Note: There is no one universal “best,” especially when it comes to parenting. These are “The Best Crib Mattresses” based on Also Mom's strict criteria, detailed here.
The crib mattress market is a confusing place. How can you know your baby will like one mattress better than another when they can't communicate and you're too big to test them yourself?
The reality is that many of the subtleties that exist in the adult mattress market– especially relating to varying degrees of firmness– are significantly less relevant when it comes to baby mattresses. It’s simple: The safest crib mattresses are firm ones, especially for babies one year old and younger, and the vast majority of the mattresses on the market today are of similarly firm construction. Beyond that, it's all about materials and breathability. See below for more on how to choose the best crib mattress for your baby. In the meantime…
These are the best crib mattresses on the market today, all of which are GREENGUARD certified and free from toxic chemical fire retardants…
- Naturepedic Lightweight Organic Cotton Classic 2-Stage Crib Mattress ($289) – This is the best crib mattress on the market today. Organic, lightweight, GREENGUARD certified, two-stage (with a firmer infant side and a softer toddler side), and durable to boot, this Naturepedic crib mattress is an all-around great buy. [full review]
- Naturepedic Organic Cotton Ultra Seamless 252 2-Stage Crib Mattress ($379) – Organic and GREENGUARD Gold certified, this 252-coil beast is the best super firm innerspring crib mattress out there. We love that it is two stage, with a very firm infant side and a softer toddler side, that it's waterproof, and that it is very durable. We hate that it's so heavy, weighing more than 20 pounds. [full review]
- Newton Wovenaire ($299.99) – This impressively breathable mattress is awesome for parents worried about SIDS, because even lying face down, babies can breathe right through this bad boy (assuming your crib sheets are also breathable)! Thanks to the mattress's SIDS-inspired breathability, it's also great for those living in hot climates, since air can circulate through it freely. It is not organic (though it is GREENGUARD certified), only has a single firmness (which is comfortable enough for both babies and toddlers but is not differentiated between the two), and cannot be used with a waterproof cover less you want to affect the mattresses breathability. [full review]
- Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer ($197) – About $100 cheaper than the other mattresses we recommend, this mattress is neither organic nor particularly breathable. However, it is GREENGUARD certified, is super lightweight (only eight pounds!), has a firm infant side and a softer toddler side, and is quite durable. [full review]
While we prefer the mattresses reviewed above, if you will only consider “the absolute creme de la creme” for your babe and are willing to pay the price, these are a few mattresses you might consider…
- Naturepedic Organic Cotton Quilted 252 Deluxe ($399) – The coils make this mattress firm but heavy. The padding makes it soft. It is not waterproofed. Optional wool helps regulate temperature and provide additional padding. Don’t get us wrong, this is a nice mattress, but unless you’re obsessed with getting “the absolute freaking best at any cost” for your baby, you can save $120 by buying the Lightweight Classic instead.
- Naturepedic Organic Cotton Quilted 2-in-1 252 Crib Mattress ($399) –Similar to the Quilted 252 Deluxe, this mattress has a more plush, quilted (not waterproof) side for toddlers, but it also has a firmer waterproof side for infants. With 252 innerspring coils, this is a heavy mattress (20+ pounds) and about $120 more expensive than the also awesome Lightweight Classic.
- Naturepedic Ultra Breathable 2-Stage Organic Crib Mattress ($399) – This is basically the Lightweight 2-Stage mattress with an added breathable cover. If you live in a super hot climate and do not have air conditioning, this mattress might be worth it. If you keep your bedrooms cool, it is probably not necessary.
- Nook Pebble Pure ($395) – This mattress is more expensive than the Newton Wovenaire by about $100 and not much different in terms of functionality or comfort. The only big difference is that the Pebble Pure is made of organic materials, whereas the Wovenaire is made exclusively from food grade polyethylene.
How to Choose the Best Crib Mattress for Your Baby
In addition to being sufficiently firm for safe sleep, we look for a few key qualities when choosing a crib mattress…
- Low Chemical Emissions: Your baby will be spending a lot of time on this mattress, at least half of his life for the first few years. And because he will be breathing mere inches from its surface, it’s important that the mattress doesn’t emit toxic fumes (off-gassing), even at supposedly “safe” levels. When looking for a mattress with low chemical emissions, organic mattresses made with organic cores are your best bet. (Fully organic mattresses are not to be confused with non-organic mattresses wrapped in organic cotton covers, which get marketed as “organic” despite not being organic at all.) If the mattress is not organic, keep an eye out for GREENGUARD certification, which is only given to mattresses that meet low chemical emission standards.
- No Chemical Fire Retardants: This goes along with the point above, but we always look for mattresses that have no chemical fire retardants, which have been shown to be very, very toxic. Organic mattresses like those from Naturepedic are naturally fire retardant, and therefore don't necessitate additional chemicals to meet US safety standards. All the mattresses we recommend are toxic chemical fire retardant-free.
- Weight: Mattresses weigh between 8 to 25 pounds, depending on the composition of their core. Think about how often you’ll be changing the crib sheets. It is much easier to lift a lighter mattress than a heavy one. If you are on the shorter side or have a bad back, consider skipping mattresses with metal coils and opting for a foam core mattress to avoid heavy lifting. This is especially important if one end of your baby’s crib is pushed against a wall, which makes mattress wielding especially difficult.
- Dual-Sided Firmness: Some mattresses have a firm side for young babies and a softer side for toddlers. Assuming you plan to convert your crib into a toddler bed, these dual-sided mattresses will give you the best bang for your buck, and allow your child to use their crib and crib mattress comfortably for longer.
- Breathability: Breathability is an important factor in hot and humid climates. Organic cotton mattresses tend to breathe better than foam mattresses. Regardless of core material, mattresses with waterproof covers don’t breathe particularly well.
- Waterproof Cover: Some mattresses boast waterproof covers, which protect the mattress from stains and smells. Even if you have a waterproof mattress, it’s good to have a waterproof mattress pad too. Without one, you’ll have to wipe down and dry your mattress between messes (which tend to happen in the dead of night) to prevent bacteria build up.
- Price: Baby mattress companies like to take advantage of the fact that you’ll want to buy “the best” for your baby, and upsell accordingly. There’s no use spending more than you need to here.
What Didn't Make the Cut
Upsells and Downsells
Especially within the Naturepedic brand, there are a lot of similar options with subtle differences, making the buying experience pretty excruciating. These are the mattresses we would not choose and why…
- Naturepedic Organic Cotton Classic 150 Crib Mattress ($259) – Weighing in at 20 pounds and only single sided (firm side only), there are better mattresses out there for the price. This mattress is also not seamless, which makes it harder to clean should something happen to it.
- Naturepedic Organic Cotton Classic 252 Crib Mattress ($299) – Similar to the Organic Cotton Classic 150, the 252 weighs just over 20 pounds and is single sided (firm side only). This mattress is also not seamless, which makes it harder to clean should something happen to it.
- Naturepedic Organic Cotton Classic Seamless 150 Crib Mattress ($279) – Similar to the Classic 150, but featuring a cleaner, seamless look, the 150 is heavy and lacks a second softer side.
- Naturepedic Lightweight Organic Cotton Ultra 2-Stage Crib Mattress ($329) – The big difference between the Classic and the Ultra is that the Ultra features a more luxurious natural-finish cover, which may make the mattress a tiny bit cozier. This, in our opinion, is not worth an extra $40, and we would opt for the Classic rather than the upsell.
- Naturepedic Organic Cotton Classic Seamless 150 2-Stage Crib Mattress ($299): Despite being similar in firmness to the Lightweight Organic Cotton Classic, the 150 is about twice as heavy and more expensive. The only reason you might choose this mattress over the lightweight version is that theoretically innerspring mattresses last longer, so if you’re planning to have multiple kiddos sharing the same mattress over a long span of time, it could be worth it to get this mattress instead of the lightweight polyethylene alternative.
- Naturepedic Organic Cotton Ultra Seamless 252 Crib Mattress ($359): More coils make this mattress both firmer and heavier. In addition to its heavy weight, this mattress is only single sided (firm side only).
- Nook Pebble Lite ($295): This is basically a glorified foam mattress with the Nook brand name and is not worth the steep price tag.
- Nook Pebble Air ($195): This is literally a foam mattress with the Nook brand name and is not worth the price.
There are dozens of crib mattresses out there, many of which we haven't mentioned in this post. While some undoubtedly meet some or most of our criteria, we've hand picked our favorites and shared our reviews of those options here, since it'd be overkill to review everything out there. If you are looking at a mattress not reviewed here, look first to make sure it is free from all chemical flame retardants. If it passes that test and you like it better than a mattress we reviewed here (for price or another reason), it may be worth considering. Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you find something you love.
Featured image shows Kalon Studios Caravan Crib.