How to Choose a Crib Mattress (Buying Guide For Stressed Parents-To-Be)

How to choose a crib mattress can turn out to be an excruciating activity and can overwhelm even the most sensible human beings.

It is quite possibly one of the most important things you’ll need (provided that you’re getting a crib) and so I understand the stress that comes with choosing the best for your little one.

So this article aims to simplify your crib mattress selection!

Turn to my takeaway if you want the straight-up answer but if you want to research more and confirm your nagging thoughts, keep scrolling below.

I hope you’ll love the products we recommend! Just a quick note: if you click on a product link below and decide to buy it, we may earn a small commission.

How to Choose a Crib Mattress

Consider the key factors below in choosing a crib mattress for your precious little one.


One of the most important things you have to consider is your budget.

All of us would want the best, highest-quality crib mattress there ever is, but sometimes, our budget won’t permit it, as we need to pay for other needs like diapers, milk, food, etc.

So we have to decide first on a budget.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to break the bank to find a great mattress; there are excellent options available across different price ranges.

So set a budget then find a mattress that meets that.

However, if you find a high-quality crib mattress that’s over your budget but you really feel is a long-term investment for your baby’s sleep and well-being, then go for it!

Choosing the best crib mattress that prioritizes safety and comfort is worth the cost and you will never regret getting it.

Size and Fit

It’s crucial to choose a mattress that fits snugly inside the crib with no gaps along the sides. 

The general rule is that there shouldn’t be more than two fingers’ width of space between the mattress and the crib frame. 

A proper fit prevents the risk of your baby getting trapped between the mattress and the crib, ensuring a safe sleep environment.

Crib mattresses for full-size cribs usually are at least 27 1/4 inches x 51 1/4 inches, with a thickness not exceeding 6 inches.


The firmness of the mattress is also important for your baby’s safety. 

Ideally, all should be a pediatrician-recommended crib mattress that provides adequate support for your baby’s developing spine. 

Your chosen crib mattress shouldn’t leave an indent when you push down on it, as it can become a suffocation risk, especially for newborns.

It should be firm to prevent your baby’s head from sinking in.

A firm crib mattress should immediately spring back into place after pushing down on it. 

This reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).


The materials used in the mattress play a significant role, especially if your baby has allergies or sensitivities. 

Crib mattresses have certain chemical limits, and the materials they’re made of are tested to make sure they’re safe. 

Look for ideally hypoallergenic and non-toxic materials to ensure your baby’s comfort and safety. 

Safety Certifications

Prioritize crib mattresses that meet safety certifications and standards, such as those set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

Certifications from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) are voluntary but they can also ensure that the mattress meets safety guidelines.

If you’re worried about volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that may impact your baby’s health in the long run, I would highly recommend looking for a crib mattress that has a Greenguard GOLD certification

A Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification is also not a requirement (like the Greenguard GOLD), but having it means that the crib mattress has 95% certified organic materials (by weight) and that they don’t allow certain chemicals such as flame retardants and polyurethane.


A crib mattress, based on federal standards, should also have permanent tracking information on it.

This must include the manufacturer’s or private label’s name, where it was made, some information on the manufacturing process, and other information that can help keep track of where the mattress came from.

Depth and Weight

Consider the depth and weight of the mattress. 

A standard crib mattress should have a thickness not exceeding 6 inches, according to CPSC

A lightweight mattress can make changing sheets and lifting the mattress easier for parents. 

However, balance this with durability, as a too-light mattress might not be as long-lasting as a slightly heavier one.

Other Features To Consider in a Crib Mattress

  • Waterproof

A waterproof crib mattress is ideal to have, to help with diaper leaks), especially during the early years.

  • Two-Stage Mattress

Some crib mattresses come with two-stage features, offering different firmness levels for infants and toddlers. 

These mattresses grow with your baby, ensuring they have the right level of comfort and support as they transition from infancy to toddlerhood. 

  • Mattress Sheets and Covers

Consider also the mattress sheets and covers when choosing a crib mattress.

Does the mattress sheet have good quality and can withstand multiple washings?

Can it really fit your preferred crib mattress, and is it within your budget?

For the mattress cover, ideally, a waterproof one is a great choice.

Accidents are inevitable during diaper changes and feedings, and a waterproof cover helps protect the mattress from stains, odors, and moisture. 

Look for a cover that’s easy to remove, wash, and put back on.

Types of Crib Mattresses

Coil/Innerspring Crib Mattress

An innerspring crib mattress is a classic choice that features a core of steel coils surrounded by padding. 

This option offers excellent support and durability.


  • Often provide the firmness recommended by pediatricians for newborns
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Good “breathability” due to the coil structure


  • Can be heavier than other options
  • Limited firmness options

Foam Mattress

Foam crib mattresses are lightweight and made from high-density foam. They are a popular choice due to their versatility and affordability.


  • Lightweight and easy to lift for sheet changes
  • A wide range of firmness levels available
  • More budget-friendly


  • May not be as durable as innerspring mattresses
  • Less “breathability” compared to innerspring mattresses

Specialty and Organic Mattress

Specialty and organic crib mattresses are designed with specific features like dual-firmness or organic materials. Organic options are made from natural, non-toxic materials.


  • Best crib mattress for parents who prefer eco-friendly and non-toxic mattresses
  • Can offer unique features like dual-firmness for infant and toddler needs.


  • Organic mattresses can be pricier
  • Specialty features may not always be necessary

Foam crib mattresses are quite popular since they are more affordable, while Organic and Coil crib mattresses are on the pricey side.

Should You Choose an Organic Crib Mattress?

Ideally, you should choose an organic crib mattress, if your budget permits, given that they are made of natural and eco-friendly materials, which are safe and considered non-toxic for your baby.

But as to making it a must-have item, I don’t believe you should pressure yourself into getting an organic crib mattress, especially if it’s too expensive.

Most if not all popular crib mattresses are certified safe, based on federal standards so it doesn’t matter if you choose an organic crib mattress or not.

Do You Need a Breathable Crib Mattress?

No, you don’t need a breathable crib mattress. 

Ideally, all crib mattresses should be one but the breathability factor itself can be a marketing ploy for some manufacturers in instilling a false sense of security.

A breathable mattress, in theory, prevents your baby from “rebreathing” – from repeatedly inhaling carbon dioxide they’ve been exhaling from sleeping on their stomach.

A breathable mattress also helps prevent your baby from overheating, which is another cause of increased risks in SIDS.

But the AAP still has yet to recommend breathable mattresses against SIDS.

Still, if you have the budget, it doesn’t hurt to have a breathable crib mattress.

Is Safe to Buy a Used Mattress?

No, a used mattress is not safe to use, due to potential hygiene and safety concerns. 

It’s best to get a new crib mattress that can ensure a clean and safe sleeping environment for your baby.

Replacing a Crib Mattress

While crib mattresses are designed for durability, they aren’t meant to last indefinitely. 

Regularly check the mattress for signs of wear, sagging, or damage. 

If you notice any visible changes in the mattress’s structure or if it no longer provides the optimal firmness and support that your baby needs, it’s time to consider replacing it. 

An unsupportive mattress could affect your baby’s sleep quality and comfort. 

When To Lower the Crib Mattress

You should lower the crib mattress based on your baby’s milestones:

  • When your baby starts sitting up

This is usually around 5-8 months old. Once your baby can sit up on their own, they are at risk of falling out of the crib if the mattress is too high. Lower the mattress to the middle setting at this point.

  • When your baby starts pulling up

This is usually around 8-10 months old. Once your baby can pull up to a standing position, they are at even greater risk of falling out of the crib. Lower the mattress to the lowest setting at this point.

Related Article: Lowering Crib Mattress to Floor (Step-by-Step Guide To Keep Your Baby Safe)

How To Clean a Crib Mattress

Keeping your baby’s crib mattress clean is important for their health and safety. Here are the steps on how to do it:

  • Remove the bedding. Take off the sheets, mattress pad, and any other bedding and wash them in hot water.
  • Vacuum the mattress. Use a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to vacuum the entire mattress, including the sides and seams. This will help remove dust, dirt, and any small particles that may be hiding in the mattress.
  • Spot clean any stains. If there are any stains on the mattress, spot-clean them with a mild detergent and water solution. Be sure to test the solution in an inconspicuous area first to make sure it doesn’t damage the mattress.
  • Disinfect the mattress. Spray the mattress with a disinfectant solution, such as rubbing alcohol or bleach. Let the solution sit for a few minutes, then wipe it away with a clean cloth.
  • Let the mattress air dry. Place the mattress in a well-ventilated area and let it air dry completely. That’s it! By following these steps, you can keep your baby’s crib mattress clean and safe for their sleep.

Here are some additional tips for cleaning a crib mattress:

  • If the mattress is heavily soiled, you may need to repeat the cleaning process.
  • Be sure to use a mild detergent and water solution when spot cleaning. Harsh detergents can damage the mattress.
  • Do not use bleach on a memory foam mattress.
  • Let the mattress dry completely before putting the bedding back on. By following these tips, you can keep your baby’s crib mattress clean and safe for their sleep.

Crib Mattress Standards & Regulations

You can find the CPSC’s crib mattress safety guidelines and requirements here for a safe mattress but in a nutshell, here are its key points:

  • Crib mattresses must be firm enough to prevent an infant from sinking in and suffocating.
  • Crib mattresses must not have any exposed coils or metal wires.
  • Crib mattresses must be labeled with the manufacturer’s name, address, and phone number.
  • Crib mattresses must also be labeled with the following warning:

“WARNING: To prevent suffocation, accidental entrapment, and strangulation, keep crib mattress in lowest position until child can roll over. Mattress should be no more than 2 inches from top of crib slats.”

  • Crib mattresses must meet the flammability standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
  • Crib mattresses must also be free of certain phthalates, which are chemicals that have been linked to health problems in infants. The CPSC also has specific requirements for crib mattresses that are sold separately from cribs. These mattresses must meet the same safety standards as mattresses that are sold with cribs.

Crib Mattress Safety Guidelines

  • Avoid second-hand mattresses to prevent hygiene and safety risks.
  • Keep the crib bare, avoiding pillows, blankets, and toys.
  • Always place the baby on their back for sleep.
  • Double-check before flipping the mattress to ensure proper orientation.

Read more crib safety tips for babies here.

Best Crib Mattresses

Here are some of the best crib mattresses that are highly recommended by parents and baby experts:

Check out more of the best crib mattresses here.

FAQ: Crib Mattress Buying Guide

How do I choose a good crib mattress?

You should choose a good crib mattress based on its firmness, size, price, materials, depth and width, and safety certifications. Ideally, you should also consider if it’s waterproof, its sheets and cover, and if it’s a two-stage mattress.

What should a baby’s crib mattress be?

A baby’s crib mattress should be firm, snug-fitting, made of safe materials, meet federal standards, and have safety certificates.

Do crib mattresses make a difference?

Yes, crib mattresses can make a difference in your baby’s sleep quality. A firm mattress can help to prevent suffocation and improve your baby’s alignment. A comfortable mattress can also help your baby to sleep more soundly.

Do I need a two-stage crib mattress?

No, you don’t need a two-stage crib mattress, but it can be a good option if your toddler is not comfortable anymore with their baby crib mattress. 

How to Choose a Crib Mattress: Takeaway

Honestly, you don’t have to overthink how to choose a crib mattress.

Most if not all crib mattresses, especially from popular brands, meet strict federal safety standards.

So I’d highly recommend just choosing one that meets your budget, is firm, and fits the crib suitably.

You can also check their safety certifications and other factors but at the end of the day, most, if not all popular brands of crib mattresses are generally safe to use.

I hope you find this guide helpful. If you like this article, then check out Crib Sheets Buying Guide(For New Overwhelmed Parents), Crib Placement and Nursery Layout Ideas, and Safe Sleep for Babies.