Buying Guide: Crib Mattresses and Sleep Positioners
Types of Crib Mattresses
Infants spend about 70% of their time in their crib. Needless to say, baby needs a safe, sturdy, and comfortable
crib mattress. While there can be a great deal of difference between one mattress and another, there are only two
types of crib mattresses; foam and innerspring. Whichever type of mattress you decide to purchase, the firmer it
is, the better.
Foam mattresses are made from polyurethane foam and a mattress cover. The three basic factors to judge a foam
mattress by are weight, firmness, and resiliency. You can test the quality of your mattress by pressing down on
the mattress and seeing how long it takes to regain its shape. The faster the mattress comes back to its original
form, the better it is. It's also important to keep in mind that the heavier the mattress, the denser the foam.
You want your foam mattress to be heavy, dense, firm, and very resilient.
Innerspring mattresses have several layers - coils, an insulator pad, and cushioning. The amount of steel generally
determines the quality of the mattress - the more steel, the better the mattress. Two key things to look for are a
coil count of at least 150, and border rods. Border rods go around the top and bottom edges of a mattress, providing
extra edge support and firmness. They also improve the weight distribution of the mattress, and can help prevent soft
spots and sagging. The insulator pad is usually made of a fiber wrap pad, which is made from compressed pieces of
cloth. However, the best type of insulator pad is coir fiber, which is made from shredded coconut shells. Finally,
there is the cushioning layer. The vast majority of mattresses have at least one layer of foam cushioning, but you
will find some with two layers of cushioning.
Crib Mattress Features
Whether you opt for a foam or innerspring crib mattress, there are several key things you should look for in every
type of crib mattress:
- Make sure the crib mattress is firm. Compare different mattresses by squeezing them at the center and the edges as
- Measure your crib before buying your crib mattress. Crib mattresses typically measure 51 5/8" long by 27 ¼" wide
and cannot be more than 6" thick. The mattress should fit snugly into the crib with a space of no more than two
adult fingers between the mattress and the crib.
- Quilted vinyl or multiple layers of laminated vinyl reinforced with nylon will add to the durability and water
resistance of the mattress.
- Fabric binding along the seams of the mattress allows air to escape, which will alleviate some of the pressure
on the seams caused by movement over time.
- Vent holes positioned on the sides of the mattress away from baby's head will help to keep the mattress fresher
and allow odors to escape. Vent holes will also help to alleviate the pressure that can build up against the seams
of the mattress.
Crib Mattress Safety Tips
- Remove any and all plastic shipping bags from your crib mattress. Never use any type of plastic bag or sheet of
plastic to cover or protect your crib mattress. Plastic bags can cause suffocation and should always be kept out of
the reach of children.
- Leave a space of no more than two adult fingers between the crib mattress and the crib.
- The firmer the crib mattress, the better it is. Some studies have linked soft, down-filled mattresses to Sudden
Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Initially, newborns need a little extra help finding a comfortable and safe sleeping position. According to the
American Academy of Pediatrics, it is best for healthy, full-term babies to sleep on their back to help reduce the
risk of SIDS. Sleep positioners are designed to position babies on their back, and prevent them from rolling over.
Positioners consist of two parts - a base to support baby's back and neck, and side bumpers to prevent baby from
- Basic positioners have side bumpers that are placed under baby's armpits, near the hips. Side bumpers can be
straight, or curved to conform to baby's shape for side sleeping. These positioners are often adjustable to allow
for longer use.
- Ventilated positioners allow air to flow through the side bumpers, helping to reduce the chance of your baby
overheating. Overheating may also be a contributing risk factor for SIDS.
- Inclined sleep positioners combine a crib wedge with side bumpers. Raising baby's head with a crib wedge can
help with digestion. Keep in mind that inclined sleep positioners are for back sleeping only.
A sleep positioner can help baby find a comfortable sleeping position - which means better sleep for baby, and
better sleep for you! However, since all babies are different, be sure to check with your pediatrician when deciding
which sleeping position is best for your infant. Once your baby is able to roll over independently, you should stop
using a sleep positioner.
One thing's for sure - your newborn is going to need lots of rest. Your child will be using a crib to get that rest
until about the age of three, so a good crib mattress is a worthy investment. Add a crib mattress and sleep
positioner to your registry, and you and baby will both be able to rest better.
Back to Top