How to Pick the Best Mattress for Babies and Big Kids

Sweet dreams for your little ones.

Keep in mind: Price and stock could change after publish date, and we may make money from these links.

February 11, 2021
By: Amanda Mushro


Little boy is jumping on the bed. He is flying!

Photo by: SanyaSM


While mattress shopping doesn’t sound nearly as fun as buying bedding and decor for your baby’s nursery or your big kid’s room, it’s actually a very important purchase not only for a great night’s sleep, but also for safe sleeping. So if you’re in the market for a crib mattress or thinking of upgrading your big kid’s mattress, here’s what you’ll want to look for in a great mattress.

When it comes to mattress shopping for your baby, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Make sure the mattress fits the crib. From a full size to a mini crib, not all mattresses are created equal. Having the wrong size mattress can be dangerous for your baby. So make sure there are no gaps between the mattress and the crib. The mattress should fit snug inside the crib; if not, you’ve got the wrong mattress.
  2. For babies under one, a firm mattress is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. A soft mattress can indent and conform to your baby’s face and head which could lead to accidental suffocation. Many mattresses now have a double-sided feature: a firm side for infants and a softer side for toddlers. This is a great option, but just be sure to have the firm side up for your baby. A good recommendation is if the mattress feels comfy to you, it’s too soft for your baby.
  3. While we love a good deal, Consumer Reports suggests purchasing the best mattress for your budget. Inexpensive mattresses can easily rip, tear, and crack and are often made with inferior filling. So read labels, check for sales, and budget for a better mattress.
  4. We love hand-me-downs, but for a crib mattress, buy new. Since you don’t know how the mattress was cared for, experts say this is one item to not accept second hand if possible. From diaper leaks to being stored in a garage, mold can quickly grow inside the crib mattresses
  5. Crib mattresses come in three different categories:

Innerspring Mattress: These are the traditional mattress type has steel coils inside

Foam Mattress: These are lightweight, easy to handle for sheet changes and tend to be less expensive. Be sure to find a dense foam mattress so that it’s not too soft. If possible check out the mattress in the store before you buy.

Double-Sided Mattress: This mattress grows with your baby because it has one side for your infant and another side for your toddler. These are usually more expensive but you’ll get more use out of these models.

Here are a few highly rated crib mattresses:

Now for your bigger kiddos. While they may be bigger in size, they still need lots of sleep at night. Here’s what to consider when buying a bigger mattress for your big kid.

  1. Choose the right size depending on how long you plan on using the mattress. A toddler-sized mattress is a great way to transition out of the crib; however, some parents skip the toddler bed and move right to a twin or larger sized bed that kids can grow into.
  2. Let your child jump on a few beds or at least try out a few different levels of firmness and varieties of mattresses to find one they think is comfortable.
  3. When it comes to beds for your kids, check the density. You don’t want a mattress that sags because it will break down quickly. This can lead to poor sleep that can cause lots of problems for your kiddos.
  4. Be sure to get a waterproof pad for the bed. Since accidents happen, you’ll want to make sure the mattress is protected. So if the mattress isn’t waterproof, top the mattress with a waterproof pad.
  5. You don’t have to head to a traditional mattress store when choosing a mattress for your kids. Numerous brands are now vacuum-sealed into a box and shipped right to your home. When they arrive, you lay the mattress out flat and in 24-48 hours, they puff up and are ready for your little one to have sweet dreams all night long. These mattresses tend to be less expensive too.

Here are a few highly-rated options for older kids:

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