Do you know that a baby spends more than 16 hours a day sleeping?
Yes, a baby crib is essentially where your baby will be spending most of his time in, especially in their first year or so.
Which is why it is so vital that you choose a safe and comfortable baby crib for your little one. But wait, that's not just that.
Rather, and perhaps what's more important, is about choosing the right baby crib mattress because hey, that will be where your baby will be lying on top of!
It may seem like it's just a simple piece of baby crib mattress, but there's actually many things to look out for. What are they? What’s the best cot mattress to buy?
What Is A Crib Mattress
First of all, what is a crib mattress?
There's no rocket science behind this. A crib mattress is exactly just that - a mini mattress that is designed to fit snugly inside your baby crib.
But there's exactly where the difficulty lies - how do you determine what is a "snug fit"?
You see (and you will be shocked by this), there are actually many cases that link SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) to crib mattresses. And many of that, is related to the question of "fit" as well as 5 other elements as follows.
Top 6 Elements To Look Out For
The picture below is a good summary of the important features to look at. Of course, we will break it down for you below.
A crib mattress needs to fit comfortably and just right in the crib.
"It cannot be too big to the point you need to squish it in, nor can it be too small."
You see, most crib mattresses are designed to be slightly smaller than the standard crib dimensions. This is so that it doesn't have to be squished into most cribs in the market.
They will not be too small either, because that will post a real safety hazard. Baby may get trap in the extra space and suffocate - one of the most common SIDS cause.
To get the best fit, a good rule of thumb is to check if you can fit two fingers of space between the side of the mattress and the crib frame.
If there’s more space than that, it means that your mattress is too small and this automatically raises the risk of suffocation and entrapment hazard.
Another easy way to ensure a good fit is to check whether the labelled size adheres to the standard legal size regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA).
That is, at least 27 1/4 x 51 1/4 inches and no more than 6 inches thick.
Most crib mattresses will be the right fit if anything today, but to be on the safe side, we recommend you to first measure the inside dimensions of your crib first before choosing the crib mattress to ensure it meets standards.
Next is to look at the firmness of the mattress.
"The firmer, the better" is the philosophy we believe in when it comes to choosing the best crib mattress for baby.
As the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development recommends:
"Use a firm and flat sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib."
This is because a soft sleeping surface can also be a suffocation hazard and raise the risk of SIDS. How so, you may ask?
You see, if a mattress is not firm enough, the soft surface can actually conform to the shape of your baby’s head or face.
You can think of it this way - your baby's head/face will 'sink' into the mattress if it is too soft and since s/he is still incapable of turning himself, it increases the risk of suffocation if s/he is 'wrapped' around by a soft mattress.
So even if it may feel a tad too stiff and uncomfortable for you, know that a firm crib mattress is the best for your baby.
They need a firm, flat, even sleeping surface to maximize their development, strengthen their muscles, and ensure breathability in the crib. Babies need resistance and a firm surface to push up, turn and eventually stand up on.
Generally, there are two types of materials that go into crib mattresses – foam or innerspring.
One is not necessarily better than the others, rather, it is more about choosing a top quality one in whichever type you decide to go for.
At a glance, here are the differences between the two:
More popular because cheaper and lighter
Generally, the same type of mattress as the one you use yourself
Things to note:
Things to note:
As mentioned above, a high quality foam mattress is as good as a top quality innerspring mattress so there is no reason of choosing one over the other.
Our top rated mattress is a foam mattress and we think it serves its purpose well. It is an Amazon's Choice and is one of the most popular crib mattresses in the market.
Also, know that there is always the option of going organic if you wish to go 100% natural.
Waterproof and Machine-washable
The best baby bed mattress should be waterproof and has a machine-washable cover.
Trust us, you will want one that is as easy to clean as possible because let's face it - you can't avoid the accidental leaks/spills from your baby.
A waterproof mattress cover will ensure these irritants do not seep into the mattress itself, thus preventing bacteria and other nasty stuffs from manifesting in your baby's sleeping environment.
In terms of machine-washability, that's a no-brainer. Anything to save you the cleaning effort, isn't it?
Hypoallergenic & Flammability
For obvious reasons, you will want a hypoallergenic baby crib mattress that is free of any flame retardants.
We're talking about flame irritants like polyurethane foam or questionable materials such as vinyl, PVC, phthalates, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), formaldehyde, and more.
A simple, fool-proof tip to ensure you get a safe, non-toxic and chemical free baby crib mattress is to see if it there is the CertiPUR-US foam label.
CertiPUR-US certified foams are:
- Made without ozone deplenters
- Made without PDEs, TDCPP or TCEP ("Tris") flame retardants
- Made without mercury, lead and other heavy metals
- Made without formaldehyde
- Made without phthalates regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions for indoor air quality (less than 0.5 parts per million)
Or, if you see the "Greenguard Gold" certification on the packaging, it means the mattress is safe and toxic/chemical free as well.
Rest assured that all these recommended crib mattresses bear either one or both of these certifications so there is no need to worry about getting an inferior product.
While the price doesn't differ much between different brands (if we may say so ourselves), it is always a good idea to set how much your budget is as this will help ease your choosing process.
There are top rated baby mattresses at different price points listed in our crib mattress review so we are sure there is definitely one that suits your budget.
Do I Need To Buy A Specific Baby Crib Mattress?
Yes, you should definitely get a baby crib mattress, mainly for safety reasons.
As mentioned above, crib mattresses have a standard size to follow, which means they will mostly fit well in most baby cribs.
If you think you can use other mattresses i.e. folding the sides to make it fit your crib, you're actually increasing the risk of suffocation (if baby’s head is caught between the folds) or risk baby’s head falling into gaps if the mattress is too small.
Either way, this is a serious safety hazard for babies and trust us, you do not want to put your baby through that.
Also, you do not know if your makeshift mattress is of the right firmness. Should it be otherwise, the results can be very dire for reasons mentioned above.
So yes, our very firm (pun unintended) answer to this question is that you should only buy a mattress specifically designed for infant/crib as mattresses designed for older children/adults may not be suitable or safe.
Can I Get A Second-Hand Crib Mattress?
ALWAYS, and we cannot stress enough, ALWAYS buy a new baby crib mattress.
NEVER buy used or accept hand-me-down mattress, or any other baby products in fact as there have been studies that found the use of old crib mattresses links to an increased risk of SIDS.
Apart from this, we also do not recommend using an old mattress for the following reasons:
- Non-hygienic. You just never know how an old baby mattress is maintained by its previous owner.
- Poop and pee are common occurrences on a crib mattress, so if one is not cleaned and maintained well, such germs will remain inside the mattress.
- Trust us, you do not want to put your baby in such an environment.
- Dust-mite / bedbugs. As with the point above, you will not know if dust mites or worse, bed bugs exist in an old, used crib mattress.
- You also risk infecting your other furniture with these nasty bugs.
- Safety hazard. An old crib mattress will more or less lose its life as it has been used before.
- It will not be as firm as a brand new mattress and you may not know if it has became too soft that it now poses a safety hazard to your baby.
It is simply not worth it to put your baby through the risks of using an old hand-me-down mattress from someone else.
On the other hand, if you have a well maintained, well-cleaned crib mattress from your firstborn which you now wish to use for your second child, you can certainly do so - at least you know it has been on good hands and is well preserved.