Looking for cribs? We review those here.
It can be tough to find the perfect baby crib mattress that meets your needs without breaking the bank. Making it even harder, many parents have become more aware of issues like safety and emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A few decades ago it was common for mattresses to contain formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, acetone, and a variety of toxic flame retardants. More recently, common VOCs include phenol, neodecanoic acid, and linalool, though many crib mattress manufacturers have done a good job making natural and organic versions of their popular mattresses.
We pulled together a ton of data, reviews, and product tests to put together this list of the best crib mattresses of 2016. Before we list the results, let's go over some of the basic technical information about crib mattresses that you should consider:
Size: Standard crib mattresses should measure approximately 27.5" wide (this varies about .25" between brands and versions), 52" long, and about 5-6" thick. This is the standard mattress size for baby cribs, and is not to be confused with the smaller sizes necessary for playards (pack n plays; we review those here) or bassinets (we review those here). By law, a crib mattress must be at least 27.25" wide and 51.625" long, and a maximum of 6" thick. Thicker mattresses are not allowed given the risk for a standing baby to climb and fall out of the crib.
Corners: You will notice that some mattresses for sale have rounded corners, and some have squared corners. About 99% of all cribs have squared corners, so a squared corner mattress tends to fit much better without gaps. Gaps in the corners aren't a huge concern, but they can be an annoying place for pacifiers or lovies to fall and get lost. A mattress with squared corners prevents these issues.
Dual Firmness: Pediatricians suggest that infants sleep on relatively firm mattresses until they are mobile (sitting, rolling, pulling themselves to stand in crib). This usually occurs around 9-12 months. Many mattresses are made with dual firmness. The firm side is used for infants until around 9-12 months, and then you flip it over to the softer toddler side. These dual firmness mattresses tend to be a bit more expensive than single firmness, but it's definitely worth the extra money since you won't have to buy a new mattress after 9 months. When new parents first feel a high quality recommended mattress, they think "wow this is too firm for my little baby!" but that's exactly what you want. Firm mattresses reduce the risk of SIDS and facilitate learning to roll and move around. If you push your hand into a mattress at the store and your hand sinks in and the mattress maintains the indentation of your hand (like a memory foam), it's probably not a good option. If you push your hand into a mattress with a coil core, you'll feel that it's nice and firm and supportive. The toddler side will add extra foam cushion on top of that firmness, but only after your baby knows how to roll, sit, and stand.
Emissions Standards: Mattress manufacturers have done a good job of modifying their industry standards to increase indoor air quality and reduce infants' inhalation of harmful VOCs. There are a number of environmental institutes and committees that provide private certification for mattresses. The major one is GreenGuard Certification. If you see this label, you can rest assured that the mattress conforms to relatively stringent VOC emissions standards. You can also go even further and invest in an organic crib mattress, which will usually be certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), or Oregon Tilth. If you decide to go with Organic, go all the way. A mattress labeled as "certified organic" will be made of at least 95% organic materials. A mattress labeled as "made with certified organic materials" will likely have a much lower organic content mixed with less expensive synthetic materials (like a vinyl top cover). That little "made with" statement is tricky, because it could mean that the mattress was made with 2% organic, or 90% organic, and it's difficult to determine the actual numbers. If you do choose a mattress that uses a polyurethane foam core, we recommend compliance with CertiPUR-US, which ensures low VOC emissions (less than 0.5 parts per million), and zero formaldehyde, heavy metals, chlorofluorocarbons, or regulated phthalates.
Venting: High quality crib mattresses have little vents (usually plastic or metal grommets or slits) along the side to help the mattress "breath." It may seem silly, but these little vents will help keep the mattress from absorbing various smells from your baby, like a dirty diaper smell lasting for several weeks!
Longevity: If you plan on having more than one kid, or there's some chance that might happen, then we recommend getting a high quality mattress that will outlast your baby's time in a crib. The less expensive models lack certain features like border rods that prevent edge sagging, and use cheap materials like thin vinyl covers that dry out and crack within a few years. In our opinion, spend the extra $50-100 and get a good quality mattress that will last your family many years.
Here are our Top 5 crib mattresses for 2016!
1. Colgate Eco Classica III Dual Firmness with Organic Cotton Cover. (about $200) This U.S. made mattress is from one of the best companies in the crib mattress market. Colgate has been making crib mattresses since 1955, and they are a name you can trust for high quality and minimal compromise. This is one of their eco-friendlier mattresses, with a certified organic cover (not vinyl), and very low VOC emissions that conform to CertiPUR-US standards. It is a foam core, with one firm infant side and one softer toddler side. In our tests, we found that it seems to be very well constructed, with a soft high quality cotton cover, a very firm infant side, a moderately soft toddler side, and it had no bad odors. We prefer a toddler side that is not too soft since we want to maintain support during sleep and make it easier for toddlers to change positions during the night. It was also very lightweight, mostly because it's a foam core, which made it very easy to pull in/out of the crib for sheet and pad changes. It also has squared edges, fitting snugly into standard crib without gaps, a nice 6" thickness, and it has excellent reviews for longevity. This is a fantastic crib mattress, but you will pay a bit extra for the quality and eco-friendliness. Cons? This is not a fully organic mattress (see #2 for that).
2. Naturepedic No Compromise Organic Cotton Classic 150 Dual Firmness. (about $300) We get a lot of emails from parents asking whether the Colgate or Naturepedic mattress is the better option for their baby. We always answer that it really depends on what's important for you. If you're willing to spend an extra $100 for a fully organic mattress that is quite similar in other regards to the Colgate option, then you should definitely go for it. This U.S. made mattress is the ultimate in organic mattresses. It is made with high quality materials, has dual firmness, and coil core construction with border rods to prevent edge sagging. Coils are expensive to integrate into mattresses, and this has 150 of them, plus organic cotton padding and cover. This mattress meeds Greenguard and GOTS certifications, is made with seamless edges, has squared corners, and excellent reviews. It is also marketed as hypoallergenic. In our testing, we loved the waterproof cotton cover that was extremely easy to clean, it was basically odorless, and we thought it fit very snugly in our test (DaVinci) crib. The construction quality was overall very high, and we anticipate this having great longevity. There are two cons, however. First, the mattress is about 7 pounds heavier than the Colgate option above, making it a bit more difficult to pull in/out of the crib for sheet or pad changes. Second, it is about $100 more expensive than the Colgate option. However, for parents looking for a fully organic option without VOC emissions from chemical content, this is a great option.
3. Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer Dual Firmness All Foam Mattress. (about $200) This is a great crib mattress that has some great low VOC features, squared corners, a long excluded chemical list, a waterproof and seamless cover, dual firmness, and it's hypoallergenic. In our testing, this mattress fit our (DaVinci) crib like a glove, and the squared corners were awesome, filling all the extra space. It is CertiPUR-US certified for low VOC emissions. As far as we could tell it has a great build quality, and the seamless edges and waterproof cover were a nice touch. The cover itself is decently soft and seems like good quality. It didn't seem like it would dry out or crack any time soon. At 8 pounds it's about the same weight as the above 2 options, making for easy sheet and mattress pad changing. It also has an antimicrobial coating which is a nice touch. They also added extra firm edges so that the mattress won't sag at the edges, like when a toddler stands on the edge (which they will, and likely also jump!). The Moonlight Slumber is about the same price as the Colgate, coming in around $199. The cons? In our testing, we found the smell a bit stronger than the others (other than the Simmons, below), but within a couple days it was either gone or unnoticeable. The firmness balance between the infant and toddler sides was really nice; the infant side was super firm, and the toddler side was moderately firm/soft. Overall, the build quality seems quite good, but since it's relatively new to the market it's hard to predict the durability and longevity of this particular mattress.
4. Lullaby Earth Breeze 2-Stage Breathable Crib Mattress (dual firmness). (about $200) The Lullaby series of mattresses is relatively new to the crib mattress arena, but they are quickly gaining in popularity. This is their newest 2016 2-stage mattress. It is Greenguard Certified for low VOC emissions, made in the U.S., 100% recyclable, extremely lightweight (about the same as the Colgate), 6" thickness, seamless edges for easy cleaning, and a waterproof cover. Instead of coils or a foam core, this uses honeycomb-shaped batting inside, making it a truly breathable mattress. And the Greenguard Certification is compelling, requiring minimal VOC emissions. In our tests, the infant side was nice and firm, and the toddler side was much softer. The corners are almost squared, somewhere between a rounded and squared edge; it fit nicely in our test (DaVinci) crib. Given the rounded edges, there might be more risk of losing/dropping pacifiers into the corners. It was very lightweight, maybe a few ounces less than the Colgate even, so changing sheets was a breeze. The cover was a good material (non vinyl), and it was easy to clean and had a nice seamless edge around the corners. It does seem well constructed, and their 2016 model had great durability ratings. Cons? Well, not many, but it doesn't have the nicely squared off corners, it sags a bit at the edges under weight (like a toddler standing on it) due to no border rod support, and it was a bit crunchy/creaky when we pushed on it. That last issue is likely solved by a good mattress pad, which we highly recommed using on any mattress. You'll also notice a less expensive $170 option without the dual firmness.
5. Newton Baby & Toddler Crib Mattress. (about $300) This mattress has a lot of accolades. It is recommended by Dr. Sears, and has won several awards like the JPMA innovation award, and is Greenguard Certified. It is a little different from others on this list, because it doesn't have two sides (one for baby, one for toddler). Instead, they made it somewhere halfway between firm and soft, so you never have to flip it over. Of course, this means it's a bit soft for our taste with a baby, and not quite soft enough for a toddler. In our opinion, we found it mostly a bit too soft for an infant. They may have made it this way because they do not use foam, which makes it easier to put a different density foam on one side than the other. Instead, they use what they call "90% air" polymer material, which is just a fancy way of saying it's filled with air-puffed plastic or polyester resin. They do say that it's a food-grade polymer though, which I guess is good in case your baby decides to store food in it. The mattress comes with a polyester zippered cover that we found a bit rough to the touch; so if you need to have your baby sleep on it in a pinch while your sheet is in the wash, they might find it a bit uncomfortable. There are some advantages here though. The edges are nicely squared so that it fit snugly into our test crib, the mattress core and cover are both highly breathable which is good for baby safety, they claim it is entirely recyclable (though I challenge you to get it into your recycling bin), and the cover and the mattress itself are washable (though they suggest to air-dry both, which may not be convenient for you). But all of this comes at quite a price, with this mattress being one of the most expensive on the list.
6. Simmons Kids BeautyRest Beginnings Sleepy Whispers Dual Firmness. (about $140-150) This is a beast of a mattress, but we like it quite a lot. It's a more traditional style mattress, with rounded corners, metal vents on the sides, and an ungodly weight of 26 pounds! That said, this mattress meets a lot of our criteria for a good dual firmness mattress. It has a very supportive and high quality coil core, a nice firm infant side and soft toddler side, vents for preventing odors, Greenguard and CertiPUR-US certification for low VOC emissions, and a great build quality and track record for longevity. When we got this mattress delivered for testing, we saw the UPS man lugging it to our front door and it looked pretty heavy. It's a bit of a pain to change sheets on, and it has rounded corners, and those are our two biggest criticisms and why this is #5 on our list. It is also, however, the cheapest on our list and meets stringent emissions standards, so those are some great benefits. In our testing it fit very snugly in the test crib (DaVinci), and we really thought the firmness of the infant side and softness of the toddler side were a great ratio. Soft yet still supportive. On the downside, the mattress was definitely the smelly one of the group; that said, the odor wasn't particularly bad but definitely noticeable relative to the organic options above. This mattress will likely last your family for many years, through many babies and toddlers, and we definitely think it's a good and (relatively) inexpensive option. Overall, we think this is a good deal for a coil core mattress with low VOC emissions.