Choosing a Crib Mattress

Choosing a Crib Mattress

Last Updated: January 29, 2016
Crib mattresses are one of the most confusing purchases for your baby. What’s important and what’s not?Choosing a Crib Mattress

During the first few months of life, your baby will spend more time asleep than awake- although it won’t always seem that way! It’s important to make sure you plan his or her sleeping environment carefully. Here’s what you need to know to choose a crib mattress that will (hopefully) have your baby sleeping like, well, a baby.

Safety Guidelines

Once you decide on a sleeping space (be sure to check out our guides to the Best Cribs and Best Bassinets in the market), mattresses are the next step. Crib mattresses are a lot more than just miniature adult mattresses. They are reinforced and harder than adult versions, in order to keep babies secure and to support their growing bones while they sleep. There are a few safety basics you’ll want to keep in mind:

1. How firm is the mattress?

Crib mattresses are designed to be firm enough to stay flat, even if your baby rolls onto his or her stomach. Make sure the mattress you are considering is rated for infant use.

2. Risk of Mold

It’s easy for mold to grow under the surface of a mattress where you can’t see, so if the inside of the mattress has ever gotten wet, it can be dangerous for a newborn. To prevent this, many crib mattresses are designed to be waterproof, with a vinyl or polyethylene surface. If your mattress cover is fabric instead of waterproof, you should always use a waterproof cover.

3. 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. If you’re thinking of reusing a mattress from one of your previous children, first consider if there have been any incidents that might put the mattress at risk for growing mold.

4. The Right Size

While standard crib mattresses should fit most cribs on the market, it’s a good idea to double-check that the measurements match up for your two products. The mattress should fit snugly against the frame.

5. Natural Materials

Many parents are now choosing to use mattresses made from natural and organic materials. While these options are usually more expensive, some parents argue that the chemicals used in producing standard mattresses might be harmful to babies (no official health effects have been evaluated yet). Organic options can be found in all types of crib mattresses, but it’s important to check the materials used in an allegedly “natural” product to see if it actually lives up to the label.

Babylist Best Picks


Naturepedic Organic Cotton Lightweight Crib Mattress - $259.00

This type of mattress has a core of steel coils that creates its structure, making 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 (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 give the structure even more stability around the edges.


Innerspring mattresses can be pricey, especially if you’re looking into higher coil count. Some good deals can be found, however (like Sealy’s Baby Firm Rest); reliable brands range from $80 to $300. These mattresses are also on the heavy-side (something to consider for when you have to change crib sheets).


Safety 1st Safety 1st Heavenly Dreams Mattress - $59.49

These mattresses are typically made from polyurethane, a foam resin. Foam mattresses are a great choices because they are lightweight and durable. They are also usually the least expensive mattress option.


You want to make sure that your foam mattress is resilient. You can test this by pressing your hand on the mattress and seeing how long the surface takes to regain its shape (the faster, the better). You also want to choose 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 (denser models won’t allow you to press that hard).


Lullaby Earth 2-Stage Super Lightweight Crib Mattress - $199.00

2 for 1! These mattresses have a firmer infant side and a softer side that is more appropriate toddlers. This is useful when your baby outgrows his or her infant mattress and needs something more soft and comfortable for the night, but still uses a crib or convertible toddler bed. You don’t have to buy a completely different mattress!


These models might be more expensive than some infant crib mattresses (though it will likely save you money in the long run). And make sure to place the correct side of the mattress facing up!


Sealy Sealy Waterproof Crib Mattress Pad, 2-Pack - $28.79

While not essential, mattress covers can be very useful. Covers go under your fitted sheet and over your mattress, and are great for protecting the mattress from additional wear. It’s usually best to get one that’s waterproof, as well as easy to remove and clean; if it becomes dirty, then you can just pull off the waterproof cover with your fitted sheet and toss them both in the wash! Consider buying a couple so you can switch them out quickly if you want to put your newborn right back to sleep.

Choosing what’s right for you

Like choosing a crib or bassinet for your baby to sleep in, selecting a crib mattress depends on your own needs and preferences. Consider your budget, as well as any other features that are important to you. You also might find it helpful to check out potential products in a physical store, so you can test out how they feel (and how they’ll feel to your little one). Because your baby will be spending so much time on the mattress, it’s worth it to explore your options. But that doesn’t mean you have to feel overwhelmed. With a bit of planning, your baby’s sleeping space will be ready before you know it!

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