Mattresses - what types are there?

We explain the five main types of mattresses available for your baby's Moses basket, crib, cot, cotbed or travel cot.

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  • Foam

    At the cheaper end of the baby mattress market are foam mattresses, made from a core of synthetic sponge-like material, usually with a protective cover. It’s also possible to buy non-allergic foam versions.

    Most manufacturers of foam mattresses refer to their products as being made from ‘CMHR’ (Combustion Modified High Resilient) foam and they quote a number that describes the density of the foam. This is the standard of foam to be used in a cot mattress and the number is the weight per kg. The minimum that should be used is CMHR 25.  The higher the density, the firmer the support and therefore the longer it will last.

    Foam mattresses are particularly good for smaller babies, when they’re not very heavy and need less support. Most crib, Moses basket and pram mattresses are made of basic foam, often with ventilation holes at the head section. The standard mattresses provided with travel cots, as well as the spare travel versions, are also typically foam because they’re light and easy to transport. 

    Foam may be less comfy for older toddlers and it can lose its shape. However, you can get good foam mattresses for all baby beds – you just need to ensure you get one 10cm deep for a cot and pick a high CMHR density. At the higher end of the foam market are multilayered versions, which use different pieces of foam to mimic the effect of springs.

  • Sprung

    Usually more expensive than foam mattresses, sprung mattresses have an open core of sturdy coiled springs, and are surrounded by a foam casing and a cover. They are naturally heavier than a foam mattress owing to the steel coils, so less suited for travel. The coils are usually described as ‘bonnel’ springs.

    Sprung mattresses offer excellent support for older children, and the foam surround provides additional comfort. The sprung core can also help to disperse heat across the mattress. Sprung mattresses will typically last longer and keep their shape better than foam mattresses.  However, since the springs are in an open core, they can’t respond independently to your baby’s shape or posture.

    Sprung mattresses are available for larger baby beds such as cots, cotbeds and junior beds.

  • Pocket sprung

    In a pocket sprung mattress, individual steel springs are sewn into small fabric pockets, again surrounded by a foam casing and a cover. Since the springs are separate, they can each respond freely to the shape of your baby’s body.

    Also extremely popular in adult mattresses, pocket sprung mattresses probably provide the greatest support for your child’s head, neck and back. They keep their shape better than standard coil sprung mattresses and since each spring works independently they can prevent your baby from rolling to the side of the bed.  On the negative side, they’re the most expensive synthetic baby mattress type.

    Pocket sprung mattresses can be purchased for larger baby beds such as cots, cotbeds and junior beds.

  • Natural fibre

    Natural fibre baby mattresses are the non-synthetic, environmental option for your baby. Certain models are even certified by the Soil Association. Natural fibre baby mattresses can be made from materials such as coir, coconut fibre, mohair, horsetail hair, wool, natural latex, mohair, lambs wool, cashmere and silk. Some of these materials are softer and so are more suited to the mattresses for smaller babies.

    Occasionally, natural fibre mattresses also have springs within them. You can then choose various different natural fabric covers for them.

    Usually hypoallergenic, these mattresses are noted for good circulation and moisture absorption, helping your child to stay cooler at night. They’re typically very durable and very supportive.

    Unfortunately, like many environmentally-friendly products, natural fibre mattresses do tend to be more expensive than other types of baby mattresses.

    You can buy natural fibre mattresses from specialist manufacturers for all types of baby beds.

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  • Hollow frame (PurFlo)

    At the moment PurFlo is the only brand to make this new type of hollow-framed mattress. The PurFlo mattress consists of a fully-permeable, fully-washable, foam-free polyester mattress fitted over a hollow frame. It’s the same idea as a hammock for your baby. However, it provides more structure than a hammock, giving firm support to your child’s head, back and legs until they’re up to 6 years old. 

    Since there’s no core to this type of mattress, there’s less chance that bacteria and nasty bugs will get trapped within it. The whole mattress (excluding the frame) is fully washable and easy to transport. You don’t even need to use linen with this type of mattress, although you can buy specialist sheets.

    The PurFlo mattress provides good air circulation for your baby since it has an air permeable surface. The main drawback is that it doesn’t feel as ‘squishy’ or as cosy as a conventional mattress. It’s also 15cm deep, so you’ll need to have your cot or cotbed on its lowest height setting to ensure the distance from mattress to the top of the cot’s rail is big enough.

    You can buy the PurFlo mattress for most cots, cotbeds and junior beds and it’s a similar price to a pocket sprung mattress.


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