We’re in the process of buying a new mattress for our five year-old. When our oldest was three, we began the journey of finding a good mattress. Since then, that crib-sized mattress has been passed down twice, our oldest has gotten a twin mattress and we bought ourselves a new queen-sized one. Now it’s time for our second to have his “big boy bed”. We’ve learned a lot about healthy sleep on our journey and I thought I’d share some of it with you.
Adults spend about a quarter of their time sleeping. For children, it’s more like a third to a half. Not only that, the entire time is spent breathing the air right next to the mattress and bedding. It only makes sense to keep that air clean and non-toxic.
A typical mattress is a chemical soup of glues, foam, pvc, and let’s not forget flame retardants. For a discussion of the toxicity of flame retardants to humans (especially babies and toddlers who have a higher body burden), as well as their minimal effect on fire deaths, check out this article. There is even some evidence that flame retardants and other chemicals may contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), although this theory has been difficult to prove conclusively.
As a naturally-minded person, it doesn’t take much for me to choose a non-toxic product over a toxic one, but when it comes to my kids, there simply is no choice. Until our regulatory bodies rule according to the precautionary principle, we’ll have to do it for ourselves the best we can.
So. When it comes to natural mattresses, there are several things to consider. These days, most natural mattress companies choose organic cotton for the fabric covering as well as the fill (in an innerspring mattress). Organic means that you don’t have to worry about pesticide residue in the fabric.
You can also choose a waterproof organic cotton cover, which can be nice for younger children. The waterproofing is made from polyethylene, which is a food-grade plastic that doesn’t off-gas. I’m torn on the idea of plastic, but I definitely understand the benefit of waterproofing a kid’s mattress!
You also have the choice between natural latex (Dunlop or Talalay have different densities), innerspring, and natural memory foam (this was a new and intriguing one to me). Latex is heavier, but much more durable. Innerspring is lighter and generally less expensive, but will compress within 10 years or so. The memory foam strives for greater comfort and is one of the more pricey choices.
And what about that tricky flame retardant issue? There are choices there too. Some companies choose to treat their mattresses with boric acid, which meets the standard, but may be harmful to developing tissues, the lungs, and the reproductive system. That new memory foam company actually uses Kevlar as its fire retardant material. You can also get a doctor’s note and have your mattress made without any flame retardant at all. As it turns out, though, wrapping a mattress in wool renders it flame resistant and this is what many companies choose to do.
The first time around, we chose a Vivetique innerspring crib mattress. We’ve used it for seven years, through three children, and it has held up marvelously.
When we bought our older daughter’s twin and our queen, we got them at the same time from a local store, The Natural Sleep Store. You can’t beat buying from a local business and their customer service is wonderful. The mattresses are both organic cotton/wool innersprings. I suggest going for a less-firm mattress or getting a mattress topper, as they are pretty firm, but we’ve been very happy with them for the last three years.
Now we’re on the hunt again. We may go with the Natural Sleep Store again, or we may choose one of the on-line retailers, some of whom are less expensive or are running specials. Here are a few I’ve found: (I should mention that I’m not affiliated in any way with any of the companies in this article.)
Have you used a natural mattress? What is your experience?