for your baby. And that includes making them comfy and cozy when they head off to dreamland.

All parents want their babies to sleep well. It seems like common sense that a too-firm mattress would be uncomfortable for the baby, and would lead to a poorer quality sleep, right?

Looking for a firm, non-toxic crib mattress and don’t have a lot of time to waste? We got you! Here are our top picks for a firm baby crib mattress:

Wrong. Here’s the thing. Babies are different from adults. Adults can do loads of things babies can’t – or shouldn’t – do. And that includes sleeping on a soft mattress.

When it comes to crib mattresses, you really can’t compare what’s comfortable for an adult with what’s comfortable (and safe) for a baby.

They’re just plain different.

And when it comes to babies, the firmer the crib mattress, the better.

Why A Firm Baby Mattress is an Absolute Necessity

Skeletal Support

From a developmental perspective, firm crib mattresses give babies the support their bones and skeletons need as they develop and grow.

Whereas adults have 206 bones, babies have around 300! Between birth and the time the baby turns 25, some of their bones fuse together, which is why adults have less bones than babies.

Not only do babies have more bones than adults, they also have much softer bones. In fact, some bones in a baby’s body aren’t actually made of bone just yet. Instead, they’re made entirely (or partly) of soft, flexible cartilage. As the baby grows, bone replaces the cartilage.

A baby’s skeleton is very different from an adult’s, and it requires more support. Babies’ spines need more support than adults’ spines. And babies’ bones need more support than adults bones.

Firm crib mattresses offer that support, whereas soft crib mattresses do not.


Firm crib mattresses are also essential to a baby’s safety. Soft crib mattresses are come with a higher risk of SIDS than average or firm crib mattresses.

The same goes for soft crib mattresses and suffocation risk.

If a baby is put to sleep on their stomach or rolls onto their stomach during sleep, soft mattresses can conform to the baby’s face. This increases the risk of suffocation.

Soft mattresses may also be dangerous within the context of the so-calledrebreathing theory.According to this theory, soft bedding and mattresses increase the risk of a baby’s exhaled breath getting trapped around its face, causing the baby to re-breath its own exhaled breath (carbon dioxide).

It’s important to note there “are no physiologic data from infants who died” to support the rebreathing theory to date. However, since it’s so easy to choose a firm crib mattress instead of a soft one, why wouldn’t you?

If you’re particularly concerned, you might consider whether a breathable crib mattress is right for your family.

Finally, soft mattresses can have malleable sides and corners. This can allow for gaps to be created between the crib edge and the mattress edge, and it’s possible babies can get stuck in these gaps.

Related Reading

How Much is a Crib Mattress? A Guide for New Parents

Firm Crib Mattresses: The Experts Agree Firmer is Better

If you need more evidence to convince a partner, grandparent, or co-parent that a firm bassinet mattress and/or crib mattress is best for your baby, take a look at what some of the experts say:

  • The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: “Never place baby to sleep on soft surfaces…. These surfaces can be very dangerous for babies.”
  • The Center for Disease Control: “Use a firm, flat sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib covered by a fitted sheet.
  • (a not-for-profit organization): “A firm mattress covered with a tight-fitting crib sheet is all you need to make your baby sleep like a baby.”
  • American Academy of Pediatrics:“A firm surface is a hard surface; it should not indent when the baby is lying on it.”
  • American Academy of Pediatrics (again): “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a safe sleep environment that can reduce the risk of all sleep-related infant deaths. Recommendations for a safe sleep environment include supine positioning, the use of a firm sleep surface, room-sharing without bed-sharing, and the avoidance of soft bedding and overheating. Additional recommendations for SIDS reduction include the avoidance of exposure to smoke, alcohol, and illicit drugs; breastfeeding; routine immunization; and use of a pacifier.”
  • Healthy Families BC (a provincial government organization):The mattress should be firm. If it’s worn or has a tear, it’s dangerous. Don’t use it.
  • Health Canada:Check that the mattress is firm. Mattresses that are too soft or worn down in any area could create a gap where a baby’s face could become stuck, causing them to suffocate.
  • The Canadian Pediatric Society:Use a firm, flat surface for sleep. Waterbeds, air mattresses, pillows, couches/sofas or soft materials are not safe sleep surfaces for babies. Babies can turn onto their side or stomach and bury their face in these soft materials, not getting enough air to breathe.
  • Dr. Shavon Artis Dickerson,Head of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Safe to Sleep campaign: “…you want to make sure that the baby is on a firm sleep mattress because if the baby rolls over, they could roll over onto a soft mattress where they actually—their face or nose becomes buried in the mattress.”

There’s virtually no professional organization operating in child health and safety that doesn’t argue the case for a firm crib mattress.

The experts have weighed in, and they’ve made an overwhelming case in support of buying a firm crib mattress for your baby.

How to Tell if a Crib Mattress is Firm Enough? The Baby Mattress Firmness Test You Need to Know About

When shopping for a firm crib mattress, we recommend you start with what we call the FIRMS checklist:

F – Firm and Flat:Look for a crib mattress with a firm, flat surface. There shouldn’t be any peaks or valleys on the mattress.

I – Indentation Resistant:When a crib mattress arrives, you should test it’s resistance to indentations. Simply press the mattress in the middle, and again around the mattress edges. If the mattress is firm enough for your baby, it will snap back right away, rather than conforming to your hand or fingers.

R – Recall List:Before you let your baby sleep on a new crib mattress, double check it’s not on the recall list. Americans can check for baby product recalls here, and Canadians can check here. We’d recommend you check both lists, just in case.

M – Mattress Edges and Corners:Firm crib mattresses will have strong and stable edges and corners that can’t be pushed inwards to create a gap between the crib edge and mattress. Double check the mattress in your crib to ensure there’s no way to create large gaps.

S – Soft Isn’t Safe:This one isn’t so much a checklist as a reminder. If the crib mattress seem like it would be comfortable for you, it’s probably too soft for your baby. When it comes to baby mattresses, firmer is always better, so don’t be afraid to look for an extra firm crib mattress.

Is Your Baby’s Crib Mattress Too Hard? (What to Do)

I may receive a commission for purchases made through product links on this page, but I always stand by my opinions and endorsements!

Babies, and especially newborns, need a lot of support while they’re sleeping.

Not only that, a firm crib mattress is an absolute must when it comes to safe sleeping and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) prevention.

But many parents, after a few nights, week, or even months at home with baby, start to wonder: Is my baby’s crib mattress too hard or too firm?

Most likely, your baby’s crib mattress is exactly as firm as it’s supposed to be. What might seem rigid and uncomfortable to us adults is actually perfect for baby’s safety and development. You can switch to a softer mattress as baby gets a little bit older, and in the meantime, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to keep them comfortable while they sleep.

Let’s dive in a little deeper and explore the importance of a firm mattress for babies, when to switch to a softer mattress, and tips to keep baby comfortable if he’s having trouble sleeping in the crib.

How firm or hard should a crib mattress be?

I see this question over and over and over again on big parenting forums and mom discussion boards.

A baby is having trouble sleeping, and after trying every trick in the book to no avail, mom or dad tests out the crib mattress and finds that it’s hard as a rock.

Then they’re left wondering: Is the mattress too hard? Is that why my baby won’t sleep?

Chances are if you bought your crib mattress from a reputable company with all of the right safety certifications and inspections, the mattress is exactly as firm as it should be.

You would be surprised how firm a baby’s bed should really be! They need the support for a couple of important reasons:

  • Their bones are soft and just beginning to develop. Their spines, in particular, need far more support than adults do.
  • A firm mattress gives them a better base to push off of when they begin to wiggle and move around.
  • A mattress with too much give is a huge SIDS or suffocation risk for a baby that’s not able to move on its own very well yet.

So the bedding is SUPPOSED to be firm, or even hard.

Still, here are a couple of general rules of thumb you can use to gauge whether your child’s mattress is firm enough:

  • Press your hand into the sides and center of the mattress. It should have very little give.
  • When you release, it should quickly “snap” back into shape.
  • It definitely should NOT contour to the shape of your hand or body when laying down.

And ultimately, the overall rule is that if you think your baby’s mattress is cozy and comfortable, it’s probably too soft.

BUT… all of that doesn’t really help you if your baby doesn’t like the mattress or is having trouble sleeping. Believe me, I hear you!

Let’s talk about where to go from here.

When can my baby use a softer mattress?

There are a lot of first-hand accounts out there of parents using mattress toppers or pads, quilts, and other soft items to offset the firmness of their baby’s crib.

And from reading discussions online, a lot of the time it works! It seems some babies really do want a softer surface to sleep on.

But be warned: Putting anything in the crib other than a firm mattress and a tightly fitted sheet is a SIDS risk, and most doctors and pediatricians strongly caution against doing this.

The risk of SIDS peaks when baby is around 2-3 months old. So when it comes to newborns and smaller infants, it’s really best to stick with only the mattress, a tight sheet, and a really good swaddle.

According to Baby Center, 90% of SIDS cases occur in babies younger than 6 months — the likelihood of something going wrong during sleep decrease substantially after that.

However, SIDS risk still exists until a baby is 12 months old!

I wouldn’t consider switching to a softer mattress or adding a mattress topper/pad until baby is at least 6 months old and can move around or crawl on his own — and even then, you should definitely talk to your pediatrician first.

(I can’t stress that enough — I’m not a doctor and I don’t claim to be! Talk to yours before you make any major decisions about your baby’s safety.)

If you ARE looking for a good solution for a baby that likes softer bedding, I would definitely check out this Milliard Dual-Sided Crib Mattress on Amazon.

One side is super firm and safe for baby, while the other side is a little bit softer for an older baby or a toddler. Once you get the OK from your pediatrician to try a softer sleeping surface, you won’t have to buy something new — just flip it over!

Other ways to make baby more comfortable

Alright, so all of that still doesn’t really help if your baby isn’t ready for a soft mattress, but doesn’t like his firm one.

Fortunately, while you shouldn’t ADD anything into your crib for safety reasons, there are a few different things you can try to keep baby more comfortable and help him sleep better.

Let him sleep in a bassinet, cradle, or swing

It’s possible your baby just needs a different sleep environment. If so, you can plop him in a bassinet and keep him by your bedside — that’s a safe way to keep an eye on him and let him be close to you without bringing him to bed (which is a major no-no).

Or, try acradle! The gentle rocking motion may help soothe him and put him into a deep snooze.

Swings are a fantastic option for naps or short bursts of sleep, but usually aren’t safe for all-night sleep. (You guessed it, too much time spent upright can be a SIDS risk for baby.)

Try different pajamas and swaddles

A good swaddle can make a world of difference for young babies.

When it comes to newborns, it’s best to keep them tightly swaddled for overnight sleep, but you can experiment with different techniques and products.

One thing you might try is comparing sleep sacks with a little or a lot of room for their legs and seeing which one baby likes better.

These SwaddleMe swaddles on Amazon keep baby balled up tight, with very little wiggle room for legs. They’re as snug and cozy as it gets.

These Halo Sleepsack swaddles, on the other hand, give your baby a little more breathing room in the legs.

Both are great! Try both varieties and see if they help at bedtime.

Alter the sleep environment

When it comes to crib sleeping for newborns or younger babies, there’s really not much you can do to the crib itself safely.

But you can try lots of different things in and around the room to create a better sleeping environment.

Try a little white noiseor other sound machine sounds to soothe baby, or even play lullaby music.

Get the temperature right!Somewhere between 65-72 degrees in baby’s room is the ideal range, but you can try the lower or higher end if you think baby is getting too cool or hot at night.

Make it darker.You might think a room that’s too dark will scare your baby, but really the fear of the dark doesn’t start until later in life. Too much light can trigger alertness, so try making the room extremely dark or only using a very small, dim nightlight.

Related: Should I buy a breathable crib mattress?

There’s really no harm in a breathable mattress as long as it’s firm enough and up to the most recent safety standards, but “breathable” can be very misleading.

It implies that it’s OK to put baby to sleep on their side or stomach, or that you’ll be OK if you don’t follow the general guidelines for safe sleep.

That’s really not true. The only safe way to put a baby to sleep is on his back on a firm crib mattress with a tightly fitted sheet — that’s it!

You should only let baby sleep on his stomach or side if you’re specifically instructed by a doctor for a specific medical reason.

Related: Should I use sleep positioners to keep baby from rolling over?

In most cases, no, you shouldn’t!

Very young babies and newborns are extremely unlikely to roll themselves over on their own, so a positioner is unlikely to help very much. (Babies usually start learning to roll over around 4-months-old).

Plus, it’s just another obstacle in the crib that could become a major suffocation hazard. Most pediatricians and children’s groups strongly advocate against using any extra sleep props in the crib with your baby.

Wrapping Up

Your baby’s mattress might feel too hard to overly firm, but the reality is — it’s supposed to be that way!

There are extremely important safety and development reasons behind those stiff mattresses. And even though they may not be what YOU would want to sleep on, they are perfectly suited for newborns and young babies.

When your child gets a little older and has better motor control (and his SIDS risk starts to go down because of age), you can consider a softer mattress with input from your pediatrician.

And in the meantime, there are tons of things you can try in your baby’s room (or out) to make sleeping a little more comfortable.

Just remember not to put anything extra in the crib with a young baby, even if people online tell you it works! It’s just not worth the risk.

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