A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about wool puddle pads. But I realized that I jumped into the middle of the story. The first chapter, of course, should have been buying an organic mattress.
Here are some things to consider when it is time to buy a new mattress:
Is organic worth the money?
If you need a new mattress, you will find out pretty quickly that organic mattresses are expensive – assume at least three times the price of regular mattresses. It’s a lot, but I think worth it when you consider what’s in conventional mattresses.
Covered in vinyl or PVC and often filled with foam that releases fumes like formaldehyde, conventional mattresses are chemical boxes that your kids sleep on for eight to ten hours nightly. In addition, by law, the mattresses have to be treated with fire-retardant polybrominated diphenyl ethers which has been showing up in all our bodies - including breastmilk. PBDE has been linked to everything from hormone disruption to learning problems and even cancer. This chemical has been banned in the European Union and California, but not in the rest of US yet.
Our kids spend a great deal of time sleeping (okay sometimes at 6AM I wish it were a bit more, but in general – lots of sleeping.). Given the potential exposures to toxins, I vote for taking the plunge, spending the extra dough, and buying organic.
What type - Organic Cotton, Wool or Latex?
Many of these “green” mattresses are made up of a combination of organic cotton, wool (a natural fire retardant – replacing the need to treat with PBDEs) and natural latex (sustainably sourced). The mattress cores are usually either an innerspring system or natural latex. Both are good. The innerspring system is usually recommended for infants and younger children as it is can be firmer, which is recommended to protect against SIDS and can hold up to more sitting on the edges of the mattress, jumping, perhaps even a little wrestling. I have bought two innerspring twin mattresses with organic cotton and wool batting and one natural latex mattress. Both are extremely comfortable. My one complaint about the latex mattress is that it is extremely heavy and I have a hard time lifting it up. However, I do think it is nice and firm so that hasn’t been a problem for us.
Where to Buy
- Dax Stores – Dax offers a collection of wool and cotton innerspring mattresses from Vivetique including a cotton-only innerspring mattresses for people allergic to wool. As the cotton-only mattress does not contain wool, a natural flame retardant, you have to get a note from a doctor stating that you are chemically sensitive before you buy one. The Vivetique line is a bit more reasonably priced than some of the other organic mattresses.
- Naturepedic – Naturepedic is the manufacturer of their own line of baby and toddler mattresses. They make a waterproof organic baby crib mattress designed with a safe food grade polyethylene cover. I understand the importance of keeping the mattress dry as mold and bacteria can grow if it gets wet. But I must admit that I would ask some questions about the plastic cover before buying. This is also one of the more reasonably priced versions.
- Lifekind – Lifekind is also the manufacturer of their mattresses. I like them because they only make organic mattresses in their own factory in Northern California. Check out their greenwashing 101 link with questions to ask other manufacturer. When buying my own organic mattresses, I asked the manufacturer to show me the organic certificate for the cottons and wool. Make sure you know what you are getting.
- Savvy Rest – I bought my daughter a natural latex twin mattress from Savvy - great customer service. They are extremely helpful and will talk you through all the decisions of what you should get. They offer several different types of mattresses with numerous choices on levels of firmness.
There is lot to think about and it is a very expensive purchase. But if you are in the market for a new mattress, I would recommend putting a “green” mattress high up on your list.
Cheapskate tip – If your mattress is a few years old, it may well be done off-gassing. For an old or new conventional mattress that you like, you can consider buying a very tight mattress cover here and skip the cost of a new mattress.
Questions? Comments? If you have any recommendations or experiences buying your own organic mattress I would love to hear about them.
Francesca Olivieri is co-founder of sage baby, an online eco-friendly baby store offering everything from organic clothes and skin care to furniture. She also runs a green consulting business; blogs for The Family Groove and Scenic Hudson; and contributes to Daily Candy Kids, YogaCity, Citiscoop, and NRDC’s Simple Steps. Please visit her website at FrancescaOlivieri.com.