Setting up your baby’s nursery is both exciting and, let’s face it, expensive. Is an organic crib mattress really necessary? We think so, and here’s why.
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New babies sure need a lot of stuff, and it’s tempting to save money with a cheap crib mattress. Most cheap mattresses are made with off-gassing plastic, though, and don’t create a safe or sustainable sleep environment for your baby.
In contrast, an organic crib mattress supports your baby’s health and your whole family’s health, and is better for the planet too.
|Conventional Crib Mattresses||Organic Crib Mattresses|
|Off-gas toxic chemicals||No harmful chemicals|
|Highly flammable – require chemical flame retardants to meet fire safety standards||No chemical flame retardants necessary|
|Degrade fast, creating a lumpy sleep surface – not suitable to pass onto another child||Durable – can be used for several babies and into toddlerhood|
|Sweaty, with poor breathability||Comfortable and breathable|
|Don’t support healthy growth and development||Safer and healthier for babies|
|Off-gas VOCs and produce harmful, toxic dust||Better for indoor air quality|
|Harm workers and the environment during manufacture||Made sustainably and ethically|
|Don’t fully biodegrade and are hard or impossible to recycle||Biodegradable or recyclable|
It’s clearly best to avoid polyfoam mattresses, but is it really worth the cost to choose organic rather than just a non-organic mattress made with conventional cotton, wool, and innersprings?
Organic vs. Natural – Why it matters for crib mattresses
Natural materials are a far better choice for a crib mattress, but natural doesn’t always means organic, safe, and healthy.
Natural materials can reduce your environmental footprint and avoid some of the pitfalls of conventional polyfoam and synthetic crib mattresses, but organic is always the better choice to safeguard your baby’s health and promote a healthier planet for them to inhabit and inherit.
The problem with pesticides
Groundbreaking research found a variety of pesticides in the brain tissue of fetuses and infants who died of sudden intrauterine unexplained death syndrome (SIUDS) and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) (R).
Fortunately, we can limit exposure to pesticides by choosing products made with organic wool, latex, and cotton. These are grown, sourced, and processed without pesticides, formaldehyde, or other harmful chemicals.
Organic vs. conventional cotton
Conventionally grown cotton is resource-hungry. It involves huge amounts of water and huge amounts of pesticides and other chemicals. These damage the environment and are bad for human health.
Given that you can’t wash a crib mattress to get rid of any residues of these pesticides, I’d definitely avoid buying a crib mattress made with conventional cotton.
Organic wool – a better choice for crib mattresses
Organic wool is almost always a better choice for crib mattresses and any baby products. In most cases, organic certification means that the wool comes from sheep who are better treated and sheared more humanely. And where sheep are treated better, human workers are also usually treated better too.
Many allergies to wool are actually an adverse reaction to the chemicals used to process non-organic wool!
Credible organic certification, such as USDA Organic or GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) also means less or no exposure to pesticides that are harmful to health.
Wool that isn’t organic may come from sheep that graze on land treated with chemical pesticides and fertilizer inputs. The wool itself may also be treated with harsh soaps and cleaning agents, as well as chemicals such as bleach.
Organic latex vs. ‘latex’
Latex crib mattresses are increasingly popular, and for good reason. Latex is a fantastic natural material ideal for a safe sleep surface for infants and toddlers (and adults!).
The trouble is that not all latex is, well, latex. Some mattress makers use synthetic latex (which is basically plastic) to create a greenwashed product that’s not eco-friendly or non-toxic.
In contrast, organic latex is a renewable, sustainable, eco-friendly, non-toxic natural material.
There are two main types of natural latex used in mattress making: Dunlop and Talalay. The first, Dunlop, is usually certified organic to the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) or has Rainforest Alliance Certification or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.
Talalay latex is sometimes cradle to cradle (c2c) certified as eco-friendly and non-toxic, but isn’t typically strictly organic.
Both types of latex are a good choice for crib mattresses, as is Arpico latex (an ultra-dense type of Dunlop latex).
Cost Comparison: Organic vs. Conventional Crib Mattresses
Organic crib mattresses cost more than most conventional plastic mattresses. The difference can be small, though, and an organic crib mattress is well worth it for peace of mind. Depending on your choice, you may also find an organic crib mattress that costs less than a conventional crib mattress made with non-organic materials!
In general, expect to pay between $100 and $250 for a conventional polyurethane and polyester mattresses. For a natural mattress made with non-organic wool and cotton, expect to pay around $250-$300.
An organic crib mattress can cost anywhere from $250 to more than $1,300. The cost depends on the range, quality, sustainability, and certifications of materials and the craftsmanship that goes into the mattress. More complex mattress designs tend to be more expensive.
The upshot is that you can buy an organic crib mattress for less than a conventional crib mattress not made with organic materials!
Score a good deal on an organic crib mattress by planning ahead. Keep an eye on sales in the run-up to your baby’s arrival, or use discount codes.
For 15% off a Naturepedic Crib Mattress (view on Naturepedic) – our top pick for an organic crib mattress – use offer code LEAFSCORE15 at checkout!
An organic crib mattress is a great investment if you plan to have more than one child. Good quality crib mattresses also have higher resell value too, meaning you may recoup some of your initial outlay. Be sure to use an effective waterproof crib mattress cover, though, to protect your investment.
Final thoughts on why an organic crib mattress is necessary
In addition to being a better choice for your baby’s health and the health of your whole household, an organic crib mattress is better for the environment too.
Many crib mattresses are only used for a couple of years and are then discarded. This is in part because synthetic mattresses degrade fast and also because people are (rightly) wary of second hand mattresses for babies.
Every year, millions of mattresses end up in landfill or incinerated. This is hugely wasteful.
Compared to a synthetic mattress, a good quality organic mattress will typically:
- Require less resources overall
- Last longer and be more comfortable
- Be easier to dispose of at end of life
- Be recyclable or biodegradable
- Support good indoor air quality
- Support safe sleep
- Protect the health of workers
- Protect the environment.
All in all, an organic crib mattress is the best way to give your baby the best start in life. Now you know the why, check out our round-up of the best non-toxic, eco-friendly crib mattresses.