Thursday, June 9, 2011

Childhood Safety Debates Begin with the Crib Purchase

SustainaMom isn't expecting, but her sister is...

What is the quickest way for a mom to toss her green principles to the side? Suggest something eco-friendly is bad for her child.

Enter the crib mattress debate, where reusing a mattress is clearly eco-friendly but could be dangerous for infants.

I shopped for a crib mattress 5 years ago, and still remember the anxiety of the process. And that was before I had read much about off-gassing or the chemicals used in flame retardants for mattresses.

But I distinctly remember reading that used crib mattresses correlate to a higher incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). And I've told the parents of second and third children ever since.

However, I have also read about wrapping a used mattress — or even a new mattress — to prevent SIDS, and the idea stuck with me. The theory (which I do not believe has been proven or disproven) is that a child’s diaper leaks and mixes with chemicals in mattresses (including fire retardants). This leads to the growth of bacteria or fungi that results in toxic gases. Wrapping a mattress in impermeable plastic protects a sleeping infant from the gases.

I recently asked my sister — who is expecting her third child! — if she is planning to buy a new crib mattress or use one of the two mattresses she already has. We’ve been researching to find the best answer.

It is a shame to bring another mattress into the house, but if it is scientifically safer, of course any parent who can afford to do so is going to spend the money on a new mattress. Right?

If one could safely wrap a mattress, that would prevent the use of more materials to construct a new mattress. On the other hand, wrapping uses plastic. Would it be better to buy an organic crib mattress? Apparently, waterproof organic mattresses are covered in the same plastic that can be purchased to cover an older mattress. And a non-waterproof new organic mattress would need to be covered by a separate cover anyway, right?

Help us out. What are we missing? What crib mattress solution have you used for the health of your children?

And while we’re on the subject, does anyone have suggestions for eco-friendly child-safe covers for twin mattresses during that difficult night-time potty-training period?


Cheryl said...

Thanks for the post, even though I'm not an already parent or a parent-to-be I had no idea that crib mattresses were something we would have to worry about when becoming parents. I look forward to seeing what advice other people have.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post and deserves a well thought out answer. Personally, i am expecting my 2nd in a few weeks and we are going to use the mattress that my first used..he was only in the crib for a year. I am going to throw this question at my CEO who sits on the board of JPMA and helps in writing safety legistlation for crib safety. Not to mention we recently acquired a mattress company here in the USA. Safety is always first as you yourself stated in the post. I hope to have a reply for you shortly. I'd like to get a perspective from him. thx, ileana

mb said...

cosleeping... that made my decision easy about cribs, as in, none needed. as for night potty training mattress protection, a few used wool blankets (army surplus thick ones are great) is a great way to go. wool is super absorbent, a natural fiber, and if it retains any of its natural lanolin (or if you re-lanolize it) it can repel a lot of moisture, as well as taking care of odor (so you don't have to wash it between each urine-soaking, believe it or not. just let it dry, and usually the smell is gone. if it retains odor once dry, then a wash is called for.)

Dianna said...

I don't worry about wrapping a mattress but I would do that over buying another. A little bit of plastic use isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

A mattress is one of those things including car seats that I wouldn't buy used but I do use it for multiple children. In the case of car seats I use them until they expire. I don't even worry about organic cotton when I brought my mattress I just looked into coil number and firmness. In retrospect the firmest mattress out there does not help the night waking situation.

mb said...

cosleeping helps the night waking situation too. ;) ok off my soapbox.

Dianna said...

I do a mixture of different sleeping arrangements including cosleeping full time and part time but two of my babies did not do well with cosleeping all night when they were older babies ; )

Terra@TheSimplePoppy said...

Eh, not everyone can co-sleep, if you can't then your baby has to sleep somewhere :) For my first daughter we bought a regular mattress and wrapped it. The 2nd baby never made it to the crib, she ended up sleeping in a large playpen which I simply padded with several folded up quilts. She loves it so much that she's still there at almost three and I'm worried about how I will get her out! The other alternative a lot of people I know do is an organic or chemical flame retardant free futon on the floor for baby, either in the parents room or the baby's room.

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

Wow, this is definitely a tough one. Personally, rather than worry about the "toxic gases" for which I have seen little science, I would avoid polyurethane foam (which is known to contain a soup of toxic chemicals) and flame retardants (also linked to plenty of bad stuff), if at all possible. If I used a crib mattress (we co-sleep) it would be made of all-natural materials, probably cotton and wool (you can meet flame retardant regulations with sufficient wool). I don't worry about wool as an allergen, although you will find stuff about that on the Internet. I've used wool puddle pads with all my kids, and just feel better about natural materials than even the safest plastics (although I do trust Greenguard certification to show no off-gassing).

I've also used wool puddle pads on my older kid's bed. They are definitely waterproof *enough* for drips and leaks, not for a full-on pee (bed-wetting in underwear). I've heard a fleece blanket can also work as almost waterproof, or try a mostly wool blanket from an army supply store.

Here is a cheap army supply wool blanket:

Here is where I get all my wool puddle pads (cheapest place I've found online)-- Bed sizes:

Crib sizes:

SustainaMom said...

Thanks, everyone! My sister & I very much appreciate all of your opinions & suggestions!

Anonymous said...

Can someone please tell my 9 month-old that she should stop waking up at night, since we have co-slept since the day she was born!

I live in Korea, where co-sleeping is the norm and babies sleep on the floor on what is basically a comforter-thick mat. My mother brought a play "yard" from Canada and my daughter screams bloody murder when put in it. However, she will go lie down on her Korean bed and put herself to sleep when she's tired if allowed to sleep on the floor. This crib mattress question is something I never even considered. Good luck.


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