Understanding Breathable Crib Mattresses

Baby sleeping on a breathable crib mattress

Are Breathable Crib Mattresses Safer?

Yes, but only if done right. It’s no surprise that parents are inundated with conflicting claims about how to keep their baby safe. But with September being Baby Safety Month, it’s time to address one of the latest trends: breathable crib mattresses.

A breathable crib mattress typically has a porous surface that your baby can breathe through should they roll over face down – sounder safer, right? Breathable crib mattresses also help to dissipate heat and moisture for less sweaty backs and comfier sleep for babies.

To truly be safer, however, a breathable crib mattress must also be waterproof to prevent fluids from seeping into the mattress (where it can be difficult or impossible to clean). But how can a crib mattress be breathable AND waterproof? Read on to learn.

What Makes a Crib Mattress Breathable?

Breathability in the context of crib mattresses means that your baby should be able to breathe through the surface if they roll over to be face down – an excellent safety feature. But breathable crib mattress claims are complex and cannot be looked at in a vacuum.

What do we mean by this? Unfortunately, many crib mattresses marketed as breathable do not actually allow your baby to breathe through the mattress surface. In addition, many breathable crib mattresses also pose hygienic challenges and often contain highly questionable chemicals. And many breathable crib mattresses are breathable all the way to their core, with a completely porous design. As we'll see, this common approach especially has drawbacks.

How to Make Sure Breathability Is Done Right

Like we said, a safer crib mattress must be waterproof to prevent fluids from seeping into the mattress interior where it can be difficult or impossible to clean. (And, in order to keep your crib mattress clean and hygienic, the surface should also be easy to clean for any messes caused by urine, drool, vomit, spilled milk, etc.) But if the mattress is entirely porous – which is many a brand's approach to breathability – that means that bacteria can penetrate the mattress surface and seep into the interior.

This can be problematic, as you don't want your baby breathing in the contamination growing inside the mattress. Some brands make their mattress cores "washable," but this process is extremely cumbersome, and in some cases, it is nearly  impossible to fully clean the inside of these cores as there is no way to scrub – only soak and rinse. It's also cumbersome as you're baby is left without a mattress while you're cleaning it and waiting for it to dry (if it ever does truly dry completely, which it very well may not).

Naturepedic recognizes that these breathable designs don't work well. On the one hand, adding breathability to a mattress is an excellent idea. On the other hand, having your baby breathe into a contaminated space defeats the purpose of trying to make the mattress safer. It replaces one problem with another!

How Can a Crib Mattress Be Breathable and Waterproof at the Same Time?

Mother folding back the Naturepedic breathable organic crib mattress coverMother folding back the Naturepedic breathable organic crib mattress cover

Breathable and waterproof seem to be counter to each other. If air can get through, so can urine, drool, spit up, spilled milk, etc. which can lead to microbial growth. Separately, most “breathable” crib mattresses are not actually more breathable, they're just not waterproof. They have a non-removable non-waterproof fabric at the surface that can get soiled or stained without any way to be cleaned. Other designs are porous all the way through, and while these are indeed breathable, they introduce hygienic issues by allowing fluids to seep into the core of the mattress. They also require a lengthy washing process leaving your baby with nowhere to sleep, possibly for hours.

Naturepedic engineered a simple and practical solution. Instead of making the whole crib mattress porous, Naturepedic developed a breathable layer that is porous at the surface, allows air to flow freely, and is removable and machine washable. The best part is that under the breathable layer, you get a fully functional waterproof crib mattress. This means you get all of the functionality you would expect from a quality crib mattress including edge support, firm construction, 2-stage firmness and organic certification. If the mattress underneath the breathable layer gets soiled, you can just wipe it clean. Or if the breathable layer is in the wash, you can replace it with a spare or just use the underlying mattress which is still safe and comfortable.

Is the “Layer” Approach Just as Breathable?

Yes. Breathable baby mattresses have become so popular that one of the leading industry testing labs developed a “suffocation test” where mattresses get graded on how breathable they are. The test uses a simulated baby positioned face down and air is blown in and out of its mouth to simulate breathing.  The suffocation test was done on the Naturepedic breathable crib mattress models and was compared to other designs. The results show:

  1. The Naturepedic breathable layer scores in the lowest suffocation risk category (i.e. best).
  2. There is NO additional breathability benefit to making the ENTIRE mattress breathable. 

The simulated baby is able to breathe face down through the Naturepedic breathable layer indefinitely! With no additional benefit to making the mattress completely porous, why risk unnecessary hygienic issues and make cleaning difficult?

Bar graph comparing Naturpedic breathable mattress to traditonal mattress and showing Naturepodic has far greater airflowBar graph comparing Naturpedic breathable mattress to traditonal mattress and showing Naturepodic has far greater airflow
"The data clearly shows that Naturepedic crib mattresses with a breathable cover are five (5) times below the threshold of what is considered suffocation risk under the worst possible scenarios... it is not prudent to remove the waterproofing from a crib mattress as that only creates non-hygienic conditions... a safer approach is to keep the mattress hygienic and to add a breathable layer as is done with Naturepedic." – Dr. Edwin F. Simpser, MD FAAP, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Hofstra-NSLIJ School of Medicine 

So What Is Your Baby Actually Breathing?

Crib set up in a nursery with a Naturepedic breathabke mattressCrib set up in a nursery with a Naturepedic breathabke mattress

Breathable crib mattresses introduce a new concern. Is the air inside the mattress actually safe to breathe? Sadly, many breathable crib mattresses contain flame retardants and are susceptible to mold, mildew and other microbial growth. With Naturepedic, you don't need to compromise.

Naturepedic never uses flame retardants, polyurethane foam, vinyl/PVC, formaldehyde, fiberglass or phthalates in our designs. Plus, we offer an easy, practical approach to keeping your baby's sleep environment clean and hygienic. Naturepedic was founded on the principles of chemical safety and Mother Nature providing the safest, healthiest materials possible. With us, you don't have to sacrifice these great qualities for breathability. 

5 Stars5 Stars

Safe In Every Way

(Verified Buyer)

"We're extremely happy with our Organic Breathable 2-Stage Baby Crib Mattress by Naturepedic. It gives us peace of mind to know that our baby can safely sleep on this breathable mattress even though he flips onto his face often. We also love that he's not breathing in any harmful chemicals. This is the only mattress we'd buy for our babies."

Breathability Done Right:  Breathable + Waterproof + Organic

At Naturepedic, we created a line of breathable crib mattresses that check all the boxes. In fact, Naturepedic is the only manufacturer that provides all of the following benefits in a baby crib mattress:

  • CERTIFIED ORGANIC (meets the highest GOTS organic standard)
  • BREATHABLE (safest category for reducing suffocation risk according to an independant third party lab)
  • WATERPROOF (easy-to-clean)
  • HYGIENIC (no fluids penetrate the mattress)
  • NO FLAME RETARDANTS (meets all government flammability standards)
  • NO LATEX (avoids the allergenic risk of latex for babies)
  • CHEMICALLY SAFER (certified by GOTS, EWG and MADE SAFE®)

Naturepedic has succeeded in meeting the highest breathability standards on the market, without compromising on hygienic safety. Our breathable, waterproof baby crib mattresses feature a breathable cover that provides the necessary airflow for safety and comfort and can easily be removed, washed, dried, and kept clean. The underlying mattress is waterproof at the surface, to help keep the mattress core free of microbial contamination. This way, when accidents happen, the surface can be easilty wiped clean. Plus, all Naturepedic mattresses are certified organic and tested for over 6,500 potentially hazardous chemicals.

The bottom line? A breathable crib mattress must also be waterproof and easy to clean to prevent messes from seeping into the core of the mattress. It’s your baby that has to breathe, not the mattress, and that should always be the focus. With our safer breathable mattress design, you can rest easy – when your baby is not in your arms, the safest place is a Naturepedic. 

Experience Naturepedic's Breathable Technology Today!

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Breathable 2-Stage Crib MattressBreathable 2-Stage Crib Mattress


removable washable breathable surface
(with waterproof backing)

lightweight or 252 coil support

2-stage dual firmness



Breathable Ultra 2-Stage Crib MattressBreathable Ultra 2-Stage Crib Mattress

breathable ultra

removable washable breathable surface
(thicker, quilted + designer fabric)

lightweight or 252 coil support

2-stage dual firmness



Learn more about breathable baby crib mattresses at