Crib Mattresses – Choosing The Safest Option

Crib Mattresses – Choosing The Safest Option

Your baby is delicate and needs to be treated as such. While you can get a cheap mattress, chances are you're lowering your baby's sleeping conditions. Invest in an air mattress that will keep them safe while also promoting a healthy sleeping environment.

Before you head down the overwhelming aisle of "best crib mattress," arm yourself with the knowledge you need to know to choose the safest crib mattress for your infant and how to make it last.

Crib Mattress – What Is It

Basically, a baby crib mattress is a baby-sized mattress that fits inside your baby's crib. A baby mattress purpose is to create a safe, comfortable surface that is supportive for your infant to rest on.

A baby mattress can last a good three years if properly maintained and cared for, after which time your child should be moving on to a toddler bed.

Dual Firmness Crib Mattress

Some models adjust to your baby's growth. These crib mattresses are dual sided and can convert to a toddler bed once your infant grows out of it. If possible, get a dual sided mattress to reduce spending costs and allow your infant to transition once they reach age 3 quickly.

Do I Really Need A High-Quality Crib Mattress

It might seem hard to believe, especially with all the times you have to get up at night to feed your fussy baby, but infants usually sleep up to 18 hours a day. And let's be honest, most of this time your baby will be unattended.

It shouldn't come as a surprise then that it’s essential that the crib mattress is, not only safe but also provides the support his or her body needs. Your baby needs a comfortable and relaxing place to sleep, so the quality of your mattress plays a huge role on that.

A good quality mattress will provide a safe surface and proper support. The mattress is as, if not more important, than the crib itself and you should buy the best one you can. With mattresses, almost everything that matters is invisible; on the inside.

Crib mattress.

So when in doubt, opt for the best quality mattress when it comes to its safety features, such as size, firmness, and ventilation.

Avoid buying used crib mattresses. They might appear clean on the outside but be unsanitary on the inside, be infected with mites or have lost the necessary firmness and ventilation capabilities that make for a safe sleeping surface for your child.

If you plan on keeping your baby's mattress for use with a sibling, make you maintain and clean the mattress while in use and store it properly (clean, dry and safe) after use. Before using the crib mattress on the new baby, test its firmness (both in the center and edges) and give a good clean.

What Makes Up A Safe Crib Mattress

When considering the type of mattress to buy, there are a few general aspects that you must consider in order to assure you're buying the safest mattress that offers the right support and is also comfortable for your infant.

Size

In order to prevent limbs getting trapped, the mattress should fit the crib snugly. While crib and crib mattress sizes are standardized (crib mattresses must be 27 5/8″ to 28 5/8″ wide and 51 3/4″ to 53″ long, and no higher than 6 inches) variations in mean that not every mattress will fit the crib as it should.

The general rule of thumb is that if you can fit more than two fingers between the edge of the mattress and the crib, the size of the mattress is too small.

Firmness

When buying a baby mattress, you need to go for a firm, firmer than you would choose for yourself. Babies need more support than adults. Also, a firm mattress is safer for the baby to rest on.

Baby Crib Set

The National Institute of Child Health & Human Development states that using a hard mattress, as opposed to a soft mattress, is an important factor in stopping Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. When it comes to crib mattresses, it's better to err on the side of firmness.

Consumer Reports suggest you test the firmness of the crib mattress: "Press on the mattress in the center and at the edges. It should quickly snap back and not mold to the shape of your hand."

Ventilation

Whether with vent holes or vent pockets, the crib mattress should be able to vent. The more ventilation opportunities, the easier it will be for moisture to escape and prevent, mold, mildew and foul smells.

Insulator Pad

Thick insulator pads are on top of steel coils on innerspring mattresses. This prevents the coils from puncturing through the fabric. You need to consider the quality of your insulator because a cheap insulator will create an uncomfortable sleeping experience for your child.

The best insulators have coir fiber pads. The pads consist of shredded coconut shells. Fiber-wrap pads (alternatively called "shoddy" or "rag" pads) that comes from cloth scraps.

little girl sleeping.

While coir fiber pads are cost more than fiber-wrap pads, but either one works well. Polyester is the cheapest pad that you can buy. Since they're less durable, polyester pads tend to create pockets as time progresses. And the material concaves where a majority of the baby's weight rests, causing a serious safety hazard.

Foam Density

You'll have to compare the weight of different crib mattress to assess the foam density. While this is not always easy to do in stores, you can find the density of the mattress online.

To perform a density test, grab the mattress, place your hand on each edge and the center, and press your palms together. A dense mattress won't sink your hand in its material and will bounce your hand back.

The higher the density, the better. Babies need a mattress that's firm so that they don't sink into the material. Make sure that your mattress is dense enough to reduce the risk of SIDS occurring.

Border Rods

You should not buy a baby mattress that's without border rods, which surround the perimeter from top to bottom. Border rods provide extra stability, firmness, and reliable edge and side support, so the mattress doesn't sag when your baby walks or stands near the edge.

General Types Of Crib Mattresses

In general, crib mattresses can be sorted into 3 types: foam, spring and "organic." It's a good idea to take the time to understand the differences between these types, as the comfort that’s provided by each type depends almost entirely on the materials that make up its core.

Foam Crib Mattress

While innerspring crib mattresses tend to be more popular in the United States, probably because most parents have an innerspring bed, foam crib mattresses can be a lighter weight, less expensive and equally durable option.

Foam Crib Mattress

Most foam crib mattresses are composed of Polyurethane; they can also be made of bamboo fiber or latex, amongst other materials. The thickness of most foam crib mattresses will be somewhere between 3 and 6 inches and weigh between 8 and 13 pounds.

In order to assure that the foam mattress is firm enough to be safe and supportive, you have to make sure it is dense enough while still providing enough resilience (springy).

To test the resilience, you can press down on the mattress and see how long it takes for the foam to regain its original shape. The faster it does this, the better.

The foam density can be mentioned on the packaging or label. A high-density polyurethane foam should be 1.5 pounds per cubic foot or higher. However, if the density isn't mentioned, you can try squeezing the sides of the mattress.

A high-density foam mattress won't allow you to do this easily. Another good indicator of density is the weight. The heavier the mattress, the denser the core.

Memory Foam

While the name "memory foam" usually conjures images of sinking into a mattress, exactly what we don't want for crib mattresses, the memory foam mattresses specially designed for cribs are made of high-density foam and provide sufficient support while still giving an extra level of comfort.

Foam Crib Mattress

The majority of memory foam mattresses consist of a coil core covered by a layer of temperature sensitive foam that molds to your baby's body shape. Memory foam mattresses

tend to be popular in colder climates due to the temperature sensitivity of the foam.

Innerspring Crib Mattress

Innerspring mattresses (alternatively known as coil spring mattresses) are mattresses where the core consists of a series of coiled steel springs. Each coil or spring in the mattress is brought together by a steel frame.

When weight is placed on the mattress, the steel frame ensures the weight is distributed and every coil compresses (to a degree). This is the most popular type of mattress, both for adults and infants.

While many manufacturers boast about the coil count of their mattresses, the gauge or thickness/strength of the steel is equally as important to assure firmness and comfort.

The gauge measures the thickness of the steel, where a small gauge measurement corresponds with a thicker steel, and thus the stronger and firmer the mattress will be.

Innerspring Crib Mattress

For a baby mattress, you should aim to purchase a mattress that contains 135 or more coils with a gauge size of 16 or lower.

Due to the steel, an innerspring crib mattress will naturally be heavier than the average foam mattress, usually coming in between 15 to 25 pounds. Keep in mind that the smaller the gauge size, the thicker the steel and the heavier the mattress will be.

Pocket Spring

Just like the innerspring mattresses, the pocket spring mattress uses coils to support the weight of your baby.

However, in pocket spring mattresses each coil is sown into its own individual pocket. That means that the compression is more local, each spring moves independently. Essentially providing more localized support where it is more needed.

Pocket Spring crib mattress

Pocket spring mattress offers excellent support and is very comfortable and durable, all of which is translated into its price tag. We suggest getting a pocket spring mattress if you want your infant to receive the highest level of sleep support possible.

Organic Crib Mattress

As the name suggests, these mattresses are composed up, in part, from natural or organic materials.

You'll find plenty of options under the "natural" or "organic" label of your favorite crib mattress buying option.

While it's worthwhile to check out these options if you are concerned about the potential safety of chemicals used in materials or manufacturing processes, you must keep in mind that, unfortunately, there is no legal standard for this claim.

A mattress with the organic label can still be only 5% natural. The covering could be 100% organic, while everything on the inside definitely isn't, or the other way around. Check the label to assess which parts are organic.

My First Premium Memory Foam Hypoallergenic Baby Crib Mattress

Whether you opt for a mattress with an organic outer or inner layer, you need to pay extra attention to the waterproofing capabilities of the materials used.

In either case, you will need a watertight defense between the inevitable diaper leaks and the core of the mattress in order to prevent the buildup of bacteria, mites or mold.

Crib Mattress Covers

A baby mattress cover is made of fabric or vinyl and encases the whole mattress, basically ensuring:

  • That the insides of the mattress from slipping out, and
  • That the core of the mattress is protected from diaper leaks, dribble, sweat and any other bodily fluids your baby might emit during the night.

Choosing the right cover is important because the stronger the cover, the more durable the crib mattress will be. In essence, there are two types of covers:

  • Fabric
  • Vinyl

While the breathable aspects of fabric covers are enticing, you might regret that choice when you have to clean the mattress after a diaper blow-out. You'd be surprised at the sheer amount of "stuff" that can make it out of a diaper.

In most cases, the best option will always be a waterproof cover. These are usually made of vinyl, which is easy to clean, durable and protects the mattress from your child's emissions, dust mites (which can cause allergies), punctures, and tears.

Opt for a removable, tight fitting, washable multilayered vinyl (triple laminated or three-ply) cover and, if you want, a fabric pad to place on top for breathability.

Crib And Crib Mattresses Accessories

The world of crib accessories can quickly become a rabbit hole of cuteness. From bumpers to liners and crib skirts to rail guards and pillows to stuffed animals and blankets and sheets, the accessories seems endless. While they are all tempting and often too cute to handle, most are unnecessary and some might even be unsafe.

Crib And Crib Mattresses Accessories

In fact, says Dr. Strope, associate professor of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School: "The more stuff you put in the crib, the more opportunity there is for that baby to get into trouble."

Other than a crib and a good mattress (with cover) the only things you need are crib mattress sheets. And even here there are a lot of options in materials and designs. What you need are at least two sets of sheets that fit the mattress snugly and will not bunch up.

Susan Pollack, M.D., a member of the AAP's committee on injury and poison prevention sums it up with: "You can spend a lot of money on accessories, but all you really need are the basics: a safe crib, a firm mattress, and a tightly fitted sheet."

Proper Crib Mattress Maintenance And Cleaning

After investing in a good crib mattress for you and your baby, the next best thing you can do it to take proper care of it. Maintain a clean and sanitary environment and clean the mattress regularly and as often as needed to make sure it is sanitary and durable.

Use A Mattress Cover

Allowing your infant to sleep directly on the crib mattress will lead to rapid deterioration of the mattress and can result in a harmful environment for your child. Opt for a washable and waterproof cover, in order to protect the mattress and aid you in keeping things clean.

cover for crib mattress

Rotate The Mattress

To keep any mattress in good condition for a long time, you need to rotate and flip it regularly. The same applies to crib mattresses. Rotate foot and head end at the start of the season and then flip it over at the start of the next season. This will keep the mattress from sagging in the middle.

Change The Sheets Regularly

Changing the crib mattress sheets regularly (more often than even your own), will keep the mattress safe from odors and dirt that can transfer from the sheets to the cover or mattress. Some recommend you do this weekly and anytime in between that there is an ‘accident.'

Cleaning A Baby Mattress

You should always clean a new crib mattress before using it. After that, you should try to give it a thorough cleaning on a regular basis, in order to keep it in good condition and provide a sanitary environment.

  • Vacuum: use a vacuum cleaner to remove dirt on both sides, the edges and the seams.
  • Scrub: with a solution of ¼ cup baby-safe detergent to 1 gallon of warm water, gently scrub all sides and along the seams. Never pour water or detergent directly unto the mattress.
  • Rinse: use a clean, damp cloth to wipe down the surfaces of the crib mattress. Rinse and wring out the cloth regularly. The goal is to remove all leftover detergent, as it could irritate your baby's sensitive skin.​
  • Disinfect: no near to go nuclear here. If there are stains on the mattress or if you are worried about germs, lightly spray the surface of the mattress with rubbing alcohol. No need to rinse, as the alcohol will evaporate on its own.
  • Stains: If there are still stains on the mattress, spray the stain with a mixture of equal parts water and lemon juice or vinegar. Then place baking soda on the affected area and wait 20 minutes. Once dry, you can wide or vacuum it off.
  • Drying: remove all excess moisture with a dry towel and let the mattress air dry in a sunny or well-ventilated area. Never lay your baby down to sleep on a damp mattress.

Conclusion

Whichever type of mattress you chose, look for quality. Considering the amount of time your baby will spend on the crib mattress it pays to invest in the best quality you can afford, and save in other places (like accessories).

If possible, review and test the mattresses in person and remember the most important aspects are the proper size, firmness, and ventilation.

Baby sleep on memory foam mattress.

While crib mattresses of good quality can be a significant investment, considering the amount of time your baby will spend on it, it makes sense to consider all the options and choose the best one. If necessary saving on other things, like accessories.

Now that we've given you enough information on how to find a quality mattress, there's one extra thing we'd like to assist you with. With all of this information, you're going to need a mattress that suitable to your baby's personal needs.

We invite you to look into our buyer's guide. It will give you a starting point on what crib mattresses are valuable and give your infant the maximum utility. Give it a look if it's your first time buying a mattress, or you want to create a safe and comfortable sleeping experience for your infant.

Do you have any additional questions or comments?

Let us know in the comments.