Baby is most likely one month out, so Kate and I went on the big shopping trip today. Our wonderful friends and family provided us with plenty of Target and Babies-R-Us cards (and cash!), enabling us to make those big purchases – crib, mattress, and stroller.
We wanted a certain mattress from Target, but apparently the Osage Beach Target has had a rush on crib mattresses – there were none left (except one in a display crib)! And the one remaining on display was not what we wanted. So began the online search. So began my renewed disdain for government regulations (bringing things like flame-retardant-coated bedding products into our lives). So began my pursuit of the perfect mattress. I might not have found it, but I did find some helpful information (and some scandalously-deceptive marketing).
Things to look out for when you’re buying a baby crib mattress:
- “Organic cotton”
Check in the description to see exactly where the organic cotton is. Certain products, such as the Serta Nightstar Ecofirm Mattress claim eco-friendliness, but if you read the description, only the top part is made of organic cotton. The filler is who-knows-what, and the sleeping-surface is laminated. So who cares about the organic cotton top-section?
- Flame retardants and other chemicals
There are federal regulations for flame retardants, but I tend not to think they’re strict enough (our government simply has a bad track record). If the product simply mentions being flame retardant, look elsewhere. It may contain the PBDE retardant called decaBDE. You can always email the manufacturer and ask. PBDEs are quickly becoming obsolete in the U.S. (decaBDE is the only one currently in production), but they only have become so in recent years. So a 5-year-old mattress may contain carcinogenic chemicals you don’t want baby sleeping on. A good mattress (baby or otherwise) will brag about its abstinence from PBDE usage.
Recently, several baby-furniture companies got in legal trouble for marketing their rayon-containing products as being eco-friendly and made of bamboo. For example, the Stearns & Foster Baby Dynasty Eco-Luxe Mattress. Rayon is derived from bamboo fibers. However, the manufacturing process involves many a chemical bath, and even dioxin-emission (the unforgivable sin for we who care about the air). Dioxin is a serious carcinogen. So skip the mattresses that attribute their eco-friendliness to being “bamboo-derived.” Deceptive at the least.
- Phthlates, BPA, and Polyurethane
Phthlates and BPA have hit enough headlines lately for their health risks, that you don’t have to look far to find a mattress without them.
Polyurethane, however, is still out there in force. And it is definitely a concern. Memory foam is generally polyurethane. Other mattresses will use cotton blended with polyurethane foam. One product, the Da Vinci Willow Natural Crib and Toddler Bed Mattress, brags about its usage of “latex-free” foam (a desirable feature for those allergic to latex). However, a manufacturer-response on Walmart.com’s listing of this product revealed that the foam is polyurethane (the product description simply skipped this little detail). Latex is derived from rubber-tree sap, and, if you’re not allergic, seems to me the preferable option.
There are undoubtedly more things to consider. A good principle seems to be “the simpler, the better.” I actually have dreams of making a goose-down mattress someday. Or at least a pillow. That would be the ultimate in natural; I just have to get some geese (oh, they’re on the list of future-farm animals). But if you don’t have a million geese to pluck, I say: stick with cotton, avoid chemicals (as filler or as sprayed-on flame retardants), and be not deceived by clever marketing for a poor product.
We settled on the Naturepedic Organic Baby Crib and Toddler Bed Mattress – Classic 150 model. It was $259.99 on toysrus.com, and fit my non-toxic, cotton-constructed desires. It does have a waterproof surface, but it’s food-grade polyethylene, so we went with it. You can see it here. There is also a more-expensive model, with an “upgraded” comfort construction, but we decided not to go with it.
In conclusion, the best thing to do is be an informed consumer, be skeptical of marketing, buy with an eye towards Christian conscientious creation-care, and then trust God to care for your baby better than you can. In spite of our technology-soaked, industrialized, chemical drenched world, God tends and preserves us. And that’s, thankfully, always the last word.