How to Choose a Crib Mattress – Expert Tips

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How to Choose a Crib Mattress - Expert Tips

Babies need a mattress firmer than what adults need. The firmness of a crib mattress supports the developing bones of the baby. However, as they grow and add weight and their bones develop, they will need a softer mattress. As such, you cannot convert a crib mattress to a toddler bed mattress unless you picked a double-sided mattress.

Most parents feel like they need to pick a softer mattress with the thought that the softer the bed, the more comfortable it is. This article discusses points to consider when shopping for the best crib mattress. 

Crib Mattress Types

Innerspring Mattresses

Innerspring mattresses are made of steel coils. The steel coils make the mattress firm and ideal for babies. Unlike foam, innerspring mattresses will not develop a depression after a period of use. When shopping for innerspring mattresses, consider the number of coils and whether the coils are independently encased or they are all in one case. Independently encased coils are stable and minimize motion transfer.

Double-Sided Mattresses

A double-sided mattress has a firm innerspring side and a relatively softer foam side. This can be the right crib mattress for your baby's crib if you are planning to convert the crib mattress into a toddler bed mattress. The baby will use the firm innerspring side, and the toddler will use the softer foam side.

Foam Mattresses

Foam mattresses are made of polyurethane. They are also firm but not as firm as innerspring mattresses. They are ideal for toddlers and heavy babies. Unlike innerspring mattresses, foam mattresses mold to the shape of the sleeper, and they will rise when the baby wakes up. While they offer plush comfort to the baby, they are not supportive enough to the developing bones.

You can read more on mattress types and what fits a baby on NetParents. 

how to choose crib mattress

How to Choose a Crib Mattress: Factors to Consider

The Best Crib Mattress is Firm

Like earlier mentioned, a baby's mattress needs to offer enough support to the developing bones. You can either shop for a mattress in stores near you by pressing them and observing how firm they are or shop for innerspring mattresses online. When shopping online, ensure that the mattress firmness is rated infant use.

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Crib Mattress Size: Should Fit Snugly

The crib mattress size should match the size of the crib. This is essential to ensure that the baby’s feet do not slip into the space between the mattress and the crib. Once fitted into the crib, the space between the crib and the mattress should not fit two fingers. Again, a snug fit ensures the mattress does not move around when the baby is playing on the crib. Always check the label on the crib for dimensions before you go shopping. 

Organic Materials

A baby crib mattress that utilizes organic, or natural, materials is safer for the baby and the environment. The best baby mattress with organic materials does not have any chemicals – this means there are no foul chemical smells. However, there is no standard for what "organic" or "natural" mattresses should be like. As such, a mini crib mattress manufacturer might claim their mattress is "natural," but then they include vinyl covers. To ensure a mattress is 100-percent natural, look at the materials used in its construction. Organic materials include cotton, natural latex, plant-based foam, wool, coconut fibers, and food-grade polymers.  

A Crib Mattress with Border Rods

Border rods are standard on innerspring mattresses. The rods protect the coils and enhance the edge support of the mattress. With these rods, the mattress will not sag at the edges when the baby walks around the mattress.

Spring Units

Spring units are considered when shopping for innerspring mattresses. The number of steel coils and the steel gauge determines the quality of an innerspring mattress. The best crib mattress might have up to 280 coils while a cheaper model might sport 80 coils. However, you might find a baby crib mattress with 200 coils feeling firmer and better than one with 250 coils if the steel coils in the 200-coil mattress have a thicker gauge. 

A Quality Insulator Pad

An insulator pad covers the spring coils to keep them from poking into the surface of the mattress. A good insulator pad should completely mask the spring coils – if you press the mini crib mattress, you should feel the bouncy effect of the coils and not the coil themselves. 

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Ventilation Pockets

A crib mattress should be breathable to keep your baby feeling cool on warm nights and warm on cold nights. However, the best baby crib mattress should have a waterproof cover, which might limit the breathability of the mattress. Either way, ensure the mattress sports ventilation pockets.  

Antibacterial Covers

Antibacterial covers limit the growth of molds and bacteria that cause foul smells on mattresses. Some mattresses will sell as antimicrobial or antibacterial but still not restrict the growth of bacteria. To still ensure bacteria do not propagate on the baby's mattress, always keep the mattress in the dark area when not in use.

Things to Avoid When Shopping for the Best Baby Crib Mattress

A Second Hand Crib Mattress

The reason why you need to avoid second-hand baby crib mattress is that they tend to harbor mold and bacteria. The mattresses might also come with bed bugs. If you reuse an old crib mattress used by another baby, ensure that the waterproof mattress cover does not have any holes that could let in bacteria or mold.

A Crib Mattress with no Waterproof Cover

Babies will always wet the bed – and one day, you will forget to baby diapers on them. A waterproof cover protects the mattress from the baby's urine and from humidity that might cause foul smells.


The best baby crib mattress should be firm and feature safe materials. In case you buy a mattress that does not fit the baby crib, return it to the store and get another that fit – it is safe for the baby. Do not try to make the mattress fit by adding fabric to the edges – this is hazardous. The mattress price should be the last factor you consider when shopping.