How to Choose a Crib Mattress for Your Little One

crib with teddy bear

Preparing for the arrival of your newborn is one of the most exciting times in life. You want everything in the little one’s nursery to be perfect. 

Making choices for the baby and their best interests is paramount.  You have probably spent time researching car seats, learning how to care for an infant, even what’s the best choice for feeding them. 

There are also many factors to consider when selecting the best crib mattress for their bed. Read on to learn about the things to consider when purchasing a crib mattress for your infant. 

Size Restrictions

You may end up buying furniture for the baby separate from the mattress. Because infant safety is so important, federal regulations are in place so crib mattress size is standard. 

Any crib and any mattress should fit together. Having said that, there are some things to consider with the sizing of the mattress:

  • Crib mattresses should be 27 1/4 inches wide, 51 1/4 inches long.
  • They should not be more than 6″ thick.
  • Mattress dimensions should be listed on the new packaging.
  • When the mattress is in place, there should not be a gap of more than an inch at any point around the mattress. 

Because mattress sizes are standard, this should only become a concern if you are using a hand-me-down crib or a nonstandard size crib. 

Types of Mattresses

Crib mattresses, like many baby products, vary. There are two main types of crib mattresses, innerspring and coil. 

While one may not be better or worse than the other, there are differences. Compare some baby crib mattress here to learn about some of those unique features. 


An innerspring mattress is one made from coils. The coils are covered in a layer of foam and padding. For obvious safety reasons, you would never want to use a crib mattress that coils poking from the foam.

Other considerations when looking at innerspring mattresses are the coils. A high coil count tells you that the coils are closer together. If the mattress uses a lower gauge of steel, the coils are thicker. The lower gauge mattresses are likely firmer and more durable. 


A crib mattress made of foam should be made of high-density polyurethane foam. Ideally, you want a foam mattress that holds at least 1.5 pounds per cubic foot. If the number is higher, it tells you that the core of the mattress is heavier. 

Foam mattresses can be less expensive. They vary in thickness from 3″ to 6″. Because there are many foam toppers on the market, you want to be sure you are choosing one made for infants. This is important to prevent the risk of SIDS. 

One important note, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding the use of foam mattresses for infants because of the risk associated with SIDS.

Mattress Certifications

There are several certifications to look for on the label when purchasing a crib. Because there are standards in place, all cribs should meet restrictions put in place the  U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The American Society for Testing and Materials should also approve the mattress’s make. 

If you are purchasing an organic mattress. This is quite a bit more costly. Go beyond a label that says organic. Organic mattresses should have a certification using the Global Organic Textile Standards.

Other Considerations When Buying

Beyond the materials the mattress is made of, there are a few other things to consider when buying a baby crib mattress. 

Weight of Mattress

Consider the weight of the mattress. You need to be able to lift it to change a crib sheet. No infant-parent has ever eluded the middle of the night wet sheets. You need to be able to lift the mattress with ease to quickly change out the bedding. 

Consider looking for a mattress that falls between 10 and 20 pounds for ease of movement. 

Chemicals Used 

While there are strict standards for mattresses, manufacturers may still use differing materials. Your baby, who will hopefully sleep up to 17 hours per day, is going to spend a significant amount of time on the mattress. Look for the GREENGUARD seal that measures the number of chemical emissions coming from the mattress. 


This may surprise you. Higher cost does not necessarily mean better. Many crib manufacturers are companies that have been making mattresses for a long time.  The best baby crib mattress should be one that meets safety standards and your personal wishes. 

Market prices seem to run between $90 and $200 for a quality mattress. Of course, organic mattresses will be more costly.

Organic Materials

Some buyers prefer the idea of buying organic. They want to control the materials and potential chemicals their baby is being exposed to.  

Organic cribs can still be found in both innerspring and foam options. They are made with natural materials like wool, cotton, food-grade polymers and natural latex.


Let’s face it, diapers leak. All babies have the dreaded blowout at some point. Consider looking for a mattress that offers waterproof protection.

Of course, you want to put some things to protect the mattress. You might include a mattress pad, then a crib sheet. You should also use the crib sheet cover to help protect from leaks and spills that come with having a baby.

There are baby crib mattresses that have waterproof protection. This protects you, the baby and the mattress from the inevitable leaks.

Two-Stage Mattresses

Another option offered by mattress makers is something called the two-stage mattress. This allows the mattress to work for different stages of your baby’s development. 

One side will be more firm. This side you would use when your baby is an infant. Then as they transition, say to a toddler bed, you can turn the mattress and it is slightly softer. 

Be sure, for safety reasons, if you choose this option, that you check the labels to make sure the mattress is facing the correct way for your newborn.

Choosing The Best Crib Mattress

Bringing a baby into the world is such an exciting time. Yet it is filled with endless decisions about products. A crib mattress is no exception. Make an informed investment for your baby and your priorities. 

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