In The Guide
Prepare to enter the exciting world of buying a mattress!
Yeah. I don’t blame you for not being all that excited about it.
Buying those teeny tiny clothes is fun, and I loved looking for things like car seats and strollers, but the crib mattress itself? Not that fun.
The fact is, though, that the mattress is one of the most important purchases you’ll make when putting together your nursery.
Infants spend more than 16 hours a day in their crib, so safety and comfort is a huge concern. Not all crib mattresses are safe, and there is some misleading information out there.
My Top 5 Favorite Crib Mattresses
#1: Colgate Eco Classica III (My Favorite!)
Colgate? Don’t they make toothpaste?
Nope, this is an entirely separate company with the same name. Confusing, right?
Once we get past that silliness, the Colgate Eco Classica III (click here to check price) is one of the best crib mattresses out there, and my personal favorite.
It’s a dual-sided mattress, with one of the sides being firmer than the other, so you can use it in a toddler bed once they outgrow their crib (the sides are clearly marked, so there’s no confusion). Bonus!
The infant side is nicely firm, and shouldn’t sink in or anything like that.
It weighs about 10 pounds, which is pretty good for a crib mattress, especially one that’s dual-use. I found it easy enough to switch up the crib sheets on my own, and that’s by using one hand. And I’m not exactly a super-mama.
The cover is made of 100% certified organic cotton, and the inner part of the mattress is made of plant-based foam. It’s very lightweight, making sheet changes a breeze; you can lift it with a single hand if you need to.
You’ll notice that this mattress has absolutely no smell, which is something you find with a lot of mattresses. While it’s really not a harmful thing, it does tend to give a really bad impression, and makes you feel uncomfortable with it.
No problem with that here. If you notice a slight plastic smell when you first unwrap it, it’s due to the plastic packaging. It goes away quickly!
Lightweight, eco-friendly, safe and comfy. What more can you ask for? I love it! If you ask me, this is the safest crib mattress around.
#2: Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer
Like my #1 choice, the Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer (click here to check price) is also a dual-firmness foam mattress, so you can use it in both a crib and a toddler bed.
However, Moonlight Slumber has gone the extra distance in making a mattress that is vinyl, polyethylene, PVC and phthalates free.
Being a foam mattress, it’s very light and easy to change the sheets, just like any good crib mattress should be. The foam is CentiPUR certified, meaning it’s free of toxic chemicals in both the foam and exterior, and no flame-retardant chemicals are used.
What I liked about the Little Dreamer is that the stitching is around the side of the mattress as opposed to around the top. This means that if something gets spilled on it, it’s not going to get trapped around the edges, and it’s not going to grow mold.
This is probably something you wouldn’t even think of when looking for a mattress, but I love it. The exterior is water-resistant, and easy to wipe clean with a wet rag, so no complaints there.
Moonlight Slumber is known to have great customer service, so if you happen to have any kind of trouble with it, they should fix up (for free!)
While it’s not a budget mattress, it’s excellent, and isn’t that what we all want? I love it!
#3: Sealy Soybean Foam-Core
A healthy, non-toxic and earth-friendly mattress, the Sealy Soybean Foam-Core (click here to check price) uses no flame-retardant chemicals, making it extra safe to use.
Since your baby is going to be spending so much of their life on their mattress, why not get one that’s non-toxic and natural? The mattress itself is firm but breathable, which is great in the summer months.
The cover is waterproof and stain-resistant, so you can wipe it down easily without the need of a mattress pee pad. It’s also very light, so it’s easy to carry and change the sheets (which is awesome, trust me!).
A lot of moms love it because innerspring mattresses are so heavy and hard to change sheets with one person, but not so with this one.
The mattress measures 51.6 x 27.2 x 5 inches, so it should fit any standard-sized crib. No problems there.
What I didn’t like, and where I have to subtract some points, is that the name of the mattress is misleading. It might make you believe that it’s made of 100% soybean foam, but if you look at the label, the foam is 73% polyurethane, meaning the mattress is probably comprised of less than 25% soybean foam. Since polyurethane might be something you want to avoid, this is worth knowing about.
Some parents also reported that the mattress started to sink in over time as they used it. I’m not exactly sure why this is, because these reports were few and far between, but it’s something to think about.
Despite all of this, it still maintains an average 4.6 / 5.0 star rating and over 300 reviews on Amazon, and remains one of their best-selling mattresses.
#4: Naturepedic No Compromise (My 100% Organic Pick!)
The most expensive option on my list, but the only one that can be labeled truly “organic”, the Naturepedic No Compromise (click here to check price) is an all-round excellent crib mattress.
Both the interior and exterior are made of 100% organic materials, and it uses absolutely no chemical flame retardants.
Like many of the mattresses on my list, this is a dual-firmness mattress, meaning it can be used both in a crib and a toddler bed. The outside layer is made of food-grade polyethylene to make it waterproof, and it doesn’t contain any nasty chemicals.
Besides all of the great natural properties, it’s just an excellent mattress. If you have any problems with it, Naturepedic is known to have excellent customer service, so you’d get it figured out in a jiffy anyway.
The only downside? It’s not cheap. But then again, you get what you pay for, and since it can be used in a toddler bed, so you’ll get a lot of use out of it. This is an excellent mattress, 100% organic, and trustworthy and safe to use. If you can afford to fit it into your budget, you’ll be happy with it.
#5: Safety 1st Heavenly Dreams (My Budget Pick!)
While not my favorite, the Safety 1st Heavenly Dreams (click here to check price) is my choice for the best budget crib mattress, and it’s an incredible deal.
It’s a really comfortable but firm mattress, and the vinyl covering makes it resistant to stains and smells. The cover is waterproof and has a zip in case you want to wash it or change it out.
It should fit all standard-sized cribs and beds, and measures 52.5 x 27.5 x 5.5 inches so you can check to make sure that it will fit yours.
This is a foam crib mattress, and it retains its shape really well, even after years of usage (it works great in a converted crib-to-toddler-bed, too).
The good thing about the lack of springs is that it discourages kids from jumping on it (hey, it happens!) It’s also pretty light, which makes it easy to wash and change the sheets.
The downside is that it uses the typical polyurethane foam that you may want to avoid.
All of my other choices avoid this, so it’s something to think about. If you’re going for a good one and can afford it, any of the others on my list might be a better pick. However, this is by no means an awful mattress; it’s actually very good for the low price.
The Importance of a Good Crib Mattress
Having a good crib mattress is very important for two main reasons: it makes the crib much comfier for your baby, and most importantly, it provides a good support for their delicate growing bones.
The National Institute of Child Health & Human Development reports that using a hard mattress, as opposed to a soft mattress, is one of the key factors in helping prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). It’s important to use a specialized baby crib mattress; a mattress that is meant for adults or older children will likely not be the correct size for a crib, nor will it be firm enough.
Babies will spend up to 70% of their life on the crib mattress. When you think about that, it’s easy to see why it’s important to get a good baby mattress.
Foam Mattresses vs. Innerspring Mattresses
There are two main types of crib mattresses: foam & innerspring. When it comes to purchasing a good crib mattress, many parents have the same question: “Which is better: foam or innerspring?”
The fact of the matter is that there really is no “best” type of crib mattress — one is not necessarily better than the other. There are both great foam and innerspring mattresses and not-so-great foam and innerspring mattresses. The main thing you should be concerned about is whether the mattress is quality or not.
Although the best foam mattresses are just as good as the best innerspring mattresses, you should know about the few key differences between the two.
The Scoop on Foam Crib Mattresses
If you’re familiar with foam crib mattresses from the 80?s or earlier, you might remember low-quality foam which would break down and become brittle over time.
You might be glad to know that this is no longer the case; there have been many advancements over the years, and a properly-manufactured modern foam mattress should not have this issue. However, it’s important not to skimp out and get a cheap foam mattress from an unknown manufacturer.
While foam mattresses that use foam that is specifically-designed for mattresses are fine, some low-cost foam mattresses use cheap packing foam to minimize costs, which will lead to deterioration over time.
Foam crib mattresses are generally less expensive than innerspring mattresses, which can sometimes be a factor when it comes to deciding on any baby product. Foam mattresses are also, in general, lighter than innerspring mattresses — about 8-10 pounds for the heaviest foam mattress, or close to 25 pounds for the heaviest innerspring mattress.
If you’re going to buy a foam crib mattress, there are a few things to look out for:
- The denser, the better: In general, the heavier a foam mattress, the more dense and firm it is. And this is the most important aspect of a foam mattress! The more firm a crib mattress is, the better. Unfortunately, not all mattress manufacturers list this in the product information. If you’re testing in-store, give them the “squeeze test”: press your hands together on each side of the mattress and see how much you can squeeze it. A good, dense mattress won’t let you push it very far.
- The weight: While a heavy foam mattress is generally better than a lighter one, don’t forget that you have to lift it to change the crib sheets. You wouldn’t want a mattress that is too heavy & cumbersome, so it’s probably best to strike a balance between weight and the ease-of-use for parents. Fortunately, most foam mattresses are much lighter than innerspring ones.
The Scoop on Innerspring Crib Mattresses
Innerspring mattresses are the type of mattress you are probably used to sleeping on yourself. They contain springs or coils, and are a lot more complex than foam mattresses. These mattresses are usually more expensive and heavier than foam mattresses
One of the biggest misconceptions about innerspring mattresses is that the more coils it has, the better. This has been so ingrained in people’s minds that even other websites will tell you that this is most important.
While the number of coils does somewhat reflect on the density of the mattress, there are many other factors that come into play, as well.
Generally, the more metal in an innerspring mattress, the better. According to Consumer Reports, you should look for a crib mattress with around 135-150 coils, with a gauge of 15.5 or lower.
Remember that an innerspring mattress is generally more expensive than a foam mattress. On top of that, they tend to be a lot heavier.
If you’re going to purchase an innerspring crib mattress, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- More expensive is not always better: Innerspring mattresses can be pretty expensive on the high end. The most expensive mattress is not always the best, so just keep that in mind.
- Coils: Look for a mattress with around 135-150 coils with a gauge of 15.5 or lower.
- Look for border rods: These are the rods that go around the perimeter of the mattress at the top and bottom, giving it much more stability, and keeping it from sagging when baby walks near the edge. As far as I’m concerned, these are a must-have.
Foam vs. Innerspring: The Conclusion
Either type of mattress should be acceptable for most parents, really.
Foam mattresses are usually a lot lighter: about 7-8 lbs for even the densest of foam, whereas innerspring mattresses tend to be about 15-23 lbs. That’s a pretty huge difference!
If you’re going to be changing the sheets on your own a lot, you might want to consider a foam mattress. My favorite pick, the Colgate Eco Classica III, weighs about 10 pounds, making it awesome and easy to change the sheets, even with just one hand.
Another big benefit to me (and something you’ll be thankful for later) is that foam mattresses are a lot less springy than their innerspring counterparts. This means that kids will be a lot less likely to use them as a trampoline as they get older. Trust me; this is a pretty big deal!
For most parents, a foam mattress will be just fine. They are generally less expensive, lighter, and all-around easier to use. The best foam mattress will be just as good as the best innerspring mattress, so I don’t think there is any important reason to go with an innerspring over a foam mattress.
What About Organic Mattresses?
A lot of parents are choosing to go “green” with their baby products, and there are a few organic baby mattresses to choose from. Unfortunately, the whole green baby product marketplace is confusing, and some manufacturers deliberately mislead consumers.
We’ve written a guide to choosing organic crib mattresses that you may want to take a look at: not all mattresses labeled “organic” are actually safe!
Shopping Secrets: What To Look For in a Crib Mattress
When shopping for a crib mattress, there are a few features and qualities that you should be looking for. Here are some things to watch out for, and some things to consider while you are shopping.
- Foam vs. innerspring: As detailed above, this isn’t really a big deal, but I’d personally recommend a good foam mattress.
- Check the mattress size: Although this should be obvious, be sure to get a mattress that fits your particular crib. Most mattresses and cribs come in standard sizes, but it’s always good to double-check and make sure that the mattress you choose is going to work with your crib. The perfect crib mattress will fit snugly against all four sides of the crib without leaving any noticeable gap.
- The more firm, the better: While a soft mattress might seem to be more comfortable from your perspective, a safe baby mattress has to be firm. A soft mattress might be prone to causing your baby to sink slightly into it, making it difficult them to adjust their position.
- Waterproof & machine washable cover: Crib mattresses are going to get pee and poop on them, there’s just no way around it. It’s absolutely vital that the crib mattress you use is both waterproof and machine washable. Trust me, you’ll regret it if it isn’t.
- Cost: This is an important factor when it comes to buying any baby product. The good thing is that even if you’re on a tight budget, baby crib mattresses aren’t very expensive. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safer. If you can budget around 0, you can get one of the best crib mattresses. However, if you need a specialty crib mattress, you will probably have to spend a little more money.
- Don’t worry about the warranty: Some manufacturers give their mattresses long (and excessive) 10-25 year warranties, which mainly lead to persuade the consumer to go with their product and not another company’s. Don’t let this sway your choice, because it really doesn’t mean much in terms of how high-quality the mattress is.
But Beware: Don’t Buy a Used Crib Mattress
One thing I would stress about almost any type of baby product is this: never buy used or accept a hand-me-down mattress.
While you might be okay if you know exactly what you’re looking for, some studies have linked the use of older crib mattresses with an increased risk of SIDS. A study published in 2002 by the British Medical Journal concluded that there was a “…valid statistical associated between sudden infant death syndrome and the use of an infant mattress previously used by another child…” and I would therefore never recommend letting your baby sleep on a used crib mattress.
Other reasons not to purchase a used crib mattress:
- They’re unsanitary. Crib mattresses are magnets for poop and pee and you have no idea how well the previous owners took care of it. Pretty icky stuff.
- They can be full of dust mites (or even bed bugs). An improperly cleaned mattress can be a dustmite or bedbug gateway into your home.
- Crib mattresses don’t last forever. A used mattress may not have a lot of life left in it. If it’s starting to sag or lose its support, it might not be safe to use anymore.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the standard crib mattress size?
By law, all crib mattresses sold in the United States and Canada must be between 27 5/8″ to 28 5/8″ wide & 51 3/4″ to 53″ in length. All cribs should fit any of the standard mattresses you’ll find in stores.
Are all crib mattresses safe?
There are safety standards in place for all mattresses sold in the USA, and that, of course, includes crib mattresses. They have to pass rigorous tests, which include cigarette-ignition and open-flame tests.
Most companies use chemical flame-retardants, but that’s not strictly necessary. The use of certain fibers, such as wool, rayon, and acrylics, are naturally flame-retardant enough to pass the standards without the need for chemicals.
If you’re concerned about these chemicals, you could go the organic route and get one that doesn’t use them. However, you need to be careful, because the term “organic” is not federally regulated, and there’s nothing stopping a company from lying about their organic status.
Be sure to read my guide on organic mattresses if you want to go this route!
What’s The Best Crib Mattress?
Don’t Forget The Crib!
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