The process of choosing a crib mattress doesn’t need to be overwhelming but it certainly should not be an afterthought. Nook recently conducted a survey asking moms about their biggest baby gear purchases and how they prioritized them. We were very surprised to learn that the crib mattress ranked 4th behind the car seat, stroller and crib. Of those surveyed, 80% wanted to be educated on the different benefits of the many crib mattress options but a major determining factor came down to budget. Keeping this in mind, we wanted to help out by putting together a helpful guide on how to choose the best crib mattress for your baby, you—and your wallet!
How to Choose a Crib Mattress
We understand why crib mattresses aren’t at the top of the baby gear list for many moms. When it comes to our little ones, however, it’s important to remember that they can spend up to 18 hours a day sleeping, so not only do we need to consider their sleep environment but also the other important crib mattress and safety factors. So where do you begin? We’ve put together a useful checklist of the key topics that Nook believes should be priority in choosing the best mattress:
So, what do these priorities really mean? Don’t worry, we’ve broken it down for you!
What are the Benefits of a Breathable Crib Mattress?
A breathable crib mattresses is constructed in a way that allows maximum airflow around baby and throughout the mattress (surface to core and back to surface). A 2008 medical research study from UC Berkeley and Kaiser Permanente indicated that improved ventilation and air circulation within the nursery—and especially in the immediate crib area—may reduce the occurrence of SIDS by as much as 70%. Effective ventilation moves exhaled CO2 (carbon dioxide) away from your baby's face and allows him to breathe fresh, oxygenated air. We believe the Kaiser study's findings about air circulation impacts two factors as your child sleeps: air quality and body temperature. Oxygen rich air is essential to brain development. A crib mattress that allows air to flow freely will stop heat from building up under and around baby which will eliminate overheating and unnecessary middle of the night wakings.
Bottom line: A breathable crib mattress increases the air circulation around your baby, thus reducing the risk of SIDS and regulating your baby’s body temperature, which makes for a more rested baby (and family).
Why Does Buying a Non-Toxic Crib Mattress Matter?
We should consider ourselves lucky that there are so many safe options when it comes to creating a safe nursery: VOC-free paints, solid wood cribs, rugs made of natural fibers like cotton or wool and, of course, crib mattresses. But don't be fooled. Just because something claims to be “organic” or “non-toxic,” does not always mean it is. Look at ALL of the materials. For example, the Pebble Pure, Nook’s 100% organic crib mattress consists of organic cotton, eucalyptus, coconut and natural latex core and natural wool fire barrier. Some of the many benefits include:
- Breathable for improved airflow
- Wicks moisture away from skin to keep baby dry and help maintain body temperature
- Liquid-resistant to prevent growth of mold and fungus
- Anti-microbial, anti-mite, hypoallergenic
- Firm for safe sleep for your baby
- Disperses heat to help baby maintain safe body temperature
- Natural fire retardant for improved nursery safety
- Free of chemicals, formaldehyde, synthetic hormones and pesticides
If an all-natural/organic mattress does not meet your needs (or fit within your budget), there are great toxin-free & healthy crib mattress options that use man-made materials which offer a safe, breathable sleep space. Mattresses like the Pebble Lite and Pebble Air use a third-party, USA made certified foam that is free of PBDEs, TDCPP or TCEP (”Tris”) flame retardants, mercury, lead and formaldehyde.
Lastly, Look at where the materials are in relation to your sweet baby’s face. If a mattress core is non-toxic, but it’s covered in a waterproof vinyl or plastic covering, then your baby is still likely breathing in toxic chemicals. Invest in an all-in-one system that ensures the softest, most natural, organic and non-toxic materials are next to your baby’s skin—where it matters most.
Bottom line: Babies spend more than half of the first year of their lives sleeping, likely on their crib mattress. Make sure that’s a healthy space, free of harmful toxins.
How much should I spend on a crib mattress?
The average cost of a crib mattress and mattress pad can range anywhere from $100 to $600+. When considering how much you are wanting to spend on your baby's crib mattress, it is important to keep the following in mind:
- How does the cost of your sleep system (mattress and wrap) compare to what you are spending on other key pieces for baby (i.e. Crib, Stroller, Car Seat, etc.) when it comes to hours of use?
- Are you really getting what you are paying for?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, babies sleep approximately 16-18 hours per day during the first year of their lives. When you factor that into the average cost of a crib mattress with protective mattress pad (approx. $350), you’re investing about $0.80 per day for the first year (at which point you’ve paid off your investment.) Now let's look at a stroller system at $1,000. Your baby may only spend an average of 1-3 hours per day in the stroller the first year (an investment of $3.00 a day). Given those averages, baby will be spending a lot more time sleeping than strolling. Next, ask yourself:
Given the fact that a mattress made of quality products will last for multiple years and multiple babies, it’s an investment worth making not only for your wallet but also for your baby’s health. While a lesser mattress may “work” for the time being, you may end up spending more down the road to replace it.
Bottom line: You can spend anywhere from $400-$5,000 on baby gear. Take a look at which investments give you the most bang for your buck based on how much time your baby will be using it and its shelf life.
Why are Crib Mattresses So Hard?
Many adults may not prefer a firm mattress, however it is essential to the safety, development and well-being of a newborn. Recent studies have shown that a soft crib mattress can increase the risk of SIDS by more than 20-fold. How will I know if the mattress is firm enough? Consumer Reports suggests this test: "Press on the mattress in the center and at the edges. It should snap back readily and should not conform to the shape of your hand.” Some mattresses even offer dual-sided firmness where one side is more firm for infants whereas the other is a little softer for older toddlers. Consult with your pediatrician when it comes time to “flip” the mattress.
Bottom line: We may not want a very firm mattress as adults, but making sure your baby’s mattress is firm will ensure your baby is getting a safe and healthy night sleep.
How should a mattress fit in a crib?
Any crib manufactured and sold in North America, must be built to use a full size crib mattress that measures between 51 ⅝ to 53 inches in length and 27 ¼-28 inches in width (thickness can range from 4 to 6 inches). Why the variance you ask? Materials play a major part when it comes to how a mattress will fit in the base of the crib. According to the
Bottom line: Make sure your crib mattress is at least 28x52x4 inches and it will fit in all modern-day cribs. This reduces the risk of any gaps between the mattress and the crib edge that could pose a potential danger to your sleeping baby.
How do I choose the best crib mattress cover or pad?
Once you have found your breathable mattress, made of the safest materials, with the ideal firm sleep surface that fits perfectly in your crib, it's times to make sure your mattress is protected. A mattress pad/cover acts as a shield when it comes to the undeniable leaks and accidents that will occur. While a mattress pad or mattress wrap is often an additional cost, all Nook crib mattresses come crib-ready with an organic, water-resistant Pebble Wrap that not only guards the mattress core, it looks great and makes the use of crib bedding optional, increasing your savings.
Bottom line: You have invested the time and money into the safest crib mattress for your baby. Make sure your investment is maximized with the best mattress wrap made of the safest materials.
Crib Mattress Buyer’s Guide Checklist
When choosing our own mattresses, we often don’t consider things like breathability, non-toxicity, off-gassing or temperature-regulating factors. We want to make sure it’s comfortable and within budget. It’s clear the guidelines for choosing the best crib mattress are a little different. Whatever you choose for your little one, we hope this checklist has helped pare down the information overload. Regardless of how you prioritize your key factors, the important thing to remember is not to sacrifice one for the other. It is Nook’s recommendation that your crib mattress meet each of the items on our checklist.