Father and pregnant mother placing mattress into white crib

Shopping for your little one can be fun, but once you get past the mini blue jeans, baby bodysuits and scaled-down sneakers, there are more serious decisions to make, like where they’re going to sleep.

With so many mattress options and features, choosing a crib mattress can be downright overwhelming. To help you navigate the wild world of crib mattresses, we break down the different types and sizes—and what they mean for safety—so you can focus on the fun … like buying that next life-size animal stuffy for the nursery!

What to Look For When Buying a Crib Mattress

What to Look For When Buying a Crib Mattress

1

Quality

When we had our first baby, my husband and I were pretty smug about our parenting chops because it seemed like our son was always sleeping. Now I know it had nothing to do with us and everything to do with the fact that newborns sleep a lot—as much as 18 hours a day[1].

Infancy is also a period of rapid physical growth, so it makes sense that your baby’s mattress should be good quality to support their little body through such a crucial time in their development.

Here’s the good news

A quality mattress doesn’t have to break the bank. A good rule of thumb is to buy the firmest crib mattress you can afford—and there are tons of great picks out there in the $60 to $150 range.

2

Safety

While your first instinct might be to buy a plush mattress to cradle your baby, firmness is king for crib mattresses. A firm mattress better supports your baby’s growing body and reduces sagging or indentation that might pose a suffocation risk.

Just be sure to compare mattresses by type, as some high-density foam models are much lighter than dense innerspring ones. (More on the two types of crib mattresses later.)

When shopping in-store, press down on mattresses to gauge firmness. A firm one shouldn’t leave a hand indent and the surface should immediately snap back to its original shape.

You can also test the mattress density by standing it upwards and with your hands centred on either side, press inward. The denser the mattress, the harder it will be to press in.

A firm mattress is one of many factors contributing to sleep safety. The Government of Canada’s website explains that a safe sleep environment consisting of a firm crib mattress with no pillows, quilts, or bumper pads helps reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)[2].

Graphic of a yellow question mark on a blue circle backgroundKeep in mind, according to the Government of Canada’s “Golden Rules” for safe sleep, the safest spot for baby to snooze is alone on a crib mattress that meets current safety regulations[3] [4].

Above all, remember that if the crib mattress feels like something you would want to sleep on, it’s likely too soft for your baby.

3

Mattress types: foam vs. innerspring

There are two main types of crib mattresses to choose from: foam and innerspring. Both can be firm if you invest in a good one, so it really comes down to personal preference.

Here are the main factors to consider for each:

Orange circle icon with mattress in the middle

Foam

Foam crib mattresses are typically made from polyurethane and the main benefit is that they can be firm and dense while remaining lightweight, like this extra firm Dream On Me model.

Don’t write off the light load—especially if you have a bedwetter on your hands and foresee lots of late-night sheet changes in your future.

Foam mattresses typically range between 5 and 13 pounds (unless you opt for a memory foam one, which tends to be heavier) and average about half the weight of their innerspring counterparts, with a less bulky price tag to match.

If a lighter foam mattress is more your preference look for a density of at least 1.5 pounds per cubic foot to provide the safest bed for your child.

But as a general rule, go for the densest model you can afford.

Blue circle icon with coiled innerspring in the middle

Innerspring

Innerspring mattresses feature a core of steel coils topped with layers of padding. Padding can range from synthetic polyester in cheaper mattresses, to more dense natural fibres like coir (made from shredded coconut shells) in higher-end models.

The most common type of innerspring mattress is continuous coil, so-named because the coils are formed from one continuous wire, and they’re popular for their stable and supportive sleeping surface.

Many innerspring mattresses feature steel border rods that run around the mattress edges to prevent sagging. These rods also help keep the mattress in tip-top shape for longer, especially when your toddler finds his legs and won’t stop jumping.

The density of a continuous coil mattress is measured by its steel gauge. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the steel. A gauge of 15.5 or below is recommended for a firm innerspring mattress.

For maximum longevity, choose a mattress like this Sealy Baby Ultra Rest with thick, durable padding and a high coil count of 204. Similar to foam mattresses, the weightier the innerspring mattress the better the quality, generally speaking.

Expect innerspring mattresses to tip the scales at around 15 to 30 pounds.

4

Crib mattress size

Crib mattress size is an important component for your baby’s safety. But don’t sweat it—the government has taken some of the guesswork out of choosing your mattress because, in Canada, crib and crib mattress size are standardized for safety reasons.

Legally, full-size crib mattress dimensions have to measure in the following:

Width Length Thickness
27 ⅝ in. – 28 ⅝ in. 51 ¾ – 53 in. No more than 6 in.

But even though mattresses adhere to standard sizing, there can be slight variations, so always check that your crib mattress fits securely in your crib with no more than a 3 cm gap between the mattress and the side of the crib.

According to the Government of Canada, any space larger than 3 cm could cause your baby’s face to become trapped, posing a suffocation risk[5].

Any new crib mattress you buy in Canada should conform to these standards but to be sure, check the dimensions online (usually found on the mattress product page.)

Blue circle icon with yellow ruler in it

Mini cribs

When we had our first baby, a full-size baby crib worked because we had a little solarium with a sliding door attached to our bedroom that we converted into a nursery for him, so it was like he was sleeping in our room.

But by the time our daughter was born, we had moved into a two-bedroom apartment and neither bedroom was big enough to accommodate a full-size crib next to our bed. So, after researching our options, we decided to buy a mini crib.

If you are also short on space (hello, tiny urban apartments!), you can rest easy knowing that mini crib mattresses, like this one by Dream On Me, offer the same benefits and features as full-size mattresses. Because these mattresses aren’t standard sizes, you should always check the dimensions of your mini crib before ordering a mattress.

5

Organic options

These days, organic crib mattresses are growing in popularity as they typically contain less toxins, making them a healthier alternative to traditional mattresses. They feature an inner core that is made from organic materials like cotton, wool, natural latex, soy bean foam and sustainable fibres like coir and bamboo.

The mattress should be free from chemical flame retardants, which are highly toxic, and instead use organic material like wool that has natural flame resistance.

I really like this organic mattress by Simmons, which has a core that’s 99.9% free of harmful volatile organic compounds (that can cause allergies or harm the respiratory system) and has a certified organic cotton cover that is chemical free and naturally breathable.

6

Greenguard certification


GreenGuard low chemical emissions certification logo
Check for the Greenguard certification logo.

Whether you’re thinking about an organic or conventional mattress, picking a Greenguard-certified one means it has low chemical emissions, which translates into healthier air quality for your baby[6].

The certification process is owned by the Greenguard Environmental Institute, a reputable third party group that rigorously tests products for harmful toxins. There are two certification levels: Greenguard, which ensures the product meets strict emissions limits, and the more stringent Greenguard Gold that also considers safety factors for sensitive individuals including children.

Most crib mattresses certified by the institute have the stricter Greenguard Gold seal. What’s great is that you can buy these mattresses at affordable prices, like this Dream On Me Twilight Coil with Greenguard Gold certification.

7

Bells and whistles

Once you’ve determined your preferred mattress type, there are several features you may want to consider to help improve your baby’s sleep or increase the lifespan of the mattress:

Green circle with water droplets and up arrows in it

Waterproof

For some parents, a waterproof or water-resistant mattress isn’t up for debate because their leaky baby (like one of ours was!) makes it a necessity.

The benefits of a waterproof crib mattress are simple: not only does a protective layer make late-night diaper leaks easy to clean up, but the plastic barrier prevents water from seeping into the core of the mattress where mold and bacteria can grow.

Mattresses that boast food-grade polyethylene plastic covers, like this one from Safety 1st, are best if you want a non-toxic mattress that’s safe for baby and also quickly wipes clean.

Alternatively, you can purchase a regular crib mattress and then get a separate waterproof mattress protector or pad to protect it.

Waterproofing, whether it’s part of the mattress or courtesy of a removable pad, will help keep your mattress stain-free. This is important if you’re passing it down from one baby to the next, or if you’re buying a reversible mattress and plan to get several years of use out of it.

Blue circle icon with circular arrows in it

Reversible

A reversible (also called convertible) mattress is essentially two mattresses in one, with a firmer side for infants and a softer side for toddlers.

The plush side is designed to support your child right into his or her toddler bed, so they’re a good value if you know you’ll be using it for the long haul (but totally unnecessary if you plan to skip the toddler bed altogether, and move your tot directly into a single.)

Each child is different, so it’s best to check with your family doctor or pediatrician before flipping the mattress over to the plush side. My favourite is this reversible mattress from Dream On Me, which is 100% waterproof and Greenguard Gold certified.

Blue circle icon with graphic representation of green germ bacteria

Antimicrobial

Some mattresses, like this Dream On Me one, have an antimicrobial outer layer that helps stop potentially harmful bacteria dead in their tracks.

Great for babies with allergies, antimicrobial crib mattresses typically have a hypoallergenic and waterproof cover that slows the growth of odour-causing mold and bacteria.

Another bonus: Most are easy to wipe down with a little warm water and mild, child-safe soap. Whether you’ve got a tot with allergies or you’re simply after peace of mind, be prepared to spend a little more for this feature.

Blue circle icon with white mattress and blue up arrows in it

Airflow pockets

Some crib mattresses include airflow pockets that boost air circulation in and around the mattress to support your baby’s unobstructed breathing. Because they prioritize air flow, they are also good for babies who tend to be hot sleepers.

But there are tradeoffs: breathable mattresses tend to be less waterproof because they don’t have plastic covers. So, you might want to skip airflow technology if your baby wets the bed often.

This reversible mattress by Dream On Me offers airflow technology on the infant side and waterproofing on the toddler side, making it a great long-term solution.

Shop with Confidence, Check the Return Policy

There’s a lot to think about when buying a crib mattress, but it really comes down to prioritizing what matters most to you. If you want a lightweight mattress, choose a foam one over an innerspring. For a safer option, organic or Greenguard mattresses are the way to go.

Each baby is different so carefully consider special features like waterproofing, antimicrobial covers and air flow technology to fit your child’s unique needs.

With so much to consider, it’s possible that your first purchase might fall short of your expectations. I suggest buying from a reputable store with a good return policy that gives you a chance to test your mattress without having to commit if it doesn’t end up delivering the sweet dreams you had hoped. This will let you shop with more confidence and less worries.

Canadian moms are lucky to have their pick of retailers that stand behind their baby products including Walmart Canada. They have affordable options no matter what type of mattress you decide on, and the generous 90-day return policy with the ability to return by mail and in-store at their locations across Canada (even for purchases made online!) makes it a great place to start your search.

Once you’ve got your crib mattress on lock, continue to explore their selection of bassinets, cribs and toddler beds!

Shop with Confidence, Check the Return Policy

There’s a lot to think about when buying a crib mattress but really it comes down to prioritizing what matters most to you. If you want a lightweight mattress, choose a foam one over an innerspring. For a safer option, organic or Greenguard mattresses are the way to go. Each baby is different so carefully consider special features like waterproofing, antimicrobial covers and air flow technology to fit your child’s unique needs.

With so much to consider it’s possibly that your first purchase might fall short of your expectations. I suggest buying from a reputable store with a good return policy that gives you a chance to test your mattress without having to commit if it doesn’t end up delivering the sweet dreams you had hoped. This will let you shop with more confidence and less worries.

Canadian moms are lucky to have their pick of retailers that stand behind their baby products including Walmart Canada. They have affordable options no matter what type of mattress you decide on, and generous 90-day return policy with the ability to return by mail and in-store at their locations across Canada (even for purchases made online!) makes it a great place to start your search. Once you’ve got your crib mattress on lock, continue to explore their selection of bassinets, cribs and toddler beds!

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Roslyn Costanzo is a freelance writer (and shopaholic on a shoestring), living in Dundas, Ontario with her husband and two red-headed kids. She has an uncanny knack for knowing when something someone is looking for is on sale, was on sale, or is about to go on sale and where they can get it, and she enjoys her reputation among friends and family as an unrivalled gift-giver.