Wool Crib Mattresses: What are the Pros and Cons?

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Written by Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT


Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

Sustainability Expert

Leigh Matthews is a sustainability expert and long time vegan. Her work on solar policy has been published in Canada's National Observer.


Wool can be an excellent natural material for a crib mattress, but there are some downsides. Let’s explore the pros and cons of wool crib mattresses.

Table of Contents
  1. Wool crib mattresses are water repellent – not water resistant
  2. Wool is not vegan-friendly
  3. Be sure to avoid sheepskin

What we like about wool crib mattresses

  • Natural moisture wicking
  • Natural temperature regulation
  • Firm
  • No off-gassing
  • Mold resistant

What could be better

  • Some infants develop a sensitivity to treated wool
  • Water repellant but not water resistant
  • Expensive
  • Heavy

Wool naturally wicks moisture away from skin and is flame-resistant and antimicrobial, making it an ideal material for a crib mattress. A wool mattress or mattress top can help your baby maintain a comfortable body temperature, keeping them cool in summer and warm and cozy in winter. Wool doesn’t off-gas nasty chemicals, is naturally resistant to mold and mildew and is resistant to dust mites.

how firm are wool crib mattresses?

Wool is also fairly firm, making it a good fit for a crib mattress as it won’t compress and conform to a baby’s body and create a safety hazard as a softer mattress might.

Unfortunately, though, some infants can develop a sensitivity to lanolin although not usually to wool itself. And, as wool mattress covers are water repellent because of their lanolin content (some even have lanolin added), the risk for a lanolin allergy may be higher than with regular wool. That said, many ‘wool’ allergies are actually thought to be allergies to the chemicals used to process non-organic wool, and you’ll probably use a cotton top sheet over any wool layer anyway, so your baby won’t have any direct contact with wool itself. 

See also: The best crib mattresses

Indeed, wool puddle pads are very popular for placing on top of a waterproof mattress and under a cotton cover sheet for added protection. These puddle pads can be quickly removed and hung to dry as needed, with the waterproof mattress cover just needing a quick wipe down to keep it clean. As cotton absorbs moisture and wool wicks it away, it’s a good idea to combine a cotton pad on top of a wool pad to minimize the potential for wetness to penetrate the wool pad. Be sure to check that any wool puddle pads are 100% certified organic wool as some pads contain synthetic fibers. The two best options I can find are Holy Lamb and Home of wool.

Wool crib mattresses are water repellent – not water resistant

Bear in mind that while wool is water-repellent, it is not, however, water-resistant. This means that you’ll still want to buy a mattress with a waterproof cover made with food-grade polyethylene, or cover a crib mattress with a waterproof polyethylene cover and use an extra wool puddle pad for protection.

The main downsides of a totally wool crib mattress are the potential expense and the heaviness, with greater resource use than may be necessary. Although it’s nowhere near as environmentally taxing as making a polyurethane foam mattress, wool production does have an impact on the environment and wool that isn’t organic may be produced with chemical pesticide and fertilizer inputs and other chemicals such as bleach. Most mattresses made with wool only use it as a cover layer topped with cotton, with the interior of the mattress made up of cotton batting, innersprings, latex, or other material. This makes for a much lighter and typically cheaper mattress.

Wool is not vegan-friendly

One other downside of wool is that it’s not vegan-friendly, although some sources of wool are considerably better in terms of animal welfare. In the US, wool marked with the PureGrow™ label comes from Californian farms that practice sustainable sheep ranching. EcoWool is similar, and both are arguably preferable to New Zealand wool in terms of animal welfare. Wool certified USDA Organic is also a decent option as is any wool product with GOTS certification. 

To really up your eco game, look for organic wool that carries the European kfB certificate awarded to products made with wool sourced with minimal animal exploitation.

While I typically don’t buy products made with wool, being vegan, I am very likely to look for a cruelty-free wool crib mattress and wool puddle pads when the time comes to kit out a nursery, given the significant benefits of wool over other crib mattress materials.

Be sure to avoid sheepskin

It’s also important to differentiate a wool mattress or mattress pad from a sheepskin mattress cover. Even if covered by a sheet, soft materials or objects, such as pillows, quilts, comforters, or sheepskins, should not be placed under a sleeping infant. Sheepskins are too soft for infants and could create a suffocation hazard; they should not be used for infants younger than 1 year, as advised by the American Academy of Pediatrics and many other organizations.

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