While it’s easy to focus on which cot, cotbed or bedside crib you want to buy for your baby, the mattress to go inside is just as important a decision. Mattresses need to be safe for your baby – which means firm and flat, they need to fit snugly, have good breathability and a waterproof covering so that they can cope with leaks from both ends of your baby. And yes, they need to be comfortable, but remember your baby sleeps safest on a firm mattress rather than a soft, enveloping one.
What are the different types of baby mattresses?
There are a variety of mattresses available for babies, depending on the type of bed they are for and the material they are made from.
When selecting the right mattress for your little one, you are likely to be choosing from the following options:
This is a high-density piece of foam, normally covered in a wipe-clean waterproof cover, such as PVC. The higher the density of the foam, the firmer (and so safer) it should be.
Pros: Foam mattresses tend to be affordable, lightweight and easy to clean
Cons: Thin, non-dense foam can offer less support plus can sometimes lose its shape
Standard spring mattresses are made of open coil springs surrounded by foam or other materials.
Pros: Tend to be more durable and supportive than foam mattresses
Cons: Usually more expensive than foam mattresses
In a pocket spring mattress, each spring is individually wrapped in a cloth pocket. This means each coil can move independently, giving excellent support and comfort.
Pros: Excellent levels of support as your child grows
There are now a number of mattresses filled with natural eco-friendly materials such as wool, coconut coir, natural latex, bamboo and eco fibre.
Pros: Chemical free, tend to be very firm, sustainable
Cons: Expensive, not so widely available
How do I know a baby mattress is safe?
Baby mattresses on sale in the UK should meet two different British Standards for safety:
- BS 1877-10:2011 + A1:2012 – covering the materials, construction and dimensions
- BS 7177:2008 + A1:2011 – which means it has passed fire safety and flammability tests
Also, look out for BS EN 16890:2017 – this is a more recent safety standard specifically for cot mattresses, which was brought in during 2017 but is currently voluntary. It sets a number of additional safety requirements including mattress firmness, risk of choking hazard (such as a zip pull that could detach) and shrinkage of the mattress cover after washing (which could create a bigger gap between the mattress and the sides).
How do I test a baby mattress is firm enough?
The firmness of baby mattresses are different to those we might want to sleep on as adults. The risk of a soft mattress is that your baby could roll their face into the mattress and sink into it, reducing air flow. So baby mattresses need to be firm – and you can do a simple test to check this.
How to do the baby mattress firmness test
- Press your hand on the centre and the sides of the mattress
- A firm mattress shouldn’t mould to the shape of your hand and you’ll feel resistance – it will obviously move beneath the pressure but your hand shouldn’t sink in
- When you remove your hand, the mattress should snap back and regain its shape
What size is a baby mattress?
Unfortunately sizes can vary, depending on the product. There is no absolute standard cot, cot bed or bedside crib size, so you need to check carefully that the mattress you’re choosing fits snugly. Saying that, there is a typical cot mattress size of 60cm x 120cm, while a cot bed mattress is a little larger at 70cm x 140cm. Cot bed mattresses are larger as they are designed to be used when the item is converted from a cot to a toddler bed. Bedside cribs are usually slightly smaller as they’re designed to last till around 6 months and are generally around 50cm x 80cm.
It’s recommended that cot and cot bed mattresses are 10cm thick to avoid sagging where your baby sleeps. Travel cot mattresses are usually thinner – your baby isn’t expected to sleep on these every night.
How do I know the mattress fits safely?
It should be a snug fit: the gap between the mattress and the cot/crib side MUST be no more than 3cm. This is because your baby’s arm, leg or head might get trapped in the space between the mattress and the furniture. Always make sure your mattress is the right size for the cot or cot bed you are using.
Do I need to flip my baby’s mattress?
With adult mattresses, the advice used to be to flip them regularly although this has become less common as the popularity of one-sided mattresses has grown. When it comes to baby mattresses, it may not be necessary to turn them over, but watch out for any sagging or indentations. The best advice is to check the manufacturer’s instructions to see whether they recommend it is turned or rotated after a certain period of time as the advice will vary from product to product.
Some mattresses are marketed as dual-sided products with one firmer side intended for use when your little one is a baby and a softer side to keep him comfortable through the toddler stage. With these two-stage mattresses, you should wait until after your child’s 1st birthday to switch to the softer side.
Can I use a second-hand mattress?
If you’re buying a new cot or cot bed, you may find a mattress comes included with your purchase. However, if you are given a cot by someone else or you buy second-hand, you will need to buy a new mattress even if the existing one appears to be in perfect condition.
And if you already have a mattress in your home which was used by an older child, it is still a good idea to replace it. The reason why second-hand mattresses are seen as a no-no is because they have been linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is sometimes referred to as cot death.
There is also the risk a used mattress might be harbouring bacteria or dust mites, which could aggravate any allergies. It is also worth bearing in mind that mattresses do lose their shape over time and a second-hand item is likely to be less comfortable and supportive.
When should I replace my baby’s mattress?
Most cot and cot bed mattresses are designed to last until your child has outgrown his sleeping space and moved into a bed. With this in mind, you shouldn’t need to replace the mattress until you move your toddler into a bed designed for older children.
To reduce the risk of having to pay for another mattress while your child is still small, look for brands which offer guarantees on their products. Some mattresses will come with a five-year guarantee, while others may have a warranty for three years.
Do I need a mattress protector?
It is always a good idea to have a removable cover on your child’s mattress which can be easily removed and washed. Some mattresses include these covers but if you choose one which doesn’t they can be bought separately.
Mattresses with waterproof covers or coatings are also a good idea to avoid moisture seeping into the material inside which can cause bacteria and mould to grow.
What bedding should I use on a baby mattress?
Sheets should be the right size for the mattress and either fitted or firmly tucked in so there is no risk that your baby will become caught up in them.
Baby sleeping bags are a great idea but make sure you choose one which is suitable for your baby’s size and weight and is the right tog rating for the time of year. Otherwise, you can use sheets and blankets but make sure they are clear of your baby’s head and firmly tucked in below shoulder height. Always put your little one into the cot in a feet-to-foot position so there is no way he can wriggle underneath the bedding.
It’s also important to make sure your baby doesn’t overheat while sleeping so keep his room cool – between 16 and 20°C is best – and remove bedding if you are worried he might be too hot.
Do not use any pillows, quilts or duvets until your child is at least 12 months old as they have been associated with an increased risk of SIDS. It is also recommended not to use cot bumpers as there have been cases where infants have been injured by them.
Check out our selection of 10 of the best baby mattresses to make sure you and your baby sleep well, whether at home or away.
1. The Little Green Sheep Twist Natural Mattress, £149-189
Best for longevity
Suitable from: birth | Type: cot/cot bed mattress | Interior: Organic coconut coir, latex, cotton and wool | Meets BS EN 16890:2017: Yes
Sizes: 70cm x140cm (cot bed), 60cm x 120cm (cot), 68cm x122cm (Stokke Sleepi), 77cm x 132cm, 70cm x 132cm, 69cm x 139cm (Mamas and Papas)
Made using natural, organic materials, this mattress comes with a twist – it’s really two products in one. One side of The Little Green Sheep Twist mattress is designed to provide firm support, which is recommended by safe sleep experts for babies under 12 months. Once your baby becomes a toddler, you can flip the mattress and use the other side, which is softer and more flexible to make sure your tot has a comfortable night’s sleep.
One of the big advantages with this mattress is it comes in a variety of sizes to fit different makes of cots and cot beds. Another selling point is that the materials used are breathable, hypoallergenic and free from chemicals and toxins. The mattress also comes with a five-year guarantee so should easily last until your child outgrows it.
However, the mattress does not come with a removable cover and is sponge clean only, which can be awkward when dealing with leaking nappies or posseting babies. The Little Green Sheep recommends using its waterproof mattress protector so you will need to factor in this additional cost, which makes the Twist more expensive than some of the alternatives. But MFM tester Alexis feels the mattress is worth the higher price tag: “Absolutely love this mattress! It’s comfortable and very well made. My daughter sleeps great. Great quality.”
Pros: Double sided with 2 firmness options, organic materials
Cons: Sponge clean only with no removable cover
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2. Obaby Natural Coir/Wool Mattress, £119.99
Best for a natural materials
Suitable from: birth | Type: cot bed mattress | Interior: Coconut coir, lambswool and latex | Size: 70cm x 140cm | Meets BS EN 16890:2017: Yes
This cot-bed mattress from Obaby sells itself on its natural, chemical-free materials, which protect against dust mites and help regulate your baby’s temperature. The interior is made from a mix of coconut coir – a natural fibre taken from the husk of a coconut – and wool. The coconut coir is bonded with latex and is designed to feel like springs, while the lambswool is breathable to prevent moisture building up. These materials are a good choice for babies and toddlers with allergies and, when the time comes to get rid of the mattress, you can do so with a clear conscience as it is biodegradable.
Each mattress comes with a removable cover, made from organic bamboo, which can be unzipped and washed to keep your baby’s sleeping space clean and hygienic. This makes the Obaby mattress a great choice if you have a baby who often brings up feeds and it will safely last you into potty training and beyond.
The bamboo cover is described as “soft-touch” and has natural antibacterial properties. And you don’t have to factor in the additional cost of a mattress cover. One customer wrote in a review on Amazon: “The price of it is so good, I would recommend it in a heartbeat.”
A few customer reviews mention there is quite a strong smell when you first open it up but this does disappear as one Wayfair customer found: “Aired it out for a few days before use and the smell dissipated completely. My little boy sleeps really well on it and it fits the bed snuggly!”
However, it only comes in one size so is only suitable if you have a cot bed with the right dimensions, which includes those in the Obaby range. You also don’t get the benefits of having two different sides as you’ll find with some mattresses, so make sure you’re happy with the firmness before you use it.
Pros: Organic bamboo removable cover, good value for money
Cons: Only 1 option when it comes to size and firmness
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3. Silentnight Safe Nights Airflow Cot Mattress, £99
Best for a trusted sleep brand
Suitable from: birth | Type: Cot mattress (cot bed size also available) | Interior: Polyester | Size: 60cm x 120cm (cot) or 70cm x 140cm (cotbed) | Meets BS EN 16890:2017: Yes
Coming in at under £100, the Safe Nights Airflow mattress offers great value from money, especially as Silentnight is a trusted household name. The core is foam free, which means it will remain firm and cool – important considerations when it comes to creating a safe sleeping environment for your baby.
One great feature with this mattress is that it is easy to clean after an accident. As well as having a removable cover which can go in your washing machine, the core can be rinsed in the shower. The 3D mesh cover aims to promote free airflow and the fabric has been coated with Purotex – microcapsules filled with probiotics which absorb moisture and repel allergens like dust mites.
An Amazon customer, who reviewed the mattress on the site, said: “This is amazing. My son loves it and sleeps right through the night. It’s firm yet has a bounce to it.”
Although it isn’t made from completely natural materials like some on our list, it is free from chemical treatments and is fully recyclable. Unlike some mattresses which come with a 5-year guarantee, the manufacturer’s guarantee is 3 years but it should safely last you until your baby outgrows their cot.
Pros: Well-priced, easy to clean with washable core
Cons: Only 2 standard sizes available
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4. Emma Cot Mattress, £159-179
Best waterproof design
Suitable from: birth | Type: cot and cot bed mattress | Interior: foam | Size: 60cm x 120cm (cot), 70cm x 140cm (cot bed) Meets BS EN 16890:2017: Yes
If you’re feeling confused about which mattress to pick, this one from Emma comes with a 45-night free trial. This means you can check it fits your cot and test it out for comfort, knowing you can get a full refund if it isn’t quite right.
As well as having a removable outer cover which can be popped into the washing machine on a 40°C cycle, the mattress itself is covered in polyurethane, creating an inner waterproof layer to protect the foam inside from moisture and stop it becoming a breeding ground for bacteria.
The foam itself is designed to provide a firm sleeping environment for your baby or toddler, supporting healthy bone growth and spine development. Foam mattresses are often known from being hotter than those made from other materials but the Emma uses breathable, open-pored foam and fabrics to make sure your baby stays cool during the night. The mattress is also free from whitening agents and antimony, which is often used as a flame-retardant material.
For a foam mattress, the Emma has a considerable price tag. However, many parents may feel the added protection of the waterproof layer is worth the extra money.
The manufacturers also claim that the foam is of the highest quality so it won’t end up sagging and losing its shape before your child grows out of their cot. And they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is as the mattress comes with a 5-year guarantee.
Pros: 45-night trial and 5-year guarantee, inner waterproof layer
Cons: More expensive than other foam options
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5. Ikea JÄTTETRÖTT, £95
A great value mattress
Suitable from: birth | Type: cot bed mattress | Interior: pocket springs, polyurethane foam and polyester wadding | Size: 70cm x 140cm
Swedish furniture retailer Ikea specialises in simple and affordable products and its cot mattress is no different. Priced at a budget-friendly £95, it is significantly cheaper than some of the other options on the market. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the low price tag means it is a basic product.
The JÄTTETRÖTT is a pocket spring mattress, meaning that each spring is sewn into a pocket of fabric. This allows more air to circulate than a foam mattress and helps your baby stay cool while sleeping. The springs in pocket spring mattresses also work independently from each other, meaning they provide plenty of support where it is needed.
Other useful features include a removable cover which can be washed at 60°C with a small pocket to keep the zip hidden away from curious little hands. The core of the mattress has a fixed wipe-clean inner cover, which not only improves its fire safety credentials but makes it easier to slip the outer cover back on after washing.
Pros: Great value, wipe-clean inner cover
Cons: 1 size only
Available from: Ikea
6. Silver Cross Superior Cot Bed Mattress, £149
Best for a luxury, premium feel
Suitable from: birth | Type: cot bed mattress | Interior: foam, pocket springs, polyester pad, natural rubberised coir pad | Size: 70cm x 140cm
When you hear the name Silver Cross, it is probably prams and pushchairs which come to mind rather than mattresses. However, this superior cot bed mattress matches the brand’s reputation for luxury and quality and it comes with a 3-year warranty. The product is double-sided, offering different levels of support for your baby, depending on their age. There is a firmer side intended for babies up to 18 months and then a softer side for toddlers.
The pocket spring mattress includes 190 baby springs so it can offer targeted ergonomic support to your child as they grow. Another feature which makes this mattress stand out from the crowd is its True Fit borders and square corners, designed to make sure there are no little gaps between the mattress and the cot bed where little limbs could get trapped, posing a safety risk.
The materials used are hypo-allergenic, making it a good choice for babies with allergies. There is also a waterproof layer to protect the interior from getting damp. The outer cover is made using Tencel, a soft, breathable fabric made from recycled eucalyptus which absorbs moisture and helps regulate temperature, and it can be removed and washed at 60°C.
The appearance of this mattress is also a plus point with charcoal grey piping around the edges and a quilted finish. The Superior mattress is Silver Cross’s mid-range option and it is more expensive than many other options on the market, but many parents will feel the added features are worth the premium price point. One John Lewis reviewer felt it worth the cost and said: “This mattress is just what we wanted, good quality, fits perfectly and our son sleeps well on it.”
Pros: Double-sided, True Fit borders
Cons: Premium price tag, 1 size only
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7. John Lewis Spring Cot & Cotbed Mattress – £56/£72
High quality for an affordable price
Suitable from: birth | Type: cot bed mattress | Interior: Springs | Size: 60cm x 120cm (cot) or 70cm x 140cm (cotbed)
If pocket spring mattresses are too pricey, this open spring option from John Lewis could be a great alternative. The open springs in the core provide a supportive night’s sleep and the cover can be removed and washed at 40°C so you don’t have to worry about the mattress becoming dirty and soiled. And with a 3-year guarantee, this John Lewis own-brand mattress should stay in good shape until your child is ready to move into a full-size bed.
The mattress has been designed to allow air to flow freely so your baby shouldn’t become too hot. Regulating your little one’s temperature is an important safety feature as overheating is known to increase the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). The mattress has also been treated with Purotex, an anti-allergy coating which repels both moisture and allergens like dust mites.
It has an average rating of 4.9 out of 5 from John Lewis customers with customers praising its quality and fit. One parent said the waterproof protector is “perfect” and “dries really quickly after washing” – handy if don’t have a spare one to use in the mean time.
Pros: Anti-allergy coating, affordable
Cons: Only 2 sizes available
8. Panda Kids Bamboo, £99-£129
Best sustainable mattress
Suitable from: birth | Type: cot and cot bed mattress | Interior: Airflow foam, hydro foam and breathable mesh | Size: 60cm x 120cm (cot) and 70cm x 140cm (cot bed)
Bamboo is known for its sustainability, softness and breathability, making it the ideal choice for baby bedding. This Panda Kids mattress comes with a removable bamboo outer cover, which is simple to wash at 30°C and is naturally thermo regulating. However, while the outer materials may be eco-friendly, the interior of the mattress is manmade and consists of two different types of foam.
The top layer is made from Hydro foam, which is described as a third-generation memory foam infused with minute gel capsules, while the lower layer of airflow foam acts as a support base to keep the mattress from moving around in the cot.
Experts warn against letting babies sleep on standard memory foam mattresses as they simply don’t give the level of firm support needed for those under 12 months. However, the Panda Kids Bamboo mattress has been specifically designed to be safe for use from birth. The mattress has a unique six-layer construction which includes a breathable mesh, a waterproof coating and an anti-slip layer featuring micro-silicone grips.
One big advantage is that Panda Kids offers a free trial period so you see how you get on with it before investing. You can try this product out for 30 nights before deciding whether to keep it or return, making it a risk-free purchase. And if you do choose to stick with it, there is a 5-year guarantee so you won’t need to worry about paying for a replacement before your child starts school.
One Amazon reviewer commented that the mattress came with a strong smell when first taken out of its packaging but said: “The memory foam cot mattress is very comfortable and my baby sleeps very well in it.”
Pros: Bamboo cover, 30-day trial period
Cons: The memory foam has a strong smell at first
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9. ClevaMama ClevaFoam Baby Support Mattress, £118.75-£133
Aims to combat flat head syndrome
Suitable from: birth | Type: Cot or cot bed mattress | Interior: Clevafoam | Size: 60cm x 120cm (cot) or 70cm x 140 cm (cot bed)
With safe sleep advice to always lay your baby on their back to sleep, there have been more incidences of babies developing flat areas at the back of their heads. The ClevaMama ClevaFoam support mattress aims to protect the natural round shape of your little one’s head, helping to combat Flat Head Syndrome, officially known as plagiocephaly, according to the brand.
Clevafoam – the material which has been used to fill this mattress – was developed with researchers at Trinity College at the University of Dublin and claims to reduce pressure on the back of an infant’s head by 50 per cent. It’s not memory foam (which is not recommended for babies) although it has some similar features.
The key difference is that it’s developed to have an open cell structure, making it lighter and cooler than traditional foam mattresses and 100% breathable, according to ClevaMama, to reduce the risk of your baby overheating. Memory foam is usually a closed cell structure which makes it heavy, dense and with reduced airflow causing it to retain heat.
This coolness and breathability were features that one Argos customer praised, “This mattress is breathable and lightweight. It has actually helped our daughter stay settled in her cot, where as before she would get very hot and wake easily. She now sleeps all night and doesn’t stir.”
Toxin-free, pH balanced and hypoallergenic, the Clevababy is another good choice for babies with allergies. The outer cover is simple to remove and is machine washable with a child-safe reverse zip so it will only come off the mattress if you want it to. Clevababy also make a Moses Basket mattress using Clevafoam if your baby is not quite ready to move into a cot.
The mattress comes with a 3-year guarantee and is vacuum-packed at the point of manufacturing so it is hygienic and compact to store if you buy it before you need to use it. However, remember it will take a little time for it to expand to its proper shape when you get it out of its packaging.
Pros: Vacuum-packed for convenience and hygiene, aims to prevent flat head syndrome
Cons: May take a while to regain proper shape when unpacked
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10. Baby Elegance Eco Fibre Travel Cot Mattress, £22.50
Best travel cot mattress
Suitable from: birth | Type: Travel cot mattress | Interior: Fibre | Size: 70cm x 100cm (other sizes are available)
Getting your baby or toddler to sleep well while you’re away from home can be a challenge. And it is even more difficult if their travel cot is hard and uncomfortable. This travel cot mattress from Baby Elegance is an affordable price and fits a range of travel cots, including those from different brands.
Made using an anti-allergy fibre, the mattress has a breathable core, which allows air to pass through and helps regulate your sleeping baby’s temperature so they don’t overheat. It also has a cover which can be taken off and washed, perfect if your child becomes poorly or has an accident during your trip.
According to Baby Elegance, the fibre used in the mattress is strong and environmentally friendly. With a thickness of only 5cm, it isn’t as comfortable as a standard cot mattress and is intended for holidays and short periods so don’t be tempted to buy the mattress for everyday use.
However, it is thicker and softer than the pads which are included with many travel cots. One Argos reviewer bought the mattress after finding the one which came with their travel cot was wafer thin and said: “The thickness is just right, comfy and sturdy.”
Pros: Affordable and anti-allergy with a washable cover
Cons: Only suitable for short periods eg holidays