Crib Mattress Basics: What Is a Safe Crib Mattress?

What is a safe crib mattress?

As with any baby product, safety is the No. 1 concern when selecting a crib mattress. If there is any space between the mattress and crib frame your child could get stuck, which increases their risk of physical harm.

Babies get 13,000 – 16,000 hours of sleep in their first 3 years so you should get to know your crib mattress. From birth to age three, your child will sleep an average of 12 – 15 hours a day. Getting enough sleep is a crucial step in healthy development; your child’s crib mattress will get a lot of use. But there are some safety concerns you should be aware of when it comes to crib mattresses. So, what is a safe crib mattress? Here are some things you need to look for in order to find one.

Durability for longevity (and jumping!)

I asked my three-year old son, Sam, what he liked best about his mattress. He said he liked it because it was bouncy. While both my kids seem to like their mattresses more for jumping than sleeping, when they do finally settle down, I like knowing that the mattresses they rest on are both safe and comfortable. Every parent feels better when their child sleeps well, and though it seems like infants and toddlers can sleep just about anywhere, there are a couple safety concerns to keep in mind before buying a crib mattress.

Size matters

HealthyChildren.org, powered by the American Academy of Pediatrics, recently published an article titled “Safe Bedding Practices for Children.” It recommends that you “place your baby on his or her back on a firm, tight-fitting mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards.”

Keep in mind that cribs and mattresses can vary slightly in size, so it’s important to measure your crib before you buy a mattress to ensure that you purchase one with the tightest fit possible. If there is any space between the mattress and crib frame your child could get stuck, which increases their risk of physical harm.  Most standardized mattresses should measure 27.75in x 52in and should be 6 inches deep.

Pay attention to firmness

Firm mattresses have been proven to decrease the risk of suffocation in infants and young children. If you’re choosing a foam mattress, feel it first to check for firmness. Usually the density and weight of the foam will help you determine how firm it is. The more dense the mattress (and heavier it is), the firmer the surface will be for sleep. Foam mattresses are often times more inexpensive, but sometimes less durable than spring mattresses.

If you’re looking for a spring mattress choose one with a lower-gauge coil, which are thicker and stronger, providing firmer support. When you push your hand in both the middle and corners of the mattress, it should spring back into shape quickly after you remove your hand. If your handprint is slow to disappear, chances are the mattress is too soft to be safe for your infant.

Remember these and you’ll be just fine

Mattresses have many standards for safety. From waterproof to flame resistant, organic and chemical-free to well-ventilated, orthopedic to hypoallergenic, the list of benefits can seem endless. All of these positive qualities can sometimes distract from the two most important factors in safety for your baby. Above all else, keep your focus on firmness and size. It is also a good idea to check that the mattress you are purchasing has been properly certified and meets Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards.

Jessie Veith Rouleau (58 Posts)

Jessie Veith Rouleau is a full-time mom with two kids, Sam, 3, and Mia 2. When she’s not pushing strollers, buckling car seats, washing hands, and reading stories, she’s writing about the products that help make mom’s day a little bit easier. At the park, when you’re talking baby and kids, she’s listening.