The Best Crib Mattress

Infants will spend a huge portion of their early lives in their cribs. Choosing the right mattress will help you and your baby rest easy at night. After a couple dozen hours of research, we recommend the Moonlight Slumber All Foam Little Dreamer. It’s a great value at $197 and has a dual-firmness design that will keep your baby comfortable all night.

It’s been over a year since we updated this guide. We’ve done additional research and testing and found that our original pick is still the best pick.

We tested crib mattresses from 9 different manufacturers in our original tests, and decided to test three new products to see how they stacked up. We poured water on them, we sat on them, and placed them into several cribs to test their fit. Weights were placed to test their firmness, and we purposely stained each cover to see how easy they cleaned up. In choosing our best crib mattress, we consulted with manufacturers, doctors, retail associates, and real-world parents, and after all of that, the Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer came out on top.

While we’re all about value, the crib mattress is where your baby spends a huge portion of their day. At a minimum, you want a firm crib mattress that fits snugly into your crib. As a bonus, a waterproof cover and lower overall weight are great attributes, but they do tend to add to the cost. At about 20 pounds and an ungainly shape, a crib mattress becomes difficult to pick up. When considering the fact that you’ll be cleaning off the surface and changing the sheets on a frequent basis, we advise on choosing something lightweight. For me, 20 pounds was a good number to look for, but for some smaller, or shorter parents, you may want to go even lighter. For those parents, two of our candidates, the Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer, and the Lullaby Earth Eco Plus Lightweight were both under 10 pounds. With that in mind, purchasing a great mattress now will save you time, energy, and money.

Who Should Buy This?

Our selection is for expectant parents looking for the best crib mattress, who aren’t really excited about using their friend’s hand-me-down.

We interviewed Katie, the owner of Baby Grand, a family-owned baby gear store in Minnesota, to get some perspective from someone who has been providing guidance for parents for the past six years. We asked her why parents should spend so much on a mattress.

“Infants sleep 15-18 hours a day,” said Katie, “so it’s important to have a product you feel great about. And now that most convertible cribs convert to toddler daybeds, toddlers are using these crib mattresses longer as well. Due to this 3-5 year time span, a crib mattress is the one baby product that could potentially receive the most use of anything originally purchased.”

What Makes A Good Crib Mattress?

A good crib mattress should be firm, quiet, and fit snugly in your crib. We spoke with Dr. Rachel Moon, pediatrician and member of the The American Academy of Pediatrics. She told us, “[A crib mattress] should definitely be firm. By firm I mean hard—when you press your hand on the mattress, it should not go down more than ½ to 1 inch. If your hand sinks down any lower, that mattress is not firm enough.”

We’re all attracted to soft things for babies. But it’s truly important to follow the guidelines, as set by Dr. Moon and The American Academy of Pediatrics. There are mattresses that are available that feature two different sides with varying softness. These are commonly referred to as “dual-firmness” or “2-in-1” crib mattresses. These kind of mattresses have an extra-firm infant side, and an appropriately firm toddler side. We tested several models that had this feature.

The exterior matters, too. In 2009, phthalates—harmful chemical compounds formed by phthalic acid—were banned from crib mattresses in the United States. These chemicals were used to increase the flexibility of PVCs, creating more durable crib mattresses that were soft yet water-resistant. In the past few years studies concerned with infants and phthalates have been widely publicized; phthalates have been shown to cause hormonal changes in animal tests. One 2009 study, done by The University of Washington, stated that phthalates were found in the urine of 80 percent of infants tested. With that in mind, most manufacturers now use materials such as food-grade polyethylene, nylon, or even organic cotton to coat their mattresses.

Then there are mattress interiors. You have two options: coils or foam. We found that both can be excellent for creating a firm surface, but that traditional coils tend to weigh more. One of the most common complaints about mattresses is their weight. Imagine it’s 2 AM and you’re trying to change the sheet. The baby is wide-awake, and you’re attempting to free the second of four corners of your fitted sheet from underneath a 25-pound slab. Today’s foam based mattresses are made from new-age foams which are lighter than their coil-based counterparts. Models tested from Moonlight Slumber and Lullaby Earth were among the lightest we found available, weighing in at 8 and 7 pounds respectively.

For a mattress’ interior filling, you want to make sure that it’s firm all around—and yup, there are certain products to avoid inside as well. Most of the nefarious chemicals are added as flame retardants. A few things to avoid: Polybrominated diephenyl ethers (PBDe), tris, antimony, and other toxic flame retardants. While there’s no universal standard that will tell you what’s best, look for trusted private certifications when buying. These include GreenGuard, Certi-Pur-US and GOTS. This at least informs the consumer that certain chemicals are not present.

Our tested mattresses ranged in price from $169 up to $395. Anything cheaper lacked firmness or didn’t stand up to our testing.

How We Tested

We started by testing mattress fit in several different cribs. While manufacturers say that standard cribs fit standard mattresses, we like to make sure. We then felt the various exterior materials, and noticed significant differences: some of the mattresses, like the Lullaby Earth Eco-Plus Lightweight, felt cold, and made a noticeable noise when we moved our hands over the surface. Others, like the NookSleep Pebble Pure, were silent and soft to the touch.

Colored water might be fine for some, but we chose to use actual urine.

We poured water onto their surfaces, and observed their water-repellent qualities. We pressed our hands (and briefly sat on) the mattresses, to see how well they stood up to pressure. For a more consistent test, I placed a 25-pound weight on each model and left it for 8 hours to simulate a night’s sleep on the mattress surface. This way we could see how resilient the foams were and if the weight did any damage to the surface or if it left any indentation in the foam. Each mattress that we considered was deemed firm enough, but the The Nook Sleep Pebble Pure, and the Naturepedic No Compromise Organic Cotton Ultra were the most firm.

To be sure about our top pick’s stain resistance, we wanted to go above and beyond. Colored water might be fine for some, but we chose to use actual urine to confirm our pick’s waterproofing and stain-resistant qualities. We poured urine onto the surface of the mattress and let it sit for 10 minutes. After that, we followed the manufacturer’s suggestion of using a damp cloth, a mild soap, and warm water to remove the stain and odor.

(If that sounds gross to you, we have some consolation: you’re going to get very chill about urine soon, too.)

Our Pick

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 27.5″ x 52″ x 5″ (Custom sizes available)
  • Material: waterproof, stretch-knit
  • Warranty: Lifetime

After spending more than a week with these mattresses, I’m excited to say that the Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer is the one to get. It’s the best crib mattress on the market, with solid construction, superior materials, and low price. The Little Dreamer has squared edges, and the fit was snug in each crib we put it in. The cover material was waterproof yet soft, and warmed quickly to body temperature. We like the fact that Moonlight Slumber is now a GREENGUARD Certified product, a private certification paid for by the manufacturer, to show that their products meet the strict standards set forth by GREENGUARD for indoor air quality.

The Little Dreamer replaces coils with a CertiPur-us-certified foam. This means that it meets all of their standards, on top of any government or trade association regulations. Moonlight Slumber’s materials suppliers also meet these high standards. We really appreciated how the company’s website listed all of the various facilities where their products were tested. On top of that, you get a lifetime warranty on your product.

With babies, you’ll have several upfront expenses, so thankfully the Little Dreamer isn’t too hard on the wallet, especially when amortizing the cost over the years that you’ll be using it—it’s significantly less than the proverbial cup of coffee per day. Some mattresses cost twice as much, but we still found flaws in their designs. All of the coil-based mattresses we tested were heavy, and even though they provide great support, they are typically more expensive. We think you can skip coils.

One negative: The Little Dreamer lacks the bells and whistles like the Pebble Pure’s coconut coir interior, or the Lullaby Earth’s removable cover. It’s reliable and well made, but it won’t turn any heads when you’re showing off the nursery.

Who Else Likes It?

Popular gear review site Baby Gizmo chose the Little Dreamer as one of its favorites, too. “Our hands-down favorite crib mattress comes from a mom-founded company and provides a safe, sumptuous product: Moonlight Slumber.” They claim to have tested every crib mattress on the market.

On Amazon.com, the Little Dreamer currently has a score of 4.7 out of 5 (down from 4.9 of 5 when we first published our recommendation), with 90 percent of those reviews giving it a 4- or a 5-star rating. A recent reviewer stated, “finally found the perfect crib mattress.” That sentiment is echoed throughout the Little Dreamer’s many positive reviews.

Also Great

NookSleep Pebble Pure

Sometimes you want something fancy for your baby. While the Moonlight Slumber All Foam Little Dreamer is reliable and well-made, it’s not the most exciting product available. That title belongs to the NookSleep Pebble Pure. Your cost jumps from a couple hundred bucks to $395, yet we love the feel, its antimicrobial yet soft cover, and its extra-firm coconut coir interior. It’s a dual firmness mattress that has a “pebble-like” surface. Their focus is on breathability, hence the textured surface. Is it as good of a value as the Little Dreamer? No. It does however look great in orange.

Naturepedic No-Compromise Organic Cotton Classic

Even though the Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer was our top pick for value and firmness, we would be skimping if we didn’t mention Naturepedic. Their mattresses range from $259, up to $389, and we really liked their No-Compromise Organic Cotton Classic Lightweight. These ring up at between $259 and $299 depending on if it's dual-sided and based on material. It’s heavier at 12 lbs, but has plenty of features that make that lift worth the effort.

Naturepedic have introduced a lightweight, foam-based, 12 pound mattress, but it starts at $259. While great, it doesn't beat the Little Dreamer.

The Competition

We did test the following mattresses, but chose the Little Dreamer for its all-around performance and superior materials.

  • Naturalmat CoCo Mat ($400) Too expensive at $400. No mention of being water-resistant or waterproof, so you’ll need a cover, which adds to the price tag.
  • Sealy Soybean crib mattress ($98) Unproven soybean oils represent less than a quarter of the percentage of foam in this mattress. Being the first soybean foam mattress, we’re waiting for newer models to be released and proven over time.
  • Nook Pebble Lite ($295) — Not firm enough. If you want a Nook mattress, get the Pebble Pure. (One of our “Also Greats.”) The lightweight isn’t nearly as firm, and lacks some of the high-end features of the Pure.
  • Nook Pebble Air ($150)-The Pebble Air attempts to broaden the Pebble line, but ultimately falls short. The mattress is soft. Honestly, the Pebble lite is almost too soft and this is softer. Skip it.
  • Moonlight Slumber Starlight Supreme ($270) More expensive than the Little Dreamer, and heavy for a foam-based mattress.
  • Naturepedic No-Compromise Organic Cotton Ultra ($380)  Too heavy. This could’ve been our pick if it was about 10 pounds lighter. We liked the softness of the cover, though, and the edge support.
  • Newton Rest ($295)—We like a lot of the features on this, such as the washable cover and their air-flow interior core. That said, we’re not compelled to recommend a mattress that involves such regular maintenance and potential hazards of mold and bacteria growth.
  • Lullaby Earth Breeze ($279)—We like the concept but feel that it’s overpriced. The core mattress retails for $280 (LE14) making the cover an expensive $80 upcharge for a fancy sheet. Plus, we didn’t feel comfortable with the way the cover stained easily. The texture makes it hard to clean the surface.
  • Babyletto Pure ($150)—Reviewers have complained about the mattress being too soft and being indented by children as light as 6 lbs! Being brand new to mattresses, maybe it’s best to wait for Gen 2.
  • My First Mattress Premium Memory Foam ($85)—Wonky zipper design is difficult to use. Some reviewers have complained about the odors, especially on recent purchases. This mattress is also more prone to indentations, with a softer foam core. Lastly, it seems that the original model (which was well-liked) has been replaced with an inferior product.

Care, Use, Maintenance, and Repair

Most manufacturer’s recommend a damp cloth or sponge for quick cleaning. You want to clean any messes off of the mattress as soon as you can to extend their lifespan and avoid any bacterial growth. If the mattress has been soiled overnight, wipe the mattress down, and use a disinfectant like hydrogen peroxide to clean the surface. We used both colored water and urine to test out how easy the mattresses were to clean. For normal messes, we made a solution of mild soap and warm water that worked for any stain we left. A mix of hydrogen peroxide and water rubbed on the surface helped eliminate any lingering odors.

For messes that have been stuck on the mattress for a longer period of time, perhaps overnight, we recommend starting with the same warm water and mild soap solution, but also incorporating baking soda into the mix. Sprinkle baking soda onto the messy surface and let sit for about 20 minutes. Afterwards, scrub with your warm water and mild soap mix. Repeating this two or three times should yield a crib mattress that’s good as new.

Your Guide: Matthew DeLauder

Matthew DeLauder is a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and baby gear expert. He currently works at a specialty baby store and has helped countless parents find the right gear to navigate the suburban landscape. He spends his downtime working towards a Bachelor's Degree, writing for The Nightlight, and hanging out with his seven-year-old nephew on the weekend. He resides in Northern Virginia

Sources

  1. Rachel Moon M.D, Interview, Children’s National Medical Center, American Academy of Pediatrics, December 18th, 2013
  2. Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer, Amazon.com Review
  3. Katie, Interview, Owner of Baby Grand, BabyonGrand.com, December 27th, 2013
  4. How to Buy a Crib mattress, Babycenter.com
  5. Best Non-Toxic Organic Crib Mattress for Your Green Baby Nursery, Inhabitots.com, October 31, 2012
  6. Editor Review of Moonlight Slumber, Babygizmo.com,, 2013
  7. Dan Childs, Potentially Harmful Chemical in Baby Products, ABC News, February 4, 2008
  8. Phthalates: What you need to know, Babycenter.com
  9. Video: Rock-A-Bye Baby, Jamie Grayson’s Baby Gear Guide, Uploaded August 5th, 2013
  10. Phthalates Factsheet, CDC.Gov
  11. What is an organic crib mattress?, Naturepedic.com, 2013
  12. Crib Mattresses, Consumer Reports, Last updated November 2012
  13. Michelle Horton, Babble Best: Crib Mattresses, Babble.com, 2010
  14. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, Cpsc.Gov, 2013
  15. Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Full-Size Baby Cribs, Astm.org, 2013
  16. Latest and Greatest from Colgate Mattress-The Nuzzle Nest, Colgatekids.com, November 6, 2013
  17. Why Purflo?, Purflo.com, 2013
  18. Full-Size Baby Cribs Business Guidance, Cpsc.gov, 2013
  19. Thomas Beck, Photo: Heidi Lynn Bell, Flickr, October 20th, 2008
  20. Andrea Sparks, How To Clean Crib Mattresses, Overstock.com, 2015

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