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If you are looking at a cotton crib mattress, make sure you get a good waterproof cover to make it easier to clean and mantain. At the same time, look for good venting in the crib mattress to help odors escape. Cotton crib mattresses are also a good choice because most of them are hypo-allergenic.
An inner spring crib mattress might be overkill, as this kind of mattress was originally engineered to support heavier loads. On the other hand, in the question of firmness versus softness, it's a good idea to error on the side of firmness. Some studies have indicated a link between some cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrom (SIDS) to overly-soft bedding.
Foam crib mattresses are available in a variety of thicknesses. But thicker is not necessarily better; density is most important. The better foam mattresses are high-density, about 1.5 to 2 pounds per cubic foot. Unfortunately, most foam mattresses don't list density on the packing, so it's hard to know exactly what you're getting. Of course, if you measure the dimensions of the baby crib mattress in inches (length x width x height) and divide by the stated weight, you should get a figure close to the density of the foam.
Crib mattresses require special considerations. For one thing, you're likely to need to clean a crib mattress more often, so for that reason a light weight foam baby crib mattress that is also easier to clean than a cotton crib mattress might be preferrable. Other caretakers will opt for an inner spring mattress protected by a vinyl mattress cover.
In choosing a crib mattress, fit is essential. Test-fit your baby crib mattress into the crib and check to see how much clearance there is between the edge of the mattress and the side of the crib. If you can fit two fingers comfortably between the mattress and the side of the crib then the mattress is too small, which means your baby could suffocate if he falls between the mattress and the side of the crib.
When you choose a mattress, you can try different kinds and decide which is more comfortable. Unfortunately, your little one can't directly tell you when a crib mattress is comfortable or not. Watch for signs of restlessness, and keep an eye out for allergies caused by materials used in the mattress or bedding. If you suspect trouble here, consider an organic crib mattress, which will have fewer chemicals thought to cause allergic reactions.