Looking for a great standard-sized crib mattress that can go the distance? Because marketing hype and an avalanche of options can muddy the waters, we set out to narrow the field to the absolute best options. Considering that babies spend the majority of their first few years sleeping in a crib, a quality mattress is worth serious consideration and investment. We used our expert experience combined with extensive research to round up our favorites. This list emphasizes quality materials, mattress firmness, and longevity. The lowest priced mattresses didn't make the cut, and we consider a crib mattress to be one product worth investing in quality. Our picks are presented in a pros/cons format with a buying advice guide to help you choose the right one for your baby.
The Best Crib Mattresses Review
You get what you pay for when it comes to mattresses, and you and your baby will appreciate it if you spend the most your budget will allow. Buying a crib mattress is not the time to cut corners or look for savings by purchasing a low-quality mattress. However, we understand a tight budget and made every effort to include budget-friendly options that avoid off-gassing and potentially toxic materials.
Hands-down the Naturepedic Organic Cotton Classic 150 Seamless 2-Stage is our favorite. Its sturdy construction is built to last with appropriate firmness and great edge support that promotes safe sleep. The 2-stage option provides a firm side for infants, and a bit more give on the opposite side for toddlers. Its materials are top notch (i.e., GOTS certified organic cotton and heavy duty 150 coil steel innerspring), so it is a safer choice for families with allergies and asthma. There is no polyurethane foam in any Naturepedic mattress, and the use of flame retardants is not an issue with this brand. This mattress does not have any chemical odor and is Greenguard Gold certified. Its food-grade polyethylene cover is waterproof and seamless which makes clean up easy, protects from dust mites, and reduces the possibility of microbial growth.
Keep in mind that this Naturepedic is the heaviest of our favorites at 20 lbs due to its innerspring construction, so it requires some muscle to change the sheet. Also, if you are looking for a non-waterproof cover, this one is not the ticket as it uses food-grade polyethylene for waterproofing which results in a smooth, wipeable surface. Last, be forewarned that while the measurements of this mattress are within the standard size, its corners are square and some report it is oversized, so it may not fit in your crib. Remember that crib mattress + crib can be a "chicken and egg" dilemma, so our advice is to purchase from a retailer with a useful return policy (like Amazon). That said, Naturepedic has excellent customer service and a warranty policy for the original purchaser.
The Emily Natural by My Green Mattress is great for those who want to avoid synthetics. Unlike the Naturepedic brand, My Green Mattress produces ONE dedicated crib mattress, and they have great customer service. The Emily has a soft quilted cover made of both GOTS certified organic cotton, and Oeko-Tex certified natural wool sewn underneath. We like the use of wool in bedding as it regulates temperature, is naturally resistant to dust mites and mold, and has some water resistant properties. The internal structure is a combination of 150 13.5 gauge innerspring coils, all-natural coconut coir, made with GOTS certified organic coconut, and GOLS certified natural latex with heavyweight organic cotton batting. Even though the Emily mattress uses innerspring, it is 5 lbs lighter than the Naturepedic Organic Cotton Classic 150 Seamless 2-Stage making it an excellent choice for those who desire lighter weight without foam. Rest assured, that the Emily Natural is Greenguard Gold certified.
Some have noticed a natural wool odor from this mattress, particularly in humid climates. According to My Green Mattress, the smell originates from the natural wool, so the company changed its wool supplier in December 2016 to remedy the issue. The all natural wool is washed in a GOTS compliant organic detergent to decrease the natural smell. If you still detect an odor, My Green Mattress suggests hanging the mattress uncovered in the sun for 1 to 2 days to help neutralize it. Also, because the Emily Natural has no integrated waterproofing, we recommend using a waterproof pad like the Naturepedic Organic Waterproof Fitted Crib Pad to keep your mattress clean.
The Babyletto Pure Core with Dry Waterproof Cover utilizes a recyclable polyethylene mattress core that exceeds flammability standards through the use of 80% modacrylic and 20% polyester fiber batting without the use of chemical flame retardants. It is a good choice for those with allergies and asthma. Purchasers comment on zero odor and nice dual firmness (firmer infant side is the one with the Babyletto tag). The Dry Cover is polyester outer, and cotton inner is waterproof and easily wipeable for clean-up; it is washable and feels soft. The Pure Core mattress can come with either the Babyletto Smart Cover which is water-repellant/moisture-wicking, and Oeko-Tex certified, or the Babyletto Hybrid Waterproof Cover which has a waterproof inner and organic cotton outer layer. Depending on which cover you choose, we recommend purchasing a replacement cover for easy wash rotation.
Because movement sensor pads rely on vibration feedback from the mattress to determine if the baby is moving/breathing regularly, a foam mattress is often not compatible as it can diminish movement so the sensor pad doesn't "sense" it. You need to avoid foam mattresses or contact the monitor manufacturer to determine compatibility.
The Lullaby Earth Breeze 2-Stage mattress ticks all the boxes. The mattress core (59% polyester fiber/41% polyethylene foam) is springless yet firm with strong edge support and includes 2-sides with firmer for infancy and softer for toddlers. There are no flame retardants in Lullaby's products, and the Breeze is Greenguard Gold certified for low VOC emissions. Purchasers appreciate that there is no scent to the mattress and that both the mattress and cover are waterproof. The mattress cover is food-grade polyethylene with seamless stitching that can easily be wiped down and protects the core from dust mites, moisture, and microbial growth. The removable, washable, polyester cover has a polyethylene waterproof backing and fits the mattress like a crib sheet for easy changes. The cover also has what Lullaby refers to as 3D honeycomb which supposedly creates a "cushion of air underneath the baby." At under 10 lbs, crib sheet changes are easier than mattresses over 20 lbs. Because the mattress cover is removable and washable, we recommend having an extra Lullaby Earth Breeze Washable Mattress Pad on hand for rotation through the wash.
Be aware that even though Lullaby Earth markets the Breeze Mattress Cover as "Breathable," this should not be interpreted as an invitation to place your baby on his/her tummy to sleep. All babies should be placed on their backs on a firm surface for every sleep. We go into further detail on this topic in the Newton Wovenaire review where, in our opinion, the "breathability" marketing is a bit over the top. We think the Lullaby Earth Breeze is a quality, lightweight crib mattress. With a cool, washable, waterproof cover and a design that makes changes "a breeze," it is a good choice for most families.
Much like the Babyletto Pure Core, the Newton Wovenaire is a synthetic, springless, foamless mattress that utilizes recyclable food-grade polyethylene polymer for its mattress core. However, Newton differentiates the Wovenaire with its core's unique fabrication and washability. It's cool how this company manipulates polyethylene into a form which is characteristic of a block of dried ramen noodles. Newton claims that 90% of the mattress core is air. Now that's innovative! The Wovenaire is a great choice for those with a history of asthma and allergies, as the core and cover are completely washable.
Along with the removable, washable, 100% polyester 3-D Cloud Cover (two layers of 3-D spacer material quilted together), you can wash the core in the bathtub or shower (cold water only). The core is air dry only which according to Newton takes anywhere from 2 to 6 hours depending on ventilation. As such, we recommend investing in an additional safe sleep area like a travel crib to use in the interim. Newton claims their cover is water resistant, not waterproof, so it is a good idea to have an extra Newton Replacement Cover for use during washing, as they recommended the cover be machine-dried on cool or air-dried. Some complain that Wovenaire's cover is rough, so for babies with sensitive skin, washing the outer cover before first use and using a crib sheet may be helpful to avoid irritation. Also, although the Wovenaire is Greenguard Gold certified, a short period of airing outside may be required if you sense any odor.
The Netwon Wovenaire is 100% NOT natural from its plastic mattress to its 100% polyester cover. If using natural materials is important to you, then you should look elsewhere.
No doubt about it, the Wovenaire is a popular mattress for one main reason that concerns us. Newton markets this mattress as "breathable," meaning that if a baby found its way to sleeping on his/her stomach (supine), the structure of the mattress will allow the baby to breathe comfortably and not re-breathe exhaled carbon dioxide, a suspected risk factor for SIDS. Parents overwhelmingly comment that the Wovenaire gives them "peace of mind." We hope parents don't interpret Newton's "breathable" marketing as an invitation to place infants on their tummy to sleep, as this is not a safe sleeping habit. Wovenaire or not, "breathable" or not, safe sleep guidelines should always be followed. Babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep. There is no dispute about this as evidenced by the dramatic decrease in SIDS with the advent of the Back to Sleep campaign in 1994. Interestingly, supine sleeping carries more risk than just rebreathing carbon dioxide. In our opinion, Newton is heavily capitalizing on parental fear of SIDS, and this upsets us. Despite Newton's unfortunate marketing choices, we still feel the Wovenaire is an interesting, albeit expensive, crib mattress for its allergy-friendly attributes and washable core with a removable, washable cover. This design truly demonstrates out of the box innovation. But, please, always put your baby on his/her back to sleep.
Considered, But Not Recommended
Our list of contenders may seem small compared to other reviews where we've included 15-30 possible options. In reality, this review has taken us far longer than almost any other we've completed with hours and months of research, time and effort down a rabbit hole of mattresses where we considered well over 30 potential contenders. One by one, each product was slashed from the competition for reasons varying from questionable material safety to a lack of transparency from the manufacturer.
While potentially outdated with a publish date of 2011, this overview of crib mattresses and what they contain is a great place for you to learn more about mattresses and what your baby is sleeping on.
Your baby will spend more time on their mattress than in any other location making its safety of paramount importance. So while buying a crib mattress may feel like just another piece of gear to check off your list, it is a critical item where safety should be first and foremost in your mind. As a result, we think more time should be spent making a mattress choice than you might spend on other gear. We intentionally didn't choose some mattresses because they contain flame retardants, polyurethane foam, vinyl or other materials we find questionable or wouldn't use with our babies. If you don't see a mattress you are considering, it may contain one or more of these materials, and we encourage you to do further research.Here are some examples of popular contenders that didn't make the cut and why.
- Sealy Everlite 2-Stage crib mattress / Sealy Perfect Rest — These Sealy mattresses are made by Kolcraft. After several weeks and five email attempts to receive information from Kolcraft, they finally relented and gave us material information after we told them who we were. We think companies should be transparent about what materials are in their mattresses, and we don't think the average parent would receive an honest answer from this company without significant effort and cajoling.
- Colgate Eco Classica III — In an email from the company, they claim this mattress is "eco-friendly." They also, unnecessarily, make an effort to disparage other companies who use organic materials. Both responses leave a bad taste in our mouth, as this mattress is not eco-friendly and saying bad things about other mattresses doesn't make your mattress better. This mattress uses 24% non-edible plant oil to replace petroleum-based oil in the production of their polyurethane foam. So, 76% of this foam uses petroleum-based oil. The use of petroleum products and the production of foam is not particularly eco-friendly and certainly doesn't qualify this product as good for the environment. This company also told us via email that the "tag on the mattress says only what is legally required to be said on the mattress," we prefer transparency of all materials, not just what the law permits.
- Nook Pebble Pure Crib Mattress/Pebble Lite Eco-Friendly Crib Mattress — Some of the Nook mattresses have a foam core they claim is "non-toxic," we aren't entirely sure what they mean by this and assume they are alluding to the CertiPUR certification, but this certification only indicates that the foam meets the emission limitations outlined as acceptable by CertiPUR. The emissions are not equivalent to being "free of toxins." Therefore, we feel they are intentionally trying to mislead consumers with vague, undefined language and greenwashing. Also, their website lists the Pebble Lite Eco-Friendly as "environmentally friendly," which we believe to be false as the production of polyurethane foam isn't particularly environmentally friendly thanks to its use of petrochemicals. So despite one mattress being natural and insteresting, the overall greenwashing on the website gives us pause.
- Serta Tranquility Eco Firm — This mattress is advertised (on Amazon) as "non-toxic" and "natural." It is a polyurethane mattress that, while CertiPUR and Greenguard certified, it is not "non-toxic" as it does off-gas VOCs. It is also not natural as it uses human-made foam from petroleum as opposed to materials naturally found in nature like cotton. In an email from the manufacturer, they tell us this mattress has a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) cover. Vinyl is a material we are not comfortable with and wouldn't use with our own babies. PVC has been shown to have adverse effects on health including short term problems like headaches and dizziness to long term effects of potential liver cancer and central nervous system damage. It certainly isn't non-toxic or natural.
- Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer — The Moonlight company has a history of misleading marketing and lying exposed by the FTC including creating and awarding its mattress a made-up "green" certification. This information, combined with the regular use of polyurethane foam, is why you won't find any mattresses by the Moonlight Slumber company in this roundup of products.
Guidelines for Safe Sleeping Environment
Given the concern of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), it is important that you create and maintain a safe sleeping environment for your little one for every single sleep.
Back to Sleep
The only safe position for sleeping babies to help avoid SIDS is on their back. The "Back to Sleep" campaign encourages and educates parents to put babies on their back to sleep. Studies indicate that little ones sleeping on their back are less likely to have difficulty breathing which can reduce the risk of SIDS. Research shows that sleeping on their stomach increases a baby's risk of SIDS by two-fold. Since the campaign began in 1994, the number of infants that die from SIDS has decreased by over half. Now that is something to celebrate and more than enough evidence to support the back to sleep movement!
Unfortunately, SIDS is still associated with other preventable situations like stomach or side sleep positions, bed-sharing, too much bundling, a covered head, overheated environment, and smoking in the home.
A firm sleeping surface is job one for a good infant mattress, so set your sleeping preferences aside. Cushy memory foam toppers, sheepskin, fluffy down or hammocks are not safe for babies. Some crib mattresses offer dual firmness with an extra firm side for infants and a firm but slightly softer side for toddlers. The firm surface helps prevent the mattress from indenting under baby's weight. If the surface indents and your baby rolls to their stomach, this can make it challenging to roll back over.
Any mattress you choose should have firm edge support that doesn't sag or significantly compress when pushed on. This design helps prevent smaller baby parts from becoming entrapped between the crib slats and mattress. Foam mattresses tend to have squishier edges than innerspring, which makes it even more important to check the edges before you buy. If they are easy to depress, you should consider returning the mattress and looking elsewhere.
You also need to be aware of sagging mattresses. In our research, we see a trend toward bio/plant-based foams sagging over time. These are manufacturers like Colgate Eco and Sealy Soy-Foma that blend soy-based oil with traditional polyurethane foam. If you choose this kind of mattress, you'll want to pay special attention both when the product is new and every time you change the sheet to ensure sagging isn't happening.
Baby Sleeps on Own Surface
Acceptable sleep areas for a baby, besides a traditional crib with crib mattress, include bassinets (until 4 to 5 month of age) and travel cribs. It is not safe for babies to sleep in the same bed with others or on couches or other furniture. It is also not safe for a baby to sleep in their car seat carrier, swing, bouncer, or similar because it can potentially cause airway obstruction when their head falls forward onto their chest.
Mattresses should fit snuggly inside the crib with less than two finger's width gap between the edge of the mattress and the crib frame. If your mattress and crib combo has more than this, you need to find a different mattress or a different crib.
Babies should sleep in a bare crib. While this isn't cute or picture perfect, a crib devoid of crib bumpers, soft bedding, pillows, stuffed animals, and toys is the only safe way to sleep. The only things in your baby's crib should be the mattress with a tightly fitted sheet and your baby asleep on their back. The Newton Wovenaire recommends not using anything other than the cover that comes with the mattress to get the most from the "breathable" design. Do NOT confuse this with putting your baby to sleep on their stomach. Despite the claim that the mattress is breathable, the only safe way for baby to sleep is on their back!
When it comes to beds, the recommendation is that every baby should have a new crib mattress. A Scotish study shows there is an increased risk of SIDs when you use a previously used crib mattress. The risk is even higher if the mattress comes from another home as opposed to passed down from a sibling. This recommendation means no hand me down mattresses. However, as long as a crib is in good shape and adheres to current crib safety guidelines, the crib may be passed on from sibling to sibling.
New cribs must adhere to certain safety standards which is why it is never a good idea to use a second-hand crib, especially if it has been in your family for years or was yours as a child. Things to look for when purchasing a crib or reusing a crib include:
- Slat Width — The side slates of the crib should have spacing no more than 2 3/8" in width.
- Corner Posts — The corner posts of the crib should not extend any more than 1/16" to avoid strangulation by clothing snagging
- Solid Construction — All screws, brackets, and joints on the crib should be nice and tight with all sharp edges and metal out of the baby's reach.
- Decorative Embellishments — The headboard and footboard on the crib should not have any decorative cutouts or additions.
- No Drop Down — While cribs no longer come in drop down options, it wasn't that long ago when you could buy one new. This style of crib has a history of injuries and accidents including death, so take a hard pass on any hand me down with a drop side, it isn't worth the risk no matter how much money you think you can save.
Buying Advice: Important Crib Mattress Considerations
So, you thought buying a mattress was as simple as finding a good fit at the right price. However, there are other things you should think about concerning materials and everyday use as you could be married to this product for 2-4 years.
Ease of Use
- Weight — While a mattress sits immobile in your crib most of the time, the weight matters when you lift and move the mattress to change the sheet. If you have trouble lifting heavier items or don't want to, you'll want to look for a lightweight product. The Naturepedic Organic Cotton Classic 150 Seamless 2-Stage is 20 lbs, the heaviest in this group, which could be a no-go for some. Alternatively, the Babyletto Pure Core with Dry Waterproof Cover is 9lbs and the Lullaby Earth Breeze 2-Stage is about the same, both of which are much more manageable.
- Ease of Cleaning — Every baby has accidents, and whether wet or goopy, the mattress will need to be cleaned. The only washable product in this review is the Newton Wovenaire, but others have waterproof/wipeable surfaces.
- Waterproofness — Unlike regular mattresses that require the use of waterproof of water-resistant covers, many crib mattresses come with this feature. Waterproofing makes a bed easy to clean, and it limits the need for additional bedding that might add thickness to the mattress. Most water resistance comes from the use of Polyethylene/Polymer in the cover of the mattress. This component is often "food grade" polyethylene. We recommend avoiding products that use vinyl or PVC to attain water resistance as these components can create health issues.
- Materials — Mattresses can include all sorts of materials from polyurethane to organic cotton and natural latex. Some have foam components to create firmness, while others have inner coil springs. We recommend going as natural as you can and paying attention to certifications to help your baby avoid inhaling VOCs while sleeping.
- Odor-Free - Does the crib mattress emit a strange synthetic smell? This odor is off-gassing, otherwise known as volatile organic (not the cool kind) compounds or VOCs. If you choose a mattress with that "new" smell, we recommend airing it out until the smell dissipates. Looking for Greenguard Gold Certification can help reduce VOCs and other toxins.
- Flame Retardant-Free — We recommend choosing mattresses that are free of chemical flame retardants. This lack of chemicals doesn't mean the bed is kindling waiting to ignite into flames; it merely means that it meets the flammability and smoldering laws without the use of chemicals that could potentially be harmful to your baby. Less is more when it comes to chemical additives in our opinion.
Companies that specialize in Crib Mattresses (i.e., Naturepedic) tend to have healthier, better products than large conglomerates (i.e., Kolcraft/Sealy, Serta/Delta Children's.) While not a hard and fast rule, it rings mostly true. There are some things you should look for when making your buying decision no matter what the brand or marketing hype. Mattress materials are important, and we can't stress enough that you want to pay attention to materials and their certifications.
A traditional Innerspring mattress includes inner metal coils that provide firmness and support. These mattresses are cumbersome compared to foam options, but some claim to feel resistance from the coils that can cause pressure points. However, firmness is vital for babies to help avoid SIDs, and babies are lightweight enough that they are unlikely to feel pressure points.
Some foams are better than others, and certified foam is potentially better than those without certifications. However, we are not fans of polyurethane foam no matter what certification it has or what percentage comes from plants. Why? Foams are a petroleum-based product with added chemicals to create the cellular foam structure, and as a result, they emit VOCs. VOCs create an unhealthy breathing environment that can potentially cause health problems.Which certifications apply to foam products?
- The CertiPUR CertiPUR-US foam certification is a group comprised and run by those in the foam industry. This certification checks for the use of banned chemicals and tests for VOCs to a certain limit defined by foam producers. While better than nothing, this isn't the best certification as the certifier benefits ($$) from certifying foam as they also work in foam production and sales.
- GreenGuard is a third party governing body that tests and certifies materials used in building products, furniture, and other items to ensure better indoor air quality. The certification allows for no greater than 1/100 of the currently published ACGIH® Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and no greater than one-half of California's Chronic Reference Exposure Levels (CRELs).
While we recognize you can't avoid all VOCs in today's world, we believe you should make an effort to limit or avoid them whenever possible, and baby's sleeping surface is a great place to start. We prefer GreenGuard certifications over CertiPUR because GreenGuard is third-party testing while CertiPUR is owned and operated by those that create and benefit from the sale of foam. So while CertiPUR certified foam is potentially safer than uncertified foam, it is essentially the fox guarding the hen house. Neither certification means the foam is as safe as organic or natural materials, nor does it mean no VOCs, non-toxic, or even a safe level of VOCs (no one has determined what is a "safe" level VOCs).
Foam-based mattresses may not work with some movement monitors. If you hope to use a sensor pad mattress movement monitor, you'll want to find a good innerspring mattress and skip the foam to ensure compatibility.
Textiles: Cotton and Wool
Great materials in a mattress include natural textiles like GOTS certified cotton and wool. This ups the health factor of the mattress and can be great for children with allergies or asthma. Essentially, the GOTS standard covers the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, trading, and distribution of textiles that are at least 70% certified natural organic fibers. The My Green Mattress Emily Natural has a GOTS certified organic cotton cover with Oeko-Tex certified natural wool.
For products that carry the GOTS label of "organic," they must have a minimum of 95% certified organic fibers. Products labeled "made with organic" must have a minimum of 70% certified organic fibers. This certification helps discerning parents have confidence in their choices. There are other cool things about being GOTS certified (for the environment and your fellow humans), and we encourage you to read more at the link above.
Latex is an excellent alternative to memory foam and traditional mattresses as natural latex is breathable, supportive, renewable, and antimicrobial (they even repel dust mites!). These properties make it ideal for those with asthma or allergies. It comes in a 100% natural option, synthetic, or blend. You'll want to do research to see precisely what kind of latex is used, so you can determine if it meets your needs and health or environmental goals. We prefer natural latex and encourage parents to look for GOLS certified Latex which is processed only with natural ingredients or a 100% natural designation to avoid unintentionally buying a synthetic blend. A certification from the Control Union Certifications and is the first global standard for organic latex. GOLS defines requirements for latex products made from organic raw materials and non-organic materials.Synthetic vs. Natural Latex
Natural latex comes from extracting the milk from the rubber tree, 40% of which is pure latex. Each manufacturer has their method of processing the milk, and some will use up to 70% of the milk to create latex instead of purifying closer to 40%. Blended latex, or Dunlap, is a combination of natural and synthetic components that bring the elasticity of natural together with the stability and firmness of synthetic. Talalay Latex is technically a blend of 70% synthetic and 30% natural latex. Talalay latex generally lasts longer and can be produced in different firmness levels. To confuse things further, Talalay Natural Latex is classified as 100% natural and includes 98% natural latex with 2% synthetic as a bonding agent. This latex is generally the most expensive and shouldn't be confused with Talalay that doesn't specify being "natural."
Coconut coir may have you thinking of the hard shell of the coconut, but this material is much softer yet firm enough to provide infants proper support. As a natural product, coir is free of harsh chemicals and flame retardants making it an excellent choice for families looking for natural materials. It is firm, springy, breathable, durable, and allergen free. Coconut coir can be found in the Emily Natural by My Green Mattress in this roundup, and we can't wait to see how manufacturers will utilize this renewable resource in the future.
Not all mattresses for baby are waterproof. However, a waterproof mattress can be useful in the middle of the night when your baby has a blowout, and you need a quick clean up to get everyone back to bed. To create a waterproof surface, the mattress must contain a synthetic material, and many are potentially toxic. What is the point of creating an organic mattress only to wrap it in an off-gassing material? Finding a good waterproofer that doesn't ruin a natural mattress can be tricky and often comes to the lesser of evils.
The waterproofing we prefer is the use of polyethylene which is non-toxic and relatively inert. This coating is in the Naturepedic mattress. Alternatively, we are not fans of vinyl. Vinyl off-gasses and some types can crack or breakdown making it a poor material for long term use. There are different types of vinyl, but in our experience contacting manufacturers, it is challenging or impossible to get identify what type they use. This lack of information leaves us to assume that the vinyl they use could off-gas into your baby's sleeping environment. We did not choose mattresses with vinyl or unspecified waterproofing.
Good question! After seeing this wording for mattresses by Sealy, we asked this too and received no answer from the manufacturer. What we can say is the "Staph-Guard" is likely a chemical additive your baby and mattress don't need to be healthy and happy. We recommend avoiding chemicals you can't identify, even more so if the manufacturer fails to identify them, especially if contacted directly about the chemical.
If the surface of the crib mattress you choose is not waterproof, it is crucial to use a waterproof pad to prevent mold and bacteria growth in the mattress. We like the Naturepedic Organic Waterproof Fitted Crib Pad. Some folks prefer the all-natural option of 100% wool, which can repel liquids but isn't waterproof. If you go this route, you need to catch accidents quickly and clean and dry your mattress after every accident. The Newton Wovenaire mattress is entirely washable so a waterproof cover is less critical and a wool pad can work well.
Only you can decide between waterproofing and not waterproofing your crib mattress. A versatile option is the Babyletto Pure Core that can combine with the Babyletto Smart Cover (water-repellent/moisture-wicking) which is Oeko-Tex certified, or a Hybrid Waterproof Cover with a waterproof lining and organic cotton layer, thereby giving you a choice.
Crib mattresses in our roundup contain no flame retardant chemicals. We think it is important to consider what your baby sleeps on and what materials or chemicals go into those products. Crib mattresses are especially important as your little one will spend a significant amount of time( 10-14 hours) sleeping and breathing deeply while sleeping. With changes in laws concerning flammability and smoldering limits of upholstered furniture in 2013, Technical Bulletin 117-2013, manufacturers have more freedom on how they make safe mattresses without chemical flame retardants. We recommend you look for flame retardant free mattresses and use your dollars to encourage manufacturers to make safer products for everyone. These products are still safe and meet flammability safety requirements without chemicals.
Breathable Mattresses: Evidence-Based or Marketing Hype?
Some mattresses claim to be "breathable." While we love the idea of a better mattress that could potentially prevent rebreathing carbon dioxide, we worry this marketing will encourage parents to ignore "back to sleep" recommendations that have been saving babies lives since 1994. These marketing claims prey on fears of Sudden Infant Deat Syndrome (SIDs) based upon presumed reduced rebreathing of carbon dioxide. However, research indicates that "breathable" products won't prevent rebreathing (see below) and that sleeping on the stomach can lead to SIDs by mechanisms other than rebreathing. For example, reduced cerebral oxygenation, impaired arouse-ability in young infants, altered cardiovascular control/lower blood pressure (circulatory failure in 2-3-month-olds). Also, several studies indicate that tummy sleeping in very young infants (<5 months) increases the risk of cardiovascular collapse and decreased respiratory drive irrespective of rebreathing exhaled carbon dioxide.
Our advice? Don't buy into the hype. If you want a breathable mattress, that's cool, we like the innovative Newton Wovenaire. But, even with this kind of mattress you must ALWAYS practice safe sleeping by putting baby to sleep on their back for every sleep. Every. Single. Time.
What is GreenWashing?
Greenwashing is any marketing or branding that includes misleading language designed to make you think a product is healthy, good for you, or environmentally friendly (green) when it isn't. This kind of marketing is an intentional deception by the manufacturer to persuade consumers to buy products perceived as eco-friendly or non-toxic. Being green is great, and when a product is 100% organic, GOTS certified, B Company certified, etc., then the marketing is just "green." When a company uses terms like "eco-friendlier," "eco-foam," or "hypoallergenic" it could be "greenwashing." We encourage you to question and investigate ANY claims, especially if they are vague or undefined.
Want to know the seven sins of greenwashing so you won't be a victim? Head here for information, FAQs, reports, and cartoons. According to a recent report, over 98% of "green products" commit at least one of the Sins in marketing.
So how do you recognize greenwashing? In our research, we saw a significant amount of greenwashing. So much so, that we decided to help our readers identify greenwashing when they see it. If you've researched mattresses and saw any of the following words or eco-labels, you've likely been greenwashed: eco-friendlier, eco-foam, certified, hypoallergenic, plant-infused, soy foam, and any language that feels vague or deceptive. Let's break down some popular terms and explain why they are misleading.
- Eco-friendlier/Eco-foam — We found these terms in marketing for several mattresses, and specifically the Eco Classica III Eco-Friendlier Crib Mattress. The phrases are designed to make you think it is good for the environment. This claim comes from their use of 24% "plant materials" in their urethane foam. Polyurethane foam is traditionally made with petroleum and additional chemicals. While this company is using 24% renewable plant resources, the foam still requires the use of 76% petroleum products and the same harmful chemicals. As a result, the mattress still off-gases VOCs and contains the same materials that make us shy away from polyurethane. Also, this product is not environmentally friendly, as it is still a petroleum-based foam with a similar carbon footprint as regular polyurethane.
- Plant Infused/Soy Foam/Natural Foam — We saw these terms in several mattresses that use a percentage of plant oil in creating their foam. They are often CertiPur or GreenGold certified, and many claim to be "good for your baby" or "natural" foam. However, these kinds of foam still contains petroleum and toxic chemicals and still emit VOCs. The fact that it contains plant oil is largely irrelevant as the final product has similar or the same properties as the polyurethane foam they claim is worse. To be clear, natural foam does not exist. There isn't a foam plant that sprouts little buds of foam that magically turn into a mattress.
- Hypoallergenic — This term is used in lots of marketing, but it means very little. Consumers may think it means a product is good for allergies or asthma. They may think it means it is inert and anyone can safely use it without a reaction. But what does it mean? Hypoallergenic is an unregulated word, which means there is no agreed-upon definition and any company can use it without testing or supportive evidence. This lack of regulation means the definition means different things to different companies and you can't be sure what it means from product to product. We think identifying any foam mattress as hypoallergenic is intentionally misleading as the chemicals that go into making foam can be toxic and unhealthy.
While we dream of a perfect future where manufacturers are transparent about the materials and chemicals they use, we still live in a reality where they don't and aren't required to by law. Given the lack of transparency in the industry, we encourage you to spend your dollars wisely with companies that respect your desire to know or at least aren't using greenwashing.
We spent months researching every crib mattress under the sun, and this roundup includes the ones we love. Buying a crib mattress can be simple if you keep a few things in mind and put on your thinking cap. Determining the materials you want and your budget is all you need to find the right mattress for you in our roundup. If you don't see what you like in our favorites, be sure to watch for greenwashing and potentially toxic or off-gassing materials and purchase the absolute best option your budget allows. As always, we encourage you to look for natural materials devoid of chemicals, foam, and vinyl whenever possible.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD