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How To Choose a Crib Mattress for Baby

I recently taught a Shopping for Baby 101 class about crib mattresses, and wanted to share my thoughts on how to find a crib mattress for your baby.  Enjoy!

Parents-to-be often spend months deciding on the styles of crib and bedding they want and then purchase the crib mattress as an afterthought. The crib mattress is actually a more important purchase since it where the majority of a child’s growth and development will occur. An infant will spend up to 70% of his or her time on the crib mattress and a toddler can spend up to 50% of his or her time on the crib mattress. This coupled with the fact that the child will spend the first three to five years of their lives sleeping and playing on this same crib mattress are the most important reasons to buy a quality crib mattress.

Babies have different needs the rest of the population, so their mattresses should be different.

  • A baby’s mattress should have square corners if possible, so the baby cannot become entrapped between the mattress and the rail.
  • A baby’s mattress should fit your crib snugly. Most crib mattresses are standard size, but check with your crib’s instruction manual for more information.
  • A baby’s mattress should be very firm, as this is the surface they are most often using to develop their muscles. For example, they often learn to turn their heads, roll over, and push their upper torso up on their crib mattress. Also, studies show that a very firm mattress can help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

There are three basic kinds of mattresses

  • Foam

Scientific advances in the making of foam have caused the quality of foam mattresses to improve dramatically over the past few years. A better quality foam mattress today is about the same quality as a better quality innerspring mattress. The costs are also very comparable. One thing is definitive in the choice of a crib mattress: a better quality foam mattress is better than a poorer quality innerspring mattress, and a better quality innerspring mattress is better than a poorer quality foam mattress. On the top 5 list from a leading consumer magazine, the number one mattress was made from foam, and 2 through 5 were innerspring. One of the biggest advantages to a foam mattress is that it weighs fewer than eight pounds, as compared to an innerspring mattress, for which better quality ones weigh 30 plus pounds because of the thicker gauge coils and extra padding.

Moonlight Slumber Foam Little Dreamer Crib Mattress

Moonlight Slumber Foam Little Dreamer Crib Mattress

The three things to look for when looking for a better quality foam mattress are:

  • Total weight of the mattress (also referred to as density) - generally, the heavier the mattress the better the mattress.
  • Firmness - most medical experts recommend that you put a baby on as firm a mattress as you, the parent, feel comfortable putting them on.
  • The reputation of the manufacturer of the mattress (and not just the name on the mattress label.)

Benefits: Light, easy to change sheets, can be found very firm, can upgrade to dual firmness

Price Points: From $149 to $179

Key Brands: SmartMomma recommends Colgate and Moonlight Slumber

  • Innerspring

An innerspring mattress is more complicated internally than a foam mattress, but like the foam mattress, there are several major things to look for when purchasing a better quality innerspring crib mattress:

Colgate Sure Sleep Crib Innerspring Mattress

Colgate Sure Sleep Crib Innerspring Mattress

  • The total number and quality of layers in the mattress - Generally, the more layers the better.
  • The reputation of the actual mattress manufacturer (and not just the name on the label).
  • The reputation and quality of the retailer from whom you are buying the mattress.

The layers in an innerspring crib mattress are:

  • The innerspring unit - It is not just the number of coils that is important, but it is also the amount of steel. Buy a mattress with the thickest and greatest number of coils, but even more importantly, buy a mattress with an innerspring unit that has a border rod that adds firmness and extra edge support.
  • The insulator - This is the layer that prevents the soft cushioning layers from sinking into the coils. The best insulator is a coir fiber pad made from coconut shells. This is far superior to a fiber pad or cloth pad, especially over long term use. Besides the coir fiber pad, some better quality mattresses offer a permanent insulator that reduces the gap between the coils. Some mattresses offer two insulators.
  • Cushioning layers - These usually consist of one foam layer. Sometimes there are two layers of foam, and some manufacturers offer a layer of foam and a layer of 100% all natural cotton batting.
  • The cover - Triple layer nylon reinforced vinyl is the best.

Benefits: A little more give for comfort; thicker mattress, can upgrade to dual firmness

Price Points: From $169 to $189

Key Brands: SmartMomma recommends Colgate.

  • Organic (can be innerspring or not)


Organic mattresses, like all other certified products made with organic fiber and textiles, are certified under the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) In particular, the GOTS standard requires that all fiber and fabrics, with limited exceptions, must be made from certified materials that meet the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) standard and are processed in accordance with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). All other components (such as innersprings, fire protection, etc.) must meet stringent non-toxic standards.

What to look for in an organic mattress.

Priority #1: No harmful chemicals.

Priority #2: No allergenic materials.

Priority #3: Natural, organic and renewable materials wherever possible.

Priority #4: Practical design (e.g. easy-to-clean waterproof cover).

Priority #5: Third party independent testing and verification.

What is in a Naturepedic Organic Mattress?

  • Certified Organic Cotton: Organic cotton is the purest form of cotton, grown without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). In mattresses, organic cotton is a healthier alternative to foams (which are chemically treated) and latex (which is allergy-prone). Naturepedic uses only U.S. grown and certified organic cotton.
  • Food-Grade Polyethylene: The surface of every waterproof Naturepedic mattress is so pure you can eat on it. Polyethylene is an environmentally friendly plastic that is used throughout the food packaging industry for its purity and non-toxic properties. It has a very simple molecular structure that does not require chemical additives (as opposed to vinyl/PVC) and is favored by environmental groups all over the world. Naturepedic uses only polyethylene specially formulated to meet food contact standards, creating the finest non-toxic waterproof mattress surface available. Polyethylene is easy-to-clean and highly stain resistant while providing an excellent barrier to dust mites and other allergens. Does not contain any fire retardant chemicals or phthalates.
  • Steel Innerspring: Naturepedic uses only the highest quality innersprings available. Steel springs are readily recyclable and provide heavy duty support without any health or allergy concerns. Our flagship crib innerspring features 252 coils at 15.5 gauge with 9 gauge border wire. Our 150 coil innerspring features 13 gauge coils with 9 gauge border wire.
  • Wavesupport™ Lightweight Technology: Wavesupport is an exclusive Naturepedic innovation designed to provide exceptional support with about half the weight of an innerspring mattress (11 lbs instead of 22 lbs on average). Wavesupport is made from pure food grade polyethylene and makes changing sheets a breeze! Unlike most lightweight mattresses on the market, Wavesupport contains no polyurethane foam! Wavesupport also does not contain any fire retardant chemicals.
  • Fireproofing a Different Way: Organic cotton is a far superior filling material and is significantly less flammable to begin with, allowing for more creative solutions. Our exclusive fire protection system is based on the unique fire retardant properties of baking soda and hydrated silicy permanently bonded to cellulose. This results in an inherently flame resistant barrier that does not breakdown. The cellulose fiber used is derived primarily from eucalyptus and poplar trees and has a low carbon footprint. These materials provide the best way to meet fire regulations without the use of questionable chemicals or allergenic wool.

Naturepedic Organic Lightweight Mattress

Naturepedic Organic Lightweight Mattress

Different Types of Naturepedic Organic Mattresses: Innerspring, Lightweight

Benefits: No petroleum/fire proofing chemicals, natural but still conveniently waterproof, can upgrade to dual firmness

Price Points: From $259 to $399

Key Brands: SmartMomma recommends Naturepedic

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