How to buy a crib mattress
The lowdown on crib mattresses
A good mattress not only makes bedtime cozier – it supports your growing baby and keeps her safe. Consider cost, comfort, and durability, as your baby will probably sleep in a crib for up to 3 years.
Types of mattresses
Foam mattressesare generally the lightest option. These are available in a variety of thicknesses, usually between 3 and 6 inches. Look for foam mattresses that are firm, on the heavier side, and resilient when you press your hand on them. Too soft a surface can conform to a baby’s shape and create a risk of suffocation and a sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) hazard.
Innerspring mattressesare coils covered with foam, padding, and fabric.
Better-gauge steel and higher-quality cushioning is heavier and more expensive, as well as firmer and more durable.
Organic mattressesare made with all-natural or organic materials, including cotton, wool, coconut fibers, food-grade polymers, plant-based foam, and natural latex. These mattresses can be innerspring, foam, or other – it’s hard to classify a mattress stuffed with coconut-husk fibers.
Organic crib mattresses can be expensive, but some people say the peace of mind is worth the price. They contend that chemicals and industrial compounds used in standard mattresses – flame retardants known as PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), vinyl, and polyurethane foam, for instance – emit toxic gases, and that the substances used to make mattresses could harm babies. Others say materials like latex can produce an allergic reaction in infants.
As researchers continue to analyze issues of toxicity, advocates for going organic point out that if these chemicals could be harmful, the safest thing to do is to buy a crib mattress that doesn’t use them.
“Breathable” mattresses, made of materials that are supposed to allow a baby to breathe freely even if his or her face is pressed up against it, are getting more popular. Experts haven’t yet weighed in on their efficacy.
What to look for when buying
The right size:A mattress needs to fit snugly in the crib, with no space between the side of the mattress and the crib frame. If there’s a space, the mattress is too small and could be a suffocation and entrapment hazard. The size of both crib mattresses and cribs is standardized by the federal government, but due to slight variations in each, not every mattress will fit perfectly in every crib.
Firmness:The firmer the crib mattress the better (mattresses designed for older children and adults may not be firm enough). Even if it feels very stiff to you, your baby will adjust to it.Consumer Reportssuggests this test: "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."
Density:You want high density so it’s firm enough to keep your baby safe while sleeping. Most foam mattresses don’t list density on the packaging, but weight can be a good indicator. As for innerspring mattresses, manufacturers often equate the number of coils with firmness, but the gauge of the wire is just as important. Lower gauge means thicker wire, which is stronger and therefore firmer. Look for a mattress with 135 or more coils and a gauge of 15.5 or lower.
Resiliency:When you push your hand down into the middle of the mattress and remove it, how quickly does it regain its shape? Faster is better; sleeping babies make an impression on the foam, and it can be difficult for them to change position if the mattress retains their shape. Some foam mattresses are “2-stage” or “dual firmness,” with a firm side for infants and a softer side for toddlers.
Weight:A typical foam mattress weighs about 7 to 8 pounds, although mattresses made of memory foam (an especially dense form of polyurethane) can weigh close to 20 pounds. Innerspring crib mattresses are heavier in general, weighing in at about 15 to 25 pounds. Keep in mind that you’ll be hoisting up a side of the mattress, or lifting the whole thing, when changing your baby’s sheet.
Mattress cover (ticking):For water resistance, look for double- or triple-laminated ticking reinforced with nylon. This composition is also more resistant to tears, holes, and soggy diapers. Organic mattresses usually have cotton covers; parents may want to consider a fitted waterproof mattress cover.
Venting:Look for small holes on the sides of the mattress that let air flow in and out. A mattress will smell better if it has plenty of vent holes to let odors escape. Diapers do leak, so this is important.
Cleaning:Most traditional mattresses suggest spot-cleaning only. Some have removable covers that can be machine-washed. The innards of at least one crib mattress on the market can be hosed down in the tub once its washable cover is removed.
Certification seals:Crib mattresses for sale in the United States must meet safety standards defined by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Society for Testing and Materials. (The Juvenile Products Manufacturer Association does not test or certify crib mattresses.) A manufacturer’s claim that a product is organic can mean a variety of things, but look for an Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification (a worldwide uniform certification), which assures you that certain flame retardants and heavy metals were not used to make the mattress.
Important safety notes
- Use caution with used or secondhand crib mattresses. Some studies link used mattresses to an increased risk of SIDS, although researchers aren’t sure whether the mattresses caused the increase in risk or were simply correlated with an increased risk. (Theories that fungal activity or toxic gases in used mattresses caused SIDS have been largely laid to rest.) Experts recommend that parents avoid old, worn mattresses, particularly those with foam/padding exposed – which can increase the potential for bacterial growth – or those that hold an indentation after your hand is placed firmly on the surface, then removed.
- Air mattresses are not safe for babies. The soft surface is a suffocation hazard. As the CPSC warns, "Never place infants to sleep on air mattresses or other soft surfaces (such as water beds and adult beds), which are not specifically designed or safe for infant use."
- No matter what mattress parents choose, they should continue to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ safe-sleep guidelines and put babies to sleep on their backs on a firm, bare surface.
What it’s going to cost you
Crib mattresses start at about $40 and can range to more than $350. Organic mattresses start at about $80 and can reach $400.
How many mattresses does the crib need?
Im just a little confused about this because I cant see just one being enough. When I look at pictures it looks like they have at least two. Im worried that with just one mattress he wont be up high enough in the crib and I will have to bend down far to reach him.Could someone please help me because if I need two I would like to go ahead and order it.
I’ve wondered the same thing! Even my mother commented on how low the mattress sits in my crib. It’s in the highest setting. I’ve wondered if it’s a design flaw of the lifetime cribs.
I’ve never heard of a crib needing two mattresses. A lot of cribs are adjustable so you can change the height of the mattress. I’m 5’1" with pretty short arms and I will be able to reach him just fine on the middle of the three settings.
You should be able to adjust like kaateelyyn said. I know mine can be lowered and put at a higher setting.
I’ve never heard of a crib needing more than one mattress. My crib has multiple mattress settings and the front rail also has two stationary settings (not a drop rail). That said my mattress is at the highest level with the front rail at the low setting. I’m only 4’11" and have always reached mine little ones just fine.
my LO(little one)crib is huge and it was set to the highest level, after putting the matress and sheet it looks so much better for a newborn but once he begins to stand up I will lower the height so he wont fall over
I intentionally tested cribs for their height for me to lay down/pick up the baby. some cribs did seem to have lower "highest settings" and some cribs were just lower in general, making it seem like a long way down. But I’ve never heard of using 2 mattresses.
You just need one mattress. There are many settings on the cribs to adjust the height. 2 mattresses can be extremly dangerous. You’re baby will flip out. Dont be silly. It’s just like any other bed.
i know what ur talking about i always thought it was a mattress and a box spring or something. but i think its the bed skirt that makes it looks like its another mattress underneath because its designed to hide the empty space underneath the mattress if you have it on a high setting. i have my crib and mattress and bed set and when i set it up this weekend ill let you know what it looks like
How to Choose a Crib Mattress
Joel Forman, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine, and public health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
One of the most delightful parts of expecting a child is putting together the nursery. It’s also one of the most important. While the perfect paint shade and cutest bedding are nice, safe sleeping space is essential—and that starts with picking the best crib mattress for your baby.
While a mattress may just seem like, well, a mattress, there are specific safety considerations to keep in mind, as well as features that are worth looking (and budgeting) for.
Crib Mattress Safety Standards
Because safety is central to choosing a crib and mattress, the dimensions of full-size cribs and mattresses have been standardized under federal regulations. That makes it easy to buy the two separately without worrying about fit.
The aim of these regulations is to prevent accidental head entrapment and suffocation between the mattress and the crib sides. The laws were enacted by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and officially went into effect in 2011.
The same rule doesn’t apply to non-full-size cribs, however. Therefore, by law, these must be sold with the mattress included.
Remember that even if a mattress or pillow happens to fit inside the crib you choose, you should not use it unless it is a specifically designed crib mattress. Nor should you add a foam topper or other non-standard crib mattress cover to it.
A full-size crib mattress must be at least 27 1/4 inches wide, 51 1/4 inches long, and no more than six inches thick. At these dimensions, the standard crib mattress will fit safely in a full-size crib, which can have an interior width of between 27 3/8 inches and 28 5/8 inches, and an interior length of between 51 3/4 inches to 53 inches.
These dimensions and those of the mattress must be listed on both the retail carton and assembly instructions. Non-standard crib mattresses (say, for round or mini-cribs) can vary in size, but must meet non-full-size crib standards, and all non-full-size cribs must be sold with mattress included.
When a mattress is placed in the center of the crib, there cannot be a gap of more than a half-inch at any point. If the mattress is pushed to one side, there cannot be a gap of more than an inch at any point. Again, this shouldn’t be a worry for consumers, as non-standard cribs and mattresses are sold assets. But it may be a concern if you are considering using an older, hand-me-down crib.
Note: The Consumer Product Safety Commission cautions against using a crib that is older than 10 years.
What to Look for in a Full-Size Crib Mattress
Since the federal regulations dictate an acceptablerangein mattress dimensions, there can be a slight variation in the width, length, and depth. Before heading to the store or ordering a mattress online, check the label on your crib to make certain you purchase a mattress with the exact measurements needed.
Other things to consider:
- Firmness:As a rule, firm mattresses are better for babies than overly soft ones. In fact, the firmer the better. Soft sleeping surfaces create a suffocation hazard for infants and increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). One way to test firmness is to press on the mattress in the center and at the edges. When you release it, it should snap back immediately.
- Depth and weight:Mattress depth doesn’t necessarily translate to mattress firmness. Coil-spring mattresses tend to be on the thicker side—between 5 to 6 inches deep—whereas foam crib mattresses are closer to 4 to 6 inches deep. Foam mattresses tend to weigh less (with the exception of memory foam mattresses), which makes them easier to lift when you’re changing sheets.
- Duration of use:Some crib mattresses are reversible, with a firm side for babies and a slightly less firm, more cushioned side for toddlers. These are sometimes called "two-stage" mattresses, and they are clearly marked so you know which side to use when. (If you opt for one of these, talk to your pediatrician about when it’s safe to flip the mattress from the baby side to the toddler side.)
While you don’t want to cut corners when it comes to buying a crib mattress, you also don’t have to blow your entire nursery budget either. According toConsumer Reports, a good quality mattress will cost between $90 and $200.
However, some special features come with a higher price tag. If you are looking for a mattress made of strictly organic materials or one that has an allergen-reducing cover, for example, you may need to spend more than $200.
If you are considering buying a used crib mattress to save money, you may very well find one that is suitable and up-to-standard. But confirming that is quite difficult, considering that it may be hard to determine if it was stored properly or was ever soiled. If at all possible, buying new is best.
Crib Mattress Covers
Many crib mattresses come with a cover to help protect your investment from diaper accidents and other spills. They can also be purchased separately. You may want a cover that offers:
- Breathability (to keep baby cooler and more comfortable)
- An anti-microbial layer (bacterial protection)
- A hypoallergenic barrier (to keep allergens out)
Regardless of the features, it offers, check to see if the cover’s seams appear sturdy. Plastic seams can have sharp edges, so you will want to avoid those. Check fabric seams to make sure they are not stretched/strained and liable to rip.
Two Is Better Than One
Many parents appreciate have two mattress covers handy—one to put on the crib and one extra, just in case of accidents.
Replacing a Crib Mattress
If you need to replace the mattress in your crib, always check the warning label on the crib for the correct dimensions. If you don’t see a label, it may be that the crib is older or has been modified. If in doubt, replace the crib entirely.
If you buy a mattress and find it doesn’t fit correctly, return it immediately and get another one that does. Never try to make do by shoring up the edges with fabric or foam.Anything other than a snug fit should be considered a safety hazard.
In this regard, while online shopping may be convenient, you may be better served shopping for mattresses at a brick-and-mortar store. You can then do a proper check of dimensions and firmness before making a purchase.
Best Crib Mattresses of 2020
Choosing a crib mattress can be confusing. Here’s what to know to have your baby sleeping like, well, a baby.
During the first few months of life, your baby will spend more time asleep than awake—although it won’t always seem that way! Part of getting your little one to sleep soundly is creating a good sleeping environment.
In this article:
What Are the Types of Crib Mattresses?
There are different types of crib mattresses to choose from, but what matters most is getting a quality one. Which type you end up buying is more a matter of personal preference. Here are the options:
Innerspring mattresses:This traditional mattress type has steel coils inside, which makes it resilient and sturdy. Above the coils, innerspring mattresses have layers of different cushioning materials, such as polyester, cotton or foam.
You’ll see innersprings described by their coil count (that’s the number of steel coils in the mattress; the more coils, the more supportive) and steel gauge (the thickness of the coil; the lower numbers are thicker). Some models also have metal border rods that provide stability around the edges.
Innerspring mattresses can be pricey, especially if you’re looking into higher coil count. Reliable brands range from $80 to $300. These mattresses also tend to weigh more (something to consider for when you have to change crib sheets in the night).
Foam mattresses:These are typically made from polyurethane, a foam resin. Foam mattresses can be a great choice because they’re lightweight and durable, and are also usually the least-expensive mattress option.
When choosing a foam crib mattress, you want to make sure it’s resilient. Test this by pressing your hand on the mattress and seeing how long the surface takes to regain its shape (the faster, the better).
Also, look for a mattress that has a higher density, which makes it firmer. You can test this by how heavy it is (denser mattresses are typically heavier) or by squeezing the sides of the mattress (you won’t be able to press that hard on denser models).
Double-sided mattresses:2 for 1! These mattresses have a firmer infant side and a softer side that is more appropriate for toddlers who still use a crib or convertible toddler bed. Just flip it over to give your tot a softer, more comfortable mattress.
Keep in mind though, these models might be more expensive than some infant crib mattresses. And, you’ll have to remember to place the correct side of the mattress facing up when you’re changing the crib sheets.
How to Choose a Crib Mattress
Crib mattresses are similar to adult mattress, but with a few special considerations. Here’s what to look for in a crib mattress:
- Firmness:Crib mattresses are firmer than adult ones in order to keep babies safe and to support growing bones while they sleep. Make sure the mattress is rated for infant use.
- Waterproof:Crib mattresses should have a vinyl or polyethylene surface to make them waterproof and resist mold. If yours is fabric be sure to use a waterproof cover.
- Fit:The mattress should fit snugly against the frame. You shouldn’t be able to fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib. If you choose a mini crib or bassinet, the same sizing rules apply.
- Materials:Some parents prefer mattresses made from natural and organic materials to avoid chemicals used in standard mattress production. (Note: No health effects have been evaluated yet).
Crib Mattress Safety Guidelines
Obviously, your baby’s safety is a top priority. Here are a few safety basics to keep in mind when choosing a crib mattress:
- Avoid second-hand if possible:Because of the dangers associated with mold and bacteria, it’s best to avoid a used mattress, especially if you don’t know the history of the product. Reusing one from another one of your children? Make sure there aren’t any openings in the waterproof cover where mold could’ve taken root.
- Keep the crib empty:Although they look lovely, pillows, bumpers, stuffed animals and blankets shouldn’t be in a baby’s crib. That’s because they can wind up covering your baby’s face and be a suffocation hazard. Keep it to a fitted sheet only.
- Place baby on their back:The safest sleeping position for your baby is on the back. It reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is the leading cause of death in the first year of life.
- Check before you flip the mattress:If you have a double-sided mattress, check with your pediatrician to see if the time is right to flip it over to the toddler side. Most parents make the switch when their children are about 12 months old.
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How We Chose Our Best Crib Mattresses
We asked thousands of real Babylist families about the products they love the most. We took the top products they shared with us and added our own research and insight to tell you about the best crib mattresses.
How Many Coils Does a Baby Crib Mattress Need?
How Many Coils Does a Baby Crib Mattress Need?
Although there are no hard and fast rules about coils, there are a few guidelines that might help.
First, let’s clear up the difference between ‘coils’ and ‘coil count’. A crib mattress, for example, may contain 150 coils. But the ‘coil count’ is listed as 420. What’s the difference? The figure ‘150’ is the number of actual coils inthatcrib mattress; the coil count, 420, is the number of coils that would be found in an equivalent mattress of full size. So, really, the only number you really have to pay attention to is the "150" coils.
Next, there are questions about the relationship between the number of coils and the firmness of the mattress. While it is true that a mattress with more coilscouldbe more firm, the number of coils isn’t the only factor on which firmness depends – it also depends on the gauge or thickness of the steel used to make the coils.
For example, a mattress with 250 coils that are made with the same gauge steel as a mattress with 150 will likely be a little more firm. However, if the 250 coils are made with higher gauge (thinner) steel than the 150 coils in the other mattress, there may be virtually no difference.
Firmness can also be affected by the other materials used to make the mattress so, really, the best way to judge whether a crib mattress is firm enough, or not, is covered in our blog, How Firm is Firm Enough for a Baby Crib Mattress?
But there is another factor to consider when you’re looking at coil count, and that is weight distribution. Fewer coils means that the baby’s weight won’t be distributed as evenly as mattresses with more coils. There are several crib mattresses on the market that have 80 coils. Obviously, that’s not going to distribute the baby’s weight as evenly as a mattress with more coils.
That said, the crib mattresses with only 80 coils are generally the least expensive and, frankly, as with other materials used to make a mattress, you get what you pay for.
Our baby crib mattresses start with 150 coils – which provides good weight distribution and, along with our other highest quality materials, also provides a firm, flat, comfortable and non-toxic environment just perfect for your baby.