Apart from lots of love and a well-balanced diet, the other essential requirement that your growing infant needs is a good, deep and restful sleep.
Whereas most baby cribs are built specifically to optimize your child’s comfort and safety, very few are pre-fitted with an appropriate baby mattress.
This means that as a parent or guardian it’s up to you to do some research and find the best crib mattress for your child.
This is where it gets confusing: by simply strolling into a baby shopping outlet (online or off), you’re likely to be bombarded by tens of different mattress brands that makes settling for a particular one a true dilemma.
But don’t despair, as we cot you covered: to save your time and avoid splurging your cash on an ineffective mattress, read the following pointers on how to go about choosing the best crib mattress for your baby.
Which are the Main Crib Mattress Types?
For starters, you have to understand that there are two different main types of crib mattresses.
Unlike mattresses tailored for adults, which come in countless variations of types often mixed together, professionally made baby mattresses are designed with one specific objective in mind: a well-balanced stiffness density.
The Inexpensive Foam Mattresses
Most of you are well familiar with this variant from the high-density mattresses we mostly use.
However, foam crib mattresses are made to be a little less pliable than your conventional mattress, as the foam allows a firmer form factor, which is important for a more effective support of his delicate developing bones.
In case you decide to go for this type, keep an eye for the mattress’ density factor: the higher the density the better.
Unfortunately though, most brands including my favorite Newton Baby Crib rarely indicate this density index on the packaging.
You’ll, therefore, have to rely on your personal judgment skills in filtering for the best. Nonetheless, knowing that the heavier the mattress, the denser it’s likely to be, could go a long way.
On that note, it might be beneficial to select a crib foam mattress which is dual-sided.
This means that one of the sides is a little softer than the other- which is typically the toddler side.
The infant side is a bit firm and has a higher ‘recovery’ rate.
If you’re on a budget, this could save the expense of having to shop around for another crib mattress once your child ‘graduates’ from a feeble infant to a playful toddler.
Such types of foam mattresses are marked appropriately, so there’s no way you can mistake them for otherwise.
The recovery rate is yet another factor you’ll have to contend with while buying foam mattresses.
It’s how fast the upholstery takes to regain its original shape after being compressed for a while.
Crib mattresses with better recovery rates are quintessential recommended by pediatricians for the prevention of accidental infant suffocation.
The ideal weight of a perfectly-crafted crib foam mattress is anything over 8 pounds. Avoid buying those that are less than 7 pounds as they are likely to be too soft or even of poor quality.
The Coiled Spring Type
Spring backed mattresses are arguably more durable and more comfortable than their foam counterparts.
The additional positive attributes come with a prohibitive price tag, but they are a worthy investment – if you choose the correct one.
Basically, a spring mattress utilizes closely linked coils for support unlike the polyurethane used in the foam variants.
This leads to the fact that the density of a spring bedding is knotted to how many springs square foot are in it.
Also, another good indicator is the number of coils in the springs inside the mattress: typically, the more the coils, the firmer it is and obviously the better suited it is for your infant.
Hence, go for one with more than 135 or more coils per spring.
Which One is the Best Crib Mattress type? Innerspring or Foam?
This can be a hard decision, especially for first-time parents: there are pros and cons tied to each of these kinds though some might dwarf others depending on your personal perspective.
For foam mattresses, you will be getting added flexibility and a lighter form factor, all at a great price. On the other hand, with the spring version, durability, and better firmness will be the highlight of your infant’s crib.
Otherwise, a spring variant is just about ideal for infants in all development stages.
The Little-Known Organic Mattresses
Recently a new type of crib bedding has been developed and dubbed as ‘organic.’
These mattresses are apparently made of all-natural or earth-friendly materials: instead of the artificial polyurethane, they utilize phthalates-free industrial materials to come up with a sturdy built (mostly organic cotton).
Although they a bit pricey, these mattresses have over the years proved to be quite valuable when it comes to find a suitable crib upholstery for infants allergic to PVC and other flame retardants such as PBDE.
Well, if you don’t mind spending a couple of extra bucks, then by all means don’t hesitate to buy one. We particularly like the My Green Mattress Emily Crib.
What Should I Look for When Buying my Baby’s Crib Mattress?
Regardless of your choice above, there are several minimum requirements that the ideal crib mattress should satisfy, including the following:
The Correct Firmness Index
You risk predisposing your baby to physical hazards such as accidental suffocation or SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by using a low quality of extreme softness in his crib’s upholstery.
A quick way of checking that the mattresses has an above average recovery rate is by applying considerable pressure on it using your palm.
Observe whether it takes longer than usual to regain its original shape. An ideal mattress shouldn’t take more than a few seconds.
Correct Size & Fitting
An ill-fitting crib mattress is as dangerous as it is ineffective to use.
Going for a smaller than norm mattress, can result to the increasingly common cases on accidental entrapment or even suffocation.
It happens when the baby accidentally wedges an arm or leg in between the mattress and the crib’s frame.
On the other hand, using a mattress slightly larger than the crib makes it difficult or inconvenient for one to regularly change sheets.
A rule of the thumb is that well-fitting or snug mattress should only leave only about 2 fingers of space between it and the wooden construction.
Your baby is literally going to spend over 75% of their time lying on their crib.
It’s only fitting that the new mattress should come with accompanying sturdy and waterproof cover.
The waterproof quality ensures better resilience to elements such as soggy diapers and natural wear and tear.
Further, such a mattress will be easier to clean or wipe down during routine cleaning schedules.
Usually, water resistance is manifested by a double or triple nylon laminated exterior on the mattress.
Apart from a crib covering being comfy and firm, it should also have adequate vents to allow better circulation of air within its structure.
It goes without saying that an adequately ventilated mattresses will smell fresher even after months of use by your child, no matter how much he occasionally soils it.
So, be sure to check for the presence tiny vent-like openings on it.
These vents are placed specifically to prevent accumulation of reeking odor, making it even more comfortable for your kids.
If you’re going to spend money on an organic/ environmentally friendly mattress, then make sure that it satisfies the Global Organic Textile Standards as directed by Oregon Tilth – an independent green energy assurance body.
You will sleep well at night knowing that your baby is not lying on some cheap, low-quality artificial cotton that you bought under the guise of an organic crib cover.
Similarly, an ideal foam mattress should be inspected and certified and American Society for Testing and Materials and bear a mark of quality from CPSC.
There’s no denying that your kids are going to soil the crib’s mattress often.
Diapers are not 100% efficient and sometimes (read often) leak, so it will save your much of your time if the mattress exterior cover is removable and also machine washable.
Also, remember that machine washed textiles are proven to last longer than those that are cleaned by hand.
Balance between Weight and Firmness
You don’t need a crib mattress that is too heavy for you to easily switch sheets singlehandedly.
It’s typically common and hygienically healthy for your growing infant to require a change of bedding at least one or twice per week.
Consequently, using a mattress heavier than 15 lbs is likely to make this a harder task that it should be.
On the other side of the spectrum, a thin or ultralight mattress is synonymous to low quality, less durability, and dangerously poor recovery rates.
All in all, anything between 7 lbs to 17 lbs should be comfortable and convenient enough for you and the baby.
Precautions to be aware of when shopping for your baby’s crib mattress
A costly mattress does not necessarily translate to a high-quality one
Contrary to common misconception, a $500 brand mattress does not exactly mean that it is the most-comfy or durable around.
In fact, you might be surprised to find out that a budget priced one going for a fraction of that trumps it in terms of usability and effectiveness.
Before buying any mattress, be it a cheaply or expensively priced, scrutinize it thoroughly to ascertain that it fits your bill before thinking to pay for it.
Insurance is not equivalent to excellence
Another assumption that most shoppers have is that a brand that offers a longer insurance period produces the highest quality mattresses.
This is not necessarily true since very few of these companies honor this ‘insurance’ in the first place.
Therefore, before walking out of that outlet, make sure that the crib mattress you’ve paid for is safe and comfortable enough for your baby.
Do not buy or accept a second-hand or hand-me-down mattress for your newborn infant
This should go without saying, but still it requires some detailed explanation.
Second-hand mattresses are not only uncomfortable for use by your baby, but they are also unhealthy and dangerously fatal.
According to a recent scientific survey, there’s a clear correlation between the frequency of infant deaths as a result of SIDS and the use of previously owned crib mattress by the said babies.
That aside, a used mattress is likely to be infested with bedbugs, or dust mites, considering that most of them are stored in warehouses for a long period before being auctioned or sold.
Such infestations are likely to have a negative impact on your child’s development.
Second-hand mattresses are also unsanitary since you’re not sure how well the previous owners cleaned or took care of them.
Besides that, don’t expect such a crib mattress to last more than a few months before you are forced to buy a new one.
Know the correct standard crib size if you haven’t ever owned one before
This applies mostly to first-time moms, or to those who plan to buy the mattress first.
The standard American crib size is approximately 27 4/9″ to 28 4/7″ wide & 51 1/4″ to 53.5″ in length.
These specifications also apply in Canada and most European countries.
Not all mattresses labeled as organic are necessarily non-toxic
Another major misconception: an organic label only implies that instead of polyurethane the crib mattress is filled with organic cotton.
The covering could your conventional PVC or even a complex vinyl-enhanced exterior.
Note that this does not mean that it is not safe for use. On the contrary, the vinyl makes it durable and water resilient enough to allow easy usability.
Even so, most organic cotton backed mattresses still contain artificial flame retardant materials which, of course, are not that ‘green’ as most would have us believe.
Summing up – How to Pick the Best Crib Mattress
We hope you are going to use this information to find the best crib mattress for your baby.
At the end of the day, despite the brand or pricing you settle for, your child’s comfort, health, and safety should come first in decided what type to spend money on.
Lauren is an occasional contributor who helps Ted and Stacey at the peak busy times. She's a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, but also studied Marketing and Classical Literature.
Updated at November 6, 2020