Comparing Breathable Crib Mattresses – Plastic Core vs. No Core

Breathable Crib Mattress

There is a current trend of breathable crib mattresses with cellulose, plastic, breathable cores.  These crib mattresses claim be10% food-grade polymer plastic and 90% air.  There are several different companies offering this type of breathable crib mattress.  This can only mean there is nothing proprietary about this technology.  

The SafeSleep® breathable crib mattress is a patented design that has no core of any kind.  Instead it is a hollow box with side openings to facilitate constant, uninterrupted airflow.  he top surface is the same fabric used by the manufacturers of plastic filled breathable crib mattresses.  This fabric is a 3D mesh. 

In our comparison, we peel back the layers and find five big differences among these two types of breathable crib mattresses.

You find the ideal crib.  It’s now time to find the ideal crib mattress. Even though picking a crib mattress may seem like a boring task, it is one that needs careful review.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Safe Crib Mattress Guidance is Simple:

  • Firm
  • Tight fit in the crib
  • New and not used
  • The mattress is not taller than 6 inches
  • If it needs a sheet, it should fit tight

Deaths of babies placed on their backs and found face down on firm fiberfill crib mattresses still occur.  Including crib mattresses meeting all the safety features listed above.  Specifically, 3,500 babies in the US die each year from sleep-related deaths.

Breathable Crib Mattresses With Plastic Cores Compared to the SafeSleep® with No Core or Fill

This article reviews the following:

  • Comparisons shared between both types of breathable crib mattresses
  • Five big differences between these two types of  breathable crib mattresses
  • Why we find the SafeSleep® the best crib mattress choice


Breathable Crib Mattress with No Fill or Core

Some breathable crib mattress companies believe, “What’s inside matters most.” 


SafeSleep® believes, “What’s not inside matters most.”

breathable crib mattress with plastic core

Breathable Crib Mattresses with Plastic Cores

Breathable Crib Mattresses with a plastic cores use a food grade polymer to create what some refer to as a “spongy plastic core.”   

SafeSleep® Breathable Crib Mattress With No Core

The SafeSleep® breathable crib mattress has no fill or core of any kind.  By design, it is filled with constant fee flowing air.  This means your baby is not sleeping on plastic.

I.  Similarities Shared by Both Types of  Crib Mattresses

Crib mattresses designed with wiry plastic cores and the SafeSleep® breathable crib mattress design address added concerns shared by both parents and medical professionals.  These concerns are the risks associated with foam and innerspring crib mattresses, should an infant end up in a face-down position.

According to scientific testing, both crib mattresses with plastic cores and the SafeSleep® crib mattress,
  • Greatly reduce suffocation risks
  • Both claim to be 100% breathable – However, there is no standard for “breathble.”
  • Are 100% washable
  • Hypoallergenic & latex free
  • Use no metal springs, polyurethane foam or, glue
  • Have certifications proving quality and non-toxic materials
  • Are made from eco-friendly materials and are recyclable
  • Offer a no-risk, in-home trial period
  • Have 5-star ratings
  • Firmness levels for both infants and toddlers
  • Both are independently tested and certified for purity and no chemical emissions (EitherGreenguard Gold certified, 100% GOTS certified, or OEKO-TEX certified)
  • List price of plastic core mattresses range from $249.00 – $349.99 and the SafeSleep® at $299.00
  • You can find the plastic core mattresses offering free shipping, free returns, and a full refund if not satisfied.  The SafeSleep® offers free shipping, free returns, and a full refund if not satisfied.

Learn more about the cost and benefits of a breathable crib mattress by reading, Is a Breathable Crib Mattress Worth it?


II.   Five Big Differences Between Breathable Crib Mattresses with Plastic Cores and the SafeSleep® Breathable Crib Mattress

Your baby spends more than 70% of their first year sleeping in their crib. Specifically, babies sleep up to 18 hours a day. Consequently, picking the right crib mattress for your baby is a big decision.  


Breathable Crib Mattress that has no fiber fill or core


While comparing breathable crib mattresses with a plastic core to the  SafeSleep® crib mattress, we find five big differences.  We explain these differences to help you choose between these top two breathable crib mattress designs.

But first, we list the breathable crib mattresses currently offered that share the same plastic core material and quilted, 3D mesh or cotton surface.  

These mattresses are:

All four Companies use the same basic design – a wiry plastic core with a removable cover that consists of several layers of 3D mesh fabric quilted together.  There is nothing proprietary about this crib mattress design.

The SafeSleep® crib mattress is a patented design.

The five major differences with a breathable crib mattress with a polymer plastic core versus a breathable crib mattress with no core are: 

  1. Difficulty vs ease of washing
  2. Suffocation vs. CO2 rebreathing risk
  3. Inner core vs. no core or fill
  4. Number and type of fabric layers 
  5. Flame retardants vs. no flame retardants


Differences Between Breathable Crib Mattresses with Plastic Cores and SafeSleep® Explained:


1.  Difficulty vs. Ease of Washing  


Washing the Plastic Core of a Breathable Crib Mattress

Removing the outer cover is simple.  You  unzip around the entire perimeter of the mattresses plastic core – 360 degrees. 

However, some of the breathable crib mattresses with a plastic core have an additional waterproof layer.  This layer is removed the same way as the outer cover.  However, it’s an added step.   

Requires Lifting Mattress Out of Crib To Wash Cover

The breathable crib mattresses with a plastic core must be lifted out of the crib for washing.  The only way to remove the bottom section of both the top and second-layer, waterproof cover, is lifting the mattress out of the crib. However, these crib mattresses are fairly light weight.  The covers on the plastic core mattresses can be cleaned in a washing machine.

Mattress Core Requires a Bathtub or Shower for Washing

Unfortunately, washing the large rectangular plastic core can be difficult and messy.  The plastic core is stiff and rigid.  Consequently, it is not machine washable.  Instead, the manufacturers of these types of crib mattresses recommend  washing these standard size crib mattress cores in a bathtub, shower, or with a garden hose.  These standard size crib mattress measure approximately 52 inches long by 28 inches wide. 

I chose to wash one in a standard size bathtub that measures 45 inches long by 22 inches wide.  The size gap between the plastic core and our standard bathtub made washing the core difficult, wet, and messy. 

Additionally, while washing the plastic core of the breathable crib mattress, I had to lift the wet core and reposition it several times.  Again, it was a wet and messy process. Not to mention, it was difficult for me to tell if the mattress core was completely clean.  The swirls in the plastic core make it difficult to see every angle on the interior.

One of the websites states, their mattress loves taking a bath.  I am sure it does.  However, I didn’t enjoy giving it one.


how to wash a breathable crib mattress

How to Wash the Plastic Core of Breathable Crib Mattress 

Should a Baby’s Mattress Be in a Bathroom?

Washing the plastic core of the mattress in a bathroom is concerning.  It’s no mystery, streptococcus, e. coli, and multiple other pathogens lurk in every part of our bathrooms. Washing my baby’s mattress in the bathroom makes me believe I am asking for trouble.  Consequently, the washing process not only proved to be time consuming and difficult, it felt unsanitary to me.

Drying the plastic core 

Another problem is the long dry time.  Once you finish washing the plastic core, get ready for a long dry time.  One manufacturer states it  takes 2-6 hours to dry.  I fear my baby just missed a nap. 

Another manufacturer recommends shaking out the excess water and standing the mattress up to dry.  They also recommend avoiding drying it in direct sunlight or using a hair dryer.  

Can we assume the plastic will melt with heat?  

Avoiding an Odor

The manufacturers warn that the plastic core should be completely dry before putting the cover back on.  Additionally, one manufacturer  suggests machine drying the waterproof layer.  According to one company, putting the cover back on damp can cause an odor.  Consequently, the Company recommends tumble drying it on a low heat setting.  

Washing the SafeSleep® Breathable Baby Mattress

The SafeSleep® mattress cover is suspended over a unique locking bar system.  This system allows the cover to be easily slid on and off. You simply lift the two bars.  Unzip the cover.  Then, pull the cover up and off the bars.   

One-Piece Cover is Easy to Remove Without Removing the Mattress Base from the Crib 

The one-piece cover is easy to clean in a washing machine. The cover dries in five minutes on a medium heat setting.  If you prefer, the cover dries in about 15 minutes by air.  You can safely use a blow dryer on it if you want to speed up the drying time.   There is no fear of bad odors if the cover is still damp.  And best of all, the super quick dry time means there is no missing naptime with the SafeSleep®.

Surface is Easy to Spot Clean

Additionally, spot cleaning the cover is easy while the cover is still on the frame.  A damp cloth does the trick.  Spit up is quick and easy to wipe up.  The quick dry time is amazing.

Not to mention, there is no fill or core of any kind to house mold or other pathogens.

No Bathtub or Shower Needed

Even better, the base of the SafeSleep® crib mattress is easy to wipe clean.  Simply wipe the base with a clean damp cloth.  I used my favorite cleaner to completely sanitize it.  Most impressively, the base stays in the crib while cleaning.  No germ-filled bathroom, or garden hose needed.

how to wash a crib mattress that is breathable

How to Wash the SafeSleep® Breathable Crib Mattress 
Crib Mattresses and Mold

We believe any crib mattress that has a core needs constant washing.  Why?   Mold can develop when  vomit, drool, urine, feces, and sweat gets inside a mattress.   

Mold will not grow on plastic unless it has a nutrient source. Since plastic does not provide natural nutrients, like cellulose, for mold spores, mold must rely on old food particles, dirt, soil, vomit, or feces to provide ample nutrients. 

So to prevent mold from growing on plastic, the soil and organic residue must be cleaned away.  We found an interesting article by a credible source explaining that some of their community members discovered what looked like mold inside one of their “breathable” crib mattresses with a plastic core.  One of these members even sent in pictures of the black and dark brown spots attached to the plastic core in multiple areas.

The design of the SafeSleep® Crib Mattress makes it easy to maintain a sanitary sleep environment for your  baby.  Simply throw the topper in the washing machine and dryer.  Wipe down the base with a damp cloth.  There is no need to remove it form the crib.  And best of all, there is no core for mold to grow on.


easy to clean breathable crib mattress


2.  Suffocation vs. CO2 Rebreathing Risk

Suffocation Risk

Both breathable crib mattresses with plastic cores and  the Safe Sleep® breathable mattress reduce suffocation risk.  The truth is, most firm crib mattresses reduce suffocation risk.  Face compression must  be possible to cause suffocation.  Face compression risk is the reason the AAP recommends a “firm” crib mattress.  It’s also the reason they warn against soft pillows and blankets in the crib.  

As an example,  one of the breathable crib mattresses with a plastic core was tested against three different innerspring crib mattresses in an independent study.  All the mattresses in the study were firm.  Even though the manufacturer paid for the study, all the mattresses passed the suffocation testing.  There was one exception.  A vinyl mattress with a loose cover caused pockets of stale air and airway obstruction.  Consequently, it did not pass the test.  

CO2 Rebreathing Risk

When an infant is on a firm mattress, face compression is not an issue.  According to the AAP,  the bigger risk is rebreathing CO2 (carbon dioxide).  CO2 rebreathing is when a baby continues to rebreathe their exhaled air.  Rebreathing can lead to death.   

While there are no scientific studies showing CO2 rebreathing as the direct cause of SIDS.  Rebreathing is the hypothesis the AAP uses when creating safe sleep policies.  The AAP believes rebreathing of carbon dioxide is a likely reason for unexpected infant deaths. 

According to a peer-reviewed published study, crib mattresses with fiberfill and loose cores trap harmful CO2.  Quilts, crib mattress pads, and even crib sheets are also known to trap harmful CO2.  The AAP tells parents to place their infants on their back for every sleep to avoid rebreathing CO2.  

A warning about breathable crib mattress from down under, Breathable Crib Mattress Warning!

Quilting On Cover And No Quilting On Cover

Crib mattresses with plastic cores all have  multiple layers of 3D mesh fabric that is quilted together.  One company describes it as adding additional comfort. 

On the other hand, the AAP describes soft surfaces as a rebreathing risk.  Additionally, a peer reviewed published study conducted by Dr. Aloka L. Patel states, “One proposed mechanism for infants sleeping facedown involves “rebreathing” of expired air retained within soft porous bedding that covers an infant’s face.”  This is the reason the AAP warns parents to only use a fitted sheet.  The AAP also recommends a “flat” firm surface.

Learn more about crib mattresses and SIDS to find out if a breathable crib mattress will help avoid SIDS.


This video demonstrates how rebreathing is believed to happen when an infant is sleeping on their stomach


Added Waterproof Cover

Some of the breathable crib mattresses with plastic cores offer a  waterproof cover.  You have to wonder if water cannot flow unobstructed through a mattress, how can air?  And worse, how does carbon dioxide escape? 

According to Dr. James Kemp, a pediatric pulmonologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, crib mattresses with porous interiors actually trap CO2.  He points out that a crib mattress filled with tea tree bark made in Australia in the 1980s and ’90s, and marketed as breathable, turned out to increase the risk of SIDS.  

No Quilting, No Waterproof Cover

Since one of the founders is a leading pediatrician familiar with these peer-reviewed published studies, the SafeSleep® design intentionally eliminates quilting, duplicate layers, or additional padding.  Also, the SafeSleep® breathable  mattress has no waterproofing layer. 

Most impressively, the only thing between a baby and fresh oxygen when face down on a SafeSleep® crib mattress is a 1/8 inch open-celled, 3D mesh surface that is both flat and firm. 

Surprisingly, the SafeSleep® is equally as firm as an innerspring mattress. 


baby crib mattress

SafeSleep® 3D Mesh Fabric

Eliminates Risk of Rebreathing CO2

The scientific testing on the SafeSleep® baby mattress is impressive.  The testing shows CO2 is gone from the SafeSleep® mattress before a baby takes in his next breath of air.  This feature eliminates the risk of harmful CO2 rebreathing.  The majority of the AAP’s safe sleep recommendations center around keeping harmful CO2 away from a sleeping baby.  

Infant Breathing

It’s a scientific fact, infants take a breath every 1-2 seconds.  Amazingly, carbon dioxide is gone on the  SafeSleep® mattress in less than ½ a second.  This means harmful CO2 is gone before a baby takes another breath.  This eliminates the risk of harmful CO2 rebreathing. 

For parents who have received the devastating news their baby was a victim of positional asphyxiation, know how important eliminating CO2 rebreathing is.

Find out why a breathable crib mattress should also have a high air permeability rate.

3.  Inner Core vs. No Core or Fill

Plastic Core

The core material used in breathable crib mattresses with a plastic core is made up of food-grade polymers.  Polymer is a plastic.  The plastic is similar to the plastic used to make yogurt cups.   Yogurt cups seem healthy enough.  I am just not sure I want my baby to sleep on them.

No Core

The SafeSleep® mattress has no fill or core of any kind.  Instead, the design allows for constant free flowing air. The center of the mattress is hollow.  The sides have large open vents where air passes in and out.  If plastic or yogurt cups aren’t your desired product for your baby to sleep on, the SafeSleep® baby mattress is the best choice.


crib mattress breathable


4.  Difference in Fabric Layers

Same 3D Open-Weave Fabric

Both crib mattresses with plastic breathable cores and the SafeSleep® use the same 3D open-weave, mesh fabric for their mattress surface.  The 3D mesh fabric that covers the entire plastic core of some breathable crib mattresses have added layers of 3D fabric that are quilted.   

The SafeSleep®’s cover (called a topper) is suspended over the mattress base.  It is a single layer of 3D mesh fabric.  This single layer is designed to increase air flow and reduce the build up of carbon dioxide.   Less layers means good air travels in faster and bad air travels out faster – away from your sleeping baby.

The mattress base has solid wood sides with slatted openings.  A unique locking bar system holds the SafeSleep® topper firmly over the solid wood base.  This revolutionary design prevents sagging of the topper and makes the mattress extremely durable.

Same Firmness Levels

Both designs of breathable crib mattresses offer the desired firmness for both infants and toddlers.  


breathable crib mattress firmness

Additional Layer of Viscose

Some breathable crib mattresses with a plastic core have an additional layer.  This layer is viscose or a polyurethane film.  Both create a waterproofing barrier below the crib mattress 3D, quilted mesh surface. 

If a breathable mattress with a plastic core has this additional layer, two covers need  to be removed.   SafeSleep®. only has one cover to remove.

What is Viscose?

Traditionally used for upholstery, Viscose is a semi-synthetic material.  Viscose, more commonly known in the U.S. as Rayon, is a man-made fiber created from cellulose chemically extracted from trees.  The extracted wood pulp is treated and spun into yarns to make fabric.  Viscose fabric is a bit weaker in strength than cotton.  In fact, t loses lots of its strength when it’s wet.

Most fabric manufacturers agree, viscose production is chemical-heavy.  The toxic chemicals used in the production of viscose include sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), and sulphuric acid. Environmentalists point out these chemicals are known to pollute the environment. 

According to  Shenan Fraguadas, a New York-based technical designer, “Although light and breezy, this synthetic fiber tends to be water-repellent allowing “sweat to build up, reducing evaporation, and causing discomfort and irritation.”   

Additional Nylon Netting Layer

The SafeSleep® breathe – through mattress topper has a nylon netting under the 3D open-weave fabric.  Nylon is a strong and durable fabric. The netting creates extra firmness.  The SafeSleep® mattress offers an impressive amount of firmness.  An adult can sit on it.

The 3D fabric and netting are sewn together.  Being a single piece makes the topper easy to remove for machine washing. 

I love how the SafeSleep® mattress allows natural evaporation of heat and moisture.  My baby never wakes up sweaty, even on the hottest days.


breathable crib mattress topper

Liquids Do Not Pool on Surface

The SafeSleep® has no waterproofing fabrics or chemicals.  Instead, the SafeSleep® allows liquids to quickly pass through the 3D,  open-weave, mesh fabric.  The liquids land on the bottom of the mattress base away from a sleeping baby. 

This feature gives the SafeSleep® baby mattress added marks for safety.  When a baby spits up in the middle of the night, the liquids pass through the mattress instead of pooling on the surface.  This feature eliminates the risk of a baby re-inhaling their spit up.  It also keeps the baby comfortable since they are not lying in a wet spot.

5.  Flame Retardants vs. No Flame Retardants

Flame Retardant

The waterproof viscose cover used by some breathable crib mattresses with plastic cores creates a flame barrier.  By incorporating “phosphorus” in the viscose matrix during the fiber spinning state creates a flame retardant barrier.  

Others use a hydrated silica, which is a natural and safe flame retardant.

No Flame Retardant

The SafeSleep® uses no flame retardants.  This does not mean the SafeSleep® is not flame proof.  All crib mattresses must be compliant with the CPSC’s open flame testing.  Since the SafeSleep® has no fiberfill or any kind, it passes the testing without the use of any flame retardant chemicals. 

#1 Pediatrician Recommended Crib Mattress

It’s not hard to understand why SafeSleep® is the #1 pediatrician recommended crib mattress.  It’s also not surprising why it continues to receive top endorsements from leading pediatric physicians and safe sleep policy makers.  In fact, SafeSleep® is the only crib mattress physicians write prescriptions for infants who must tummy sleep for health reasons.  



With all the scientific testing on the SafeSleep® baby mattress, it is clear safety and scientific product testing is the Company’s focus.  

There are several choices of breathable crib mattresses with plastic cores and they all share a similar design.  The SafeSleep® is the only crib mattress with a patented design that eliminates the need for any core material.  Additionally, it has five clear advantages over breathable crib mattresses with plastic cores.    

Read our comprehensive guide on breathable crib mattresses to find out the different designs and their effectiveness  

Consider These Five Main Differences Between Breathable Crib Mattresses with Plastic Cores and The SafeSleep® When Deciding Which Mattress is Best for Your Baby:


  1. Breathable crib mattresses with a plastic core mattress require a bathtub, shower, or outdoor hose to wash the core.  In contrast,  the SafeSleep® breathable baby mattress can be wiped down while still in the crib.
  2. Breathable crib mattresses with plastic cores use multiple 3D, mesh layers that are quilted together for their covers.  The SafeSleep® mattress is a single 3D, mesh layer and has no quilting.   The SafeSleep® is scientifically proven to prevent harmful CO2 rebreathing – a risk associated with SIDS.
  3. The more layers, the slower the airflow.  The SafeSleep® has no core or added 3D layers.  Air flow is uninterrupted.  Since the SafeSleep® has no fill or core, there is nothing for mold and pathogens to grow on.
  4. Some breathable crib mattresses with plastic cores use an extra layer of viscose for waterproofing.  The SafeSleep® has a strong nylon netting underlay.  The SafeSleep® design allows liquids to quickly pass through the surface away from a sleeping baby.
  5. The SafeSleep® breathable crib mattress does not use any type of flame retardants or waterproofing chemicals.

Your baby will spend more than 70% of their first year in their crib.  Consequently, you want the safest and most comfy baby mattress. The SafeSleep® crib mattress is the most scientifically tested crib mattress

Additionally, SafeSleep® is the favorable choice among pediatricians and safe sleep experts. The reasons should now be clear why.

So if you want true peace of mind and added convenience, the SafeSleep® crib mattress is the logical choice.

Find our more about the different breathable crib mattress designs by reading Breathable Crib Mattress – Medical and Safe Sleep Experts Explain

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