Finding the best nontoxic crib mattress for your baby seems to get more challenging, especially as we learn more about how harmful traditional mattresses can be.
There’s much to learn about organic versus non-organic, and latex fibers versus rubber or cotton. And don’t get us started about finding which companies are GOTS certified through the entire process.
As much time as we take picking out the perfect crib and adorable sheets, a safe nontoxic crib mattress is often an afterthought determined by cost rather than quality.
That being said, there is some unnerving data around the effects of chemicals made in traditional baby mattress production.
“Our research shows mattresses can be a significant source of chemical contaminants in the nursery and bedroom,” says Dr. Brandon E. Boor, an assistant professor of civil engineering at Purdue (source).
Crib mattresses are generally composed of polyurethane foam, a petroleum-derived synthetic material. And they often contain adhesives and other chemical additives. The foam core is usually enveloped with a waterproof cover. These mattress components can release harmful VOCs, some of which can cause respiratory and nervous system damage (source).
First, here’s what to look for when buying a crib mattress plus our recommendations. Or if you’re looking to start off with baby in your room, take a look at our guide to safe, nontoxic bassinets.
Further down, you’ll find more information on which materials and additives you should avoid and why.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A NONTOXIC CRIB MATTRESS
Choosing the best nontoxic mattress for your baby is imperative. With the right information, you can make an informed choice. Keep these requirements in mind:
- Choose a mattress that is entirely GOTS or GOLS certified. This ensures your crib mattress was made in a certified facility with rigorous standards. For example, “natural latex” is not the same as GOLS-certified latex because the former can contain up to 30% synthetic materials, including polyurethane foam which is toxic and highly flammable.
- Make sure it hasn’t been sprayed with chemical flame retardants (learn more below).
- Choose a mattress without petroleum-based foam. Also beware of brands claiming to use a soy-based foam. You should ask whether it’s 100% soy (many mix a small percentage of soy-based foam in with the highly flammable polyurethane foam), and whether there are chemicals mixed into the foam itself.
- Avoid vinyl waterproofing. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is the most toxic plastic for our health and the environment. (source) Choose an organic waterproof pad from our recommendations below.
- Look for a mattress that is made in the USA. Many crib mattresses are made in China, where oversight, quality control, and contamination are often issues.
- Avoid synthetic or recycled materials. A truly organic crib mattress won’t contain polyester or recycled content.
THE BEST ORGANIC CRIB MATTRESSES
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The nonprofit Getting Ready for Baby Coalition’s report The Mattress Still Matters found that the majority of crib mattresses evaluated were made with chemicals of concern.
Naturepedic’s No-Compromise Organic Baby Crib Mattress was the only mattress found to be both fully transparent with component claims and made with no hazardous chemicals.
Naturepedic is known industry wide as the best in the nontoxic crib mattress category. They are made in the USA. Naturepedic’s mattresses exceed all baby sleep safety standards, and their mattresses are GOTS, GOLS, Non-GMO, Greenguard Gold certified, and Green America certified.
The company regularly tests their products for chemical emissions, and they are certified to be formaldehyde-free. And you can rest easily knowing there are never any toxic flame retardants sprayed on their mattresses.
Use GREENCHILD15 to get 15% off the purchase of Naturepedic top-rated, certified organic mattresses and accessories.
The Emily crib mattress doesn’t contain polyurethane foam, VOCs, vinyl waterproofing, polyester, pesticides, formaldehyde, or chemical flame retardants. The top pad on the mattress is made of GOTS-certified organic coconut fibers and GOLS-certified organic latex, making it both breathable and antibacterial.
The quilted cover is GOTS-certified organic wool and GOTS-certified organic cotton. Wool is naturally fire resistant. The organic wool layer helps to regulate temperature while also being hypoallergenic and resistant to mold, mildew, and dust.
A higher end, waterproof crib mattress, Naturepedic’s organic breathable 2-stage mattress starts with a firm, flat waterproof surface made from non-GMO sugarcane that is so pure, it actually meets food contact standards and easily wipes clean. Organic, waterproof and breathable with a luxurious quilted finish, thicker breathable layer and designer fabric. It’s also great for the transition to a toddler bed.
Use GREENCHILD15 to get 15% off the purchase of Naturepedic top-rated, certified organic mattresses and accessories.
For an oval crib, Naturepedic’s organic oval mattress features organic cotton fabric & filling as part of a healthier, non-toxic design plus a patented food-grade waterproof surface made from non-GMO sugarcane that easily wipes clean.
This version also passes all federal and state flammability standards without any fire retardant chemicals or flame barriers whatsoever. In addition to using certified organic components, the entire mattress is certified organic and non-toxic as well.
You can use code GREENCHILD15 to get 15% off of Naturepedic top-rated, certified organic mattresses and accessories.
Protect the crib mattress from diaper leaks, spit-up, and other messes. Get all the safety and comfort benefits of a breathable mattress with the convenience and practicality of a removable and washable layer.
This organic cover also helps with airflow, keeping baby more comfortable with a reduced risk of overheating.
Some parents use an organic mattress protector to provide a nontoxic layer between baby and a conventional mattress.
Once again you can use GREENCHILD15 to get 15% off of your Naturepedic purchase.
WHY VOC EXPOSURE IS ESPECIALLY TROUBLING FOR BABIES
“A baby’s exposure to chemical contaminants in their crib mattresses can be amplified since they sleep for 12 to 14 hours every day and inhale air just inches above the mattress surface, where the concentrations of the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) can be about twice as high as standing just a few feet away,” he said. “Their body heat also increases VOC emissions.”
As it stands, federal law does not require mattress companies to list the chemicals they use in their production processes.
A vast number of chemicals such as boric acid, antimony, modacrylic, formaldehyde, and polyurethane foam are used in the production of baby mattresses. Some of these chemicals are used in the construction of the mattress, glues, or as flame retardants.
When these off-gas, some of these chemicals may be linked to increases in many ailments, including allergies, eczema, organ toxicity, liver issues, and even cancer.
MATTRESS OFF-GASSING AND SIDS
When discussing baby sleep safety, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and risk of suffocation is a top concern for new parents.
KidsHealth.org says SIDS is the leading cause of death for children between the age of 1 month and 1 year of age. It claims the lives of about 2,500 children each year in the United States. There is no definitive cause for this terrifyingly unpredictable condition, although there are many possible risk factors leading to SIDS.
While the correlation between SIDS and mattress off-gassing is still being investigated, there is reason to consider a connection. When the SIDS epidemic had its first major awareness campaign in 1994, a “Back to Sleep” initiative was suggested (and is still promoted) to parents and caregivers.
This is the first time that back sleeping, running a fan, and keeping baby from overheating were advised. These solutions could explain a connection to off-gassing.
These tactics would put baby’s face away from the surface of the mattress. It also circulates the chemicals up in lower concentrations and throughout the room rather than directly in baby’s direct breathing space. And baby’s sweat and body heat wouldn’t activate a higher concentration of the gasses.
5 COMMON OFF-GASSING CRIB MATTRESS MATERIALS
Certain off-gassing fumes are way more harmful than others. The following are some of the worst off-gassing offenders in crib mattresses and their potential health risks to your little one.
1. Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
PFAS are a common chemical additive for waterproofing crib mattresses. PFAS are linked to a growing number of serious health concerns like kidney cancer, lowered birth weights, and immune and endocrine system disruption. The latest tests show that 99% of the population has measurable amounts of PFAS in their bloodstream. (source)
A vinyl crib mattress surface is a potent source of off-gassing as the phthalates (a known animal carcinogen) do not stick well to vinyl and therefore circulate in the air. Vinyl and phthalate exposure has been linked to:
- Nervous system dysregulation
- Behavioral issues
- Child IQ deficits
- Decrease in memory
When inhaled, formaldehyde can also cause irritation and damage to the nose, throat and lungs and can increase the risk of developing asthma. This toxin can also still be found in many crib mattresses as an adhesive.
4. Flame Retardant Chemicals
Flame retardant chemicals are added to baby crib mattresses with the intention of preventing or slowing the spread of fires. Although perhaps well-intentioned, these harmful substances have been linked to:
- Neurological impairments
- Immune and endocrine system disruption
- Chronic health issues
5. Polyurethane Foam/Memory Foam
Most mainstream foam mattresses are actually made of mostly petroleum based materials – which are highly flammable (think gasoline) and sprayed with toxic flame retardants. To reiterate why a mattress made of gasoline is bad, watch the video in this post.
What’s more, polyurethane foam is highly flammable, meaning that it requires all those toxic flame retardants we just discussed. It is also a porous material that compresses to trap heat and can make babies or toddlers feel hot and sweaty. Without proper waterproofing, this porous material can harbor mold and contribute to respiratory issues.
Picking the best nontoxic mattress can be a daunting task. But we’re lucky to have companies today that are dedicated to baby sleep safety.
You can use Greenchild15 to get 15% off the purchase of their top-rated, certified organic mattresses and accessories.
Naturepedic exceeds all baby sleep safety standards. This brand avoids the use of latex in their organic crib mattresses for a more allergen-friendly design made specifically for babies and children. Their waterproof mattresses, pads, and accessories feature a patented waterproof surface. And they are all made without harmful chemicals. Further, Naturepedic meets or exceeds all GOTS, GOLS, Non-GMO, Greenguard and Green America certifications.
BABY SLEEP SAFETY + FLAME RETARDANTS
If you’re like us, once you learned about flame retardants, you probably believed that the tradeoff for inhaling chemicals all night was that if a fire broke out in your home, your mattress wouldn’t catch and your family would have more time to get out safely.
It turns out – that belief is mostly wrong.
Any brand you choose should pass all federal and state flammability standards without the use of any fire retardant chemicals or flame retardant barriers.
Mattress companies are not required to disclose all of the chemicals they use in their products. Many companies soak mattresses in flame-retardant chemicals like polybrominated diphenyl ether, better known as PBDE.
These chemicals are highly toxic, and you don’t have the right to know if they’re included. These chemicals can accumulate in the body through skin and inhalation exposure and are known endocrine disruptors. Exposure can be associated with brain, hormonal, and reproductive damage.
Cotton or wool have been used successfully to inhibit flames and pass the government’s flammability requirements. Silica is another mostly natural, non-toxic fire blocker. Boric acid will be in some crib mattresses as a flame retardant, but is debatable when it comes to baby sleep safety.
Naturepedic is one of the rare companies who use zero flame retardant chemicals (even the more “natural” ones) and still meet all state and federal standards for fire safety.
In addition to using certified organic components, your best nontoxic mattress choice is one where the entire crib mattress is also certified organic to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Mattresses that are safe for your body are also eco-friendly.
If you plan on co-sleeping, be sure to follow safe co-sleeping guidelines and make sure your bed is also safe from harmful off-gassing chemicals. For big kid and adult size beds, we recommend the high-quality, nontoxic mattresses from Naturepedic and their more budget-conscious counterpart, Happsy.
When you buy a nontoxic crib mattress, you won’t have to worry about what untold chemicals might be wafting around your baby’s sleeping space… because there simply won’t be any.
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