You have so many things to consider when it comes to planning for a new baby - including where baby will sleep. Even families choosing to co-sleep often have a crib, a "Montessori bed," or similar arrangement for their little one. When choosing the right bed for baby, a safe mattress is an important consideration - which is why understanding organic mattresses is so important.
There are a lot of options when it comes to organic mattresses, and you need to weigh all the options. This article will cover all the benefits and options for an organic crib mattress. An organic mattress can also be used on your toddler bed or Montessori style bed:
What is organic?
Everywhere you look there are options to buy organic this and organic that...
...but what does organic really mean?
Here's the real deal: organic means that the mattress you are buying is made of materials that were once living. No, this does not mean there are dead things living in your baby’s new mattress. It means that the materials are natural and not made from man-made, chemical components.
Why is organic better?
You know that organic fruits and vegetables are the best choice for feeding baby, but organic mattresses? Are they really a better choice?
First, the reason you may choose organic foods is so you aren’t filling your family with chemicals from pesticides and other compounds used during growth. This is no different when it comes to where you sleep. Organic mattresses are free of the chemicals used in conventional mattresses.
Your baby will breath in whatever materials are surrounding them during sleep. Think about it - would you prefer these materials be natural and harmless or synthetic materials that can cause allergic reactions or illnesses?
When manufacturers make organic mattresses they use cotton or other natural materials that have been cultivated without the use of pesticides and other chemicals. And organic mattresses (at least some of them) are not dipped in flame retardant chemicals like synthetic mattresses.
Resistant to flames naturally.
Flame retardant is important and a requirement to sell mattresses in some countries (this includes the United States, which has set certain standards). Most manufacturers coat the mattress in chemicals that have been proven to be harmful to us and our children.
These chemicals are called polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, and they're what your baby breathes in when sleeping on a synthetic mattress (as well as absorbing the chemicals through their skin).
These aren’t the only ways you baby contracts these chemicals either. They break down and become dust in the air that you and your baby breath.
Organic mattresses are naturally flame resistant due to organic wool. It is made up of keratin, a protein found in human hair, yet Lanolin wool is naturally coated with is resistant to flame organically. If put in an extreme condition wool will burn, but it will not be the source fire, and will die out when the source of the fire dies out.
Because organic mattress are made from natural materials like organic wool, organic cotton, and organic latex, these mattresses tend to be free of pigments, pesticides, bleach, and other allergy igniting blends. This is especially important for people with respiratory problems resulting from allergies.
Mattresses made with organic cotton are also free of metals that are found in most dyes used to add color and other patterns into some crib mattresses. Organic wool is resistant to bacteria, mildew, mold, and dust mites that are serious culprits where allergies are concerned. Latex made from organic materials is also resistant to all of those things and is naturally hypoallergenic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial.
If you find an organic mattress with all of these materials combined, your mattress is not only free from allergens, it can help relieve your baby of any other allergy symptoms you've noticed, too. You can find more information at thesleepjudge.com.
You know it's yucky to feel sweaty and uncomfortable during sleep - and you don't want baby feeling that way! This is another way organic mattresses shine. The combination of organic latex, wool, and cotton, are essential in keeping your baby cool when it’s warm and warm when it’s cool.
They do this by absorbing body dampness, which calms the heart rate by creating an atmosphere that is low in humidity, and leaves baby with best body temperature for a sleep filled night.
Synthetic mattresses don’t biodegrade, like organic materials, so you would think that they are more durable, but that's actually not true. In fact, organic mattresses take longer to break down. A crib mattress made from organic wool will bounce back to its original shape quickly after being stretched to the limits become wool fibers coil genetically, and its natural fibers are tear resistant.
Back to biodegradability
If you're worried about your carbon footprint (and your child's carbon footprint) organic mattresses have even more appeal. Each of the three organic materials used to create mattresses: wool, cotton, and latex, are biodegradable and will not leave a huge impact on the future of the planet.
When these materials break down they help fertilize the soil instead of leaving chemicals behind.
When latex is created the sap is drawn from rubber trees without actually cutting them down. A small portion of the bark is removed and the milky sap is removed without much harm to the tree.
The process of growing organic cotton is just as safe for the environment as the creation of latex because it is free of pesticides and harmful fertilizers. Because regulations surrounding the creation of organics, the seeds used to grow cotton must be organic as well, and not genetically engineered.
As you likely know, wool comes from sheep. They have their coats shorn every year in a stress free environment, which contributes to their lengthy lives and the healthy wool grown on their bodies.
Comfort for baby
Mattresses made with organic materials have a great deal of support. Organic latex provides support for baby’s spine and organic wool offers plenty of air space in between fibers. This helps distribute pressure evenly and may help baby sleep better.
Latex is plush and conforms baby’s body in a natural way, almost like it was made with your child specifically in mind. Wool's inherently durable fibers always bounce back, which keeps them from wearing out.
But is it organic?
Sometimes labels lie, which is why consumer groups (and some governments) serve as watch-dogs via standards and labels. So what should you look for when setting out to buy an organic mattresses? These points are important:
PVC’s no more
Synthetic crib mattresses are typically created with a vinyl cover. This is to waterproof the mattress, but the plasticized materials can be absorbed through your baby’s skin or when s/he breathes. These chemicals can cause a myriad of health problems including asthma and possibly cancer.
PVC is made from 43% carbon and 57% chlorine. The carbon is created from ethylene, which is gas. If you mix that with Phthalates, which is a chemical used to help materials become more flexible and soft, your baby’s mattress is a toxic bed. Phthalates can disrupt endocrine functions of the liver and/or kidneys.
Most importantly, the blending of chlorine and petroleum is a known carcinogen, according to the American Cancer Society.
PBDEs are bad too
We need to revisit flame retardants. PBDEs are chemicals non-organic mattresses are dipped in. If you're checking out a mattress that claims to be organic, but has PBDEs listed then stay away.
These chemicals are known to suppress the immune systems, have an effect on a child’s development, and possibly cause cancer. These things have the chance of impacting baby with chemicals every time he or she uses the bed.
These chemicals are known as chlorofluorocarbons, and they are also used to make mattresses resistant to flames. It is important to make sure your baby’s mattress will not catch on fire, but this chemical is so harmful to health that the Montreal Protocol has banned them for use. This decision was due to CFCs ascending from the lower atmosphere and heading upward toward the ozone layer, which it ultimately destroys.
These chemicals are made up from toxic greenhouse gases, yet they were a common ingredient in mattress production before the late 1980s.
PCB's are related to PBDE's. PCB's are chlorinated hydrocarbons. The EPA says that these chemicals are man made and have a knack for collecting in human and animal fat cells. Their harmful effects range widely and they do not break down in our environment.
PCB’s have been banned since the late 20th century, yet they still might be out there, so keep an eye out. The EPA also says this chemical can cause harm to your baby’s immune system, nervous system, reproductive system, and endocrine system. The EPA also claims that PCB’s can cause cancer and a great deal of health hazards to you and your family.
Stain and water repellents that emit formaldehyde have been used in conventional mattresses. This is the same chemical used for embalming. Use during mattress construction discharges PFOA, or Perfluorooctanoic Acid into the air. This can cause your baby’s eyes to water and possibly cause a burning feeling in their nose and throat. It can also hurt your baby’s breathing and result in asthma.
I just mentioned this chemical in the formaldehyde section, but felt it was worth touching on because it has been found in humans long after they had contact with it. The EPA has said this chemical has caused developmental effects that were adverse in studies. PFOA’s are stubborn and persist long after they are disposed.
Just because a mattress is made of cotton doesn't mean it's organic. Some cotton growers are organic and others are not. Those that are not use harmful pesticides when treating their crops, which can be left over and transfer to baby while she or he sleeps. The skin absorbs a great deal, so it's good to consider pesticides on surfaces baby is frequently touching - just like we consider the food we eat!
Look for Certi-PUR-US label
This label is what you want to see when purchasing a crib mattress. Each product is checked for ozone depleters, PBDEs, mercury, lead, metals, formaldehyde, phthalates, chlorofluorocarbons, VOC (Volatile Organic Compound emissions for indoor air quality, durability, and performance. Each year, manufacturers are required to recertify their organic mattresses to ensure honesty and consumer safety.
Look for Greenguard Certification label
This label is also important because it focuses on the VOCs emitted into your home’s breathable air and how this will affect baby and you. The testing is meticulous for the Greenguard Certificate and it is considered the most comprehensive testing for emissions in the world.
Greenguard and Greenguard Gold are the two certifications offered by this organization. With the Gold certification, Greenguard has tested other chemicals as well as VOC emissions.
Some Options I Recommend
Filled with 100% organic cotton, the Naturepedic mattress offers two sides. One is waterproof for the infant and pre-toddler child who may have a leaky diaper, while the other is quilted with soft materials for when your baby is staying dry at night.
The cotton filling is free of chemicals including bleaches, dyes, synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. There is no latex or wool in this mattress, which may trigger allergies.
The Newton Wovenaire mattress is washable and hypoallergenic. It’s GREENGUARD GOLD Certified and the materials used to create it are made of 100% recyclable materials. The Newton Wovenaire is also 100% breathable. This is a very comfortable mattress for baby.
Another great feature is washability, which means this mattress can continue with your child well into the toddler stage.
The Lullaby Earth is breathable with great airflow. It's also waterproof and lightweight. Free of toxins, this crib mattress is GUARANTEED SELECT Certified and GREENGUARD Certified. It offers great support for baby and meets flammability requirements without any added chemicals.
It comes with a limited lifetime warranty and has the firmness recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for your baby's safety. Another component is the Air-CoreTM, which is a layer added for further support created from 100% food-grade polyethylene, which is utterly toxic free and safe for baby and the environment.