Baby Crib Mattress FAQ
A Buying Guide with Shopping Recommendations

Crib mattresses are the workhorses of the baby's room.  They aren't particularly attractive and don't contribute much to the nursery's theme or decor although, you might find the occasional mattress with sheep, owls or other baby motifs on the cover.  Don't allow yourself to get too caught up in that as a selling point because the crib sheet will block the view anyway.


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As such, they will not hold a place of honor in the photo album or memory books. Their main claim to fame is that they may be the only thing that gets peed on more than mom and dad. The purpose of this article and other associated with it is to help you determine what baby crib mattress is best and to assist you in your search of one that will tick all of your individual boxes as far as safety concerns and baby's comfort are concerned.


You will see that crib and cradle mattresses are not created equal and that they vary in size and material content as well as overall quality.


Sturdy baby crib mattress with baby standing up in crib.

When Should I Buy the Crib Mattress?

Go here to learn more about current safety standards for baby crib mattresses.



Early in the process of equipping the baby's room, it is so easy to get carried away in choosing the "pretty stuff". Choosing baby bedding, window treatments and furniture is lots more fun than necessities. At the risk of being a killjoy; it is wise to shop for baby's crib mattress as soon as the crib has been purchased. Buy all of the necessities first then the remainder can be "fun money". Baby cribs and mattresses are necessities. This is not an area to scrimp and perhaps the one time buying new rather than used is a good idea.

Another good reason to get the mattress shopping behind you is that it can be a time consuming process filled with lots of punching, pushing and trying all the choices in the bed of your choice. Educate yourself and test one after the other until you are satisfied that it meets all safety standard requirements and that the features as well as the sales price, suits your needs.

Your baby crib may have come with a mattress but it may not be the best mattress for your baby! If your mattress fails any of the safety tests that are recommended, I would get a replacement that passes. A new law regarding mattress flammability went into effect in California on Jan. 1, 2004. This was a state law but mattresses in other states are expected to be in compliance, as well.

A few of the more common brands are:

  • Colgate (not to be confused with toothpaste!)
  • Serta
  • Child Craft Brand
  • Evenflo
  • Kolcraft
  • Sealy
  • Simmons.


There are a wide range of prices, but you should be able to find a mattress that is suitable for around $100 to $150 unless you are wondering "Do I need an organic crib mattress?". If you determine that is what you would prefer, an organic mattress may be more expensive.

You MUST perform the following tests on that mattress and be willing to bite the bullet and toss it if it does not meet all criteria.

The crib mattress you buy must:

  • Fit the crib properly
    The general rule of thumb regarding mattress sizes is that if you can insert two fingers in between the crib and mattress... it's back to the drawing board, baby. That mattress is too small for the bed and this is a place there is no room for error. This means the baby could possibly get in that little space and suffocate. The ability to insert one finger or LESS is where you want to be. There you go, keep trying till you get one that fits. Mattresses for round cribs can be tested in the same way. Simply taking the crib mattress dimensions into account is not the best way to get a good fit. Mattress sizes don't mean much until you see how it tests inside your particular brand of baby bed, so test every mattress and don't take anything for granted.

  • BE FIRM
    Punch it and push and squeeze it till the saleslady pages the department head and they unite forces to have you removed if you have to. But, do not purchase a mattress until you are certain that it will continue to be nice and firm and hold its shape and firmness. This is a place that baby does not need soft and cushy. It's a heartbreaking fact that some SIDS cases were due to soft bedding.

  • Be Easy to Clean and Sanitize
    Refer to the second sentence of paragraph No. 1. Pee, poop and spit up happen. The easier they are to clean the better. The cover should allow for easy cleanup with soap and water. If the mattress cover ,or ticking as my grandmother used to call it, fails the entire mattress is a goner. Look for a multi-layer waterproof system united with an anti-microbial outer layer to keep the bacteria at bay.

  • Have Quality Construction
    Check ALL of the sewn seams around the edges. Somehow factory people simply do not sew like they used to. You should know that stitching that has started to unravel is not easy to fix.

  • Have Venting
    While you're checking that stitching around the edges, check to be certain that Mr. Manufacturer has provided some vents to let the mattress breathe. If not, discard this choice. We want firmness but a non-vented item would resemble camping on an inflatable air mattress.


Let's review your two basic choices in the TYPE of mattresses available:

  • The FOAM CRIB MATTRESS
  • The SPRING, COIL OR INNERSPRING type mattress


As long as you do the necessary tests to check the crib mattress sizes and that it is as firm as you need it to be it is a matter of personal preference. There is nothing wrong with shopping the sales or discount stores to get better prices as long as you feel the mattress passes all safety criteria.

Foam is king in my humble opinion! A foam mattress is much easier to lift. This means your mattress will be easier to maneuver during those middle of the night diaper leak catastrophes or on sheet changing day.

Tips for buying the best foam crib mattress:

  • The denser (and heavier) the foam the better
  • Foam is generally a little less expensive than an innerspring type baby mattress


If you are set on an innerspring mattress the more coils contained supposedly means the crib mattress will hold up better and be FIRMER! Also, look for supporting rods around the border of the mattress. Where foam density is important in an innerspring mattress look for springs and supporting rods. Remember, SIDS is unlikely but we have to take every precaution.

Another concern is that the fitted sheet and crib mattress pad or mattress cover should fit the crib mattress snugly and securely.

If you'd like to purchase some extras to possibly prolong the life of your crib mattress and make it a little more comfortable in the bargain, consider a waterproof crib mattress pad.

Disclaimer: Unique Baby Gear Ideas cannot guarantee the safety of any crib, baby gear or nursery furnishings. Please refer to the opinions of trusted professionals for that advice.

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