Did You Buy an Organic Mattress for Your Baby?

 The truth is, I didn’t. I had no idea that the chemicals used to flameproof mattresses sometimes include arsenic and phosphorus.  Friends who purchased organic crib mattresses spent large amounts of money on their babies without a second thought.  At the time, an organic mattress seemed like an indulgence rather than a necessity.   It has only been in the last six months that I’ve read all the scary facts about traditional mattresses.

Will I buy an organic mattress with our second child?  Absolutely!  I’ve found a few eco-friendly mattresses that are in the $200-$300 dollar range and I’ll spring for one when the time comes.  

Would I consider a used organic mattress? All the data on used mattresses seems to indicate that it dramatically increases the risk of SIDS.  Although SIDS affects a tiny portion of the babies born in the U.S., I don’t know if I’d take the risk.

Dr. James Sprock claims to have cured SIDS with his campaign of “mattress wrapping.”  He theorizes that a common household fungus infects mattresses and breaks down the fire proofing chemicals, resulting in toxic gases that poison babies.  Honestly, the data seems a little shaky and he isn’t in good standing with the SIDS organization, so I’m not convinced.

What did you choose and why?   I’m especially anxious to discover any thrifty solutions for organic mattresses.  Thanks for your input!


  1. No, we didn’t buy an organic crib mattress, because we don’t use a crib. 🙂 But, I guess that would bring us to the question of did we buy an organic queen+twin mattress to make up our family bed, and unfortunately the answer is also no. Way out of our price range. Ollie usually sleeps snuggled up on my arm, so hopefully he’s not breathing in too much nasty stuff. 🙁

  2. Good point, April, about family beds. While an organic crib mattress can be found for $200, as Joy said, even a normal queen-sized mattress can cost over $1000. One alternative to a totally organic mattress might be a latex bed. Some of the memory foam beds are made from latex, which is natural, rather than other types of foam. Of course, some people have problems with latex allergies, so that wouldn’t work for them. And I have no idea if they are supposed to be better for babies or not–I just thought of it!

  3. Yes, Liam sleeps on an organic crib mattress. After doing the research, I realized that there was no way I would want my little baby sleeping in a toxic bed. My mother bought his mattress as a gift from organicgrace.com for around $200 (shipping was free). We’ve only been pleased with it. It is made out of 100% organic cotton and wool and has springs in it. I’ve heard that for children with wool sensitivity, the latex mattresses are a better choice (although a bit pricier).
    We don’t have problems with wool, which is why we also opted for wool puddle pads instead of a traditional mattress cover (most of which are made of pvc and off-gas toxic chemicals continuously). Wool pads are ridiculously expensive, so I cut up a hefty wool camping blanket we never used and made a crib pad, a bassinet pad, and 2 changing table pads out of the one blanket. I lanolized the entire lot and have never had any problems with leaks.
    We also use organic sheets (which I bought used on ebay for half the new price).
    It’s really easy to be overwhelmed with the number of hazardous everyday baby items most people willingly buy and think they have to have. We make a focused effort to follow Thoreau’s advice to “Simplify, simplify, simplify!” The less stuff you have, the less you have to worry about. We opt out of most of the gadgety baby items, which leaves more money for buying the quality safer necessities.

  4. We have a chemical filled crib mattress for our little one. We actually bought it years ago for our first baby and did not know any better. Would we buy the same one again today? I would say we would not but it would have to find a way to work it’s way into our tight budget. AND since I gave my daughter’s my lovely wool allergy we would have to go with the more expensive options.

    My older daughter has had her eyes on a bunkbed since her baby sister was born. When they are finally old enough for it we will be buying a really nice organic mattress for them since they will be sleeping on it for many, many years.

  5. only 4 years ago with my first son I never heard of such a thing. If there is a third I may consider it. I am sure the price will go down some by then…here’s hoping

  6. We didn’t – when Freddie was born four years ago, I wasn’t aware of these things. Since we ended up opting to co-sleep, the few minutes Freddie spent – and newborn Fiona spends – on the mattress every day seem insignificant.

    We do plan to buy organic when we replace our queen mattress – but we’re also hoping our 10 y.o. mattress lasts until we have the option of recycling it. With choices like this, I’m torn between using the serviceable items we have and pitching our un-green gear into a landfill. I did get rid of our Avent bottles, but a mattress just seems so … well, big.

    For Freddie’s “big boy” bed, we’re using a traditional cotton futon. It’s not organic – we’ve since found a local store that can order them, but too late – but it sidesteps some of the issues with foam, etc. in mattresses. I think.

  7. Fern, I wonder about that too. There is nothing “green” about buying a new, organic mattress and tossing out the toxin-filled normal one you bought in the first place. However, if you do enough reading you get paranoid about your child ingesting chemicals all night long, and then you start to wonder if you are sacrificing your child’s health for the sake of the planet and a couple hundred bucks! Agh!

    I like the idea of a cotton futon. Once Audrey transitions to a twin-sized bed, I will consider that!

  8. To save money (and space) I bought my daughter a “mini crib” before she was born and an organic mattress to go with it. Because it’s a smaller crib, the mattress cost less. Here’s where I bought mine and so far, I’ve been very pleased:


  9. Thanks so much for all the wonderful comments! The thoughts on co-sleeping with a traditional mattress have me thinking about that as well. We have owned our full size mattress for nearly a decade and prided ourselves with surviving in our smallish bed (on a futon frame with no box spring) while I was pregnant and while we co-slept with Roscoe. Since we were thinking about needing a queen size mattress soon anyway, we should consider organic. Still, the price tag is intimidating! Maybe I’ll search for a gently used queen sized mattress on craigslist. I hope we can get several more perspectives on this important topic.

  10. This has been my biggest green challenge. If I used a crib, I would buy an organic mattress. However, I co-sleep. When my son was born, I didn’t know anything about these issues, and just continued sleeping on my conventional mattress. Once I looked into the issue, and it was time to get a new mattress, I settled on a mostly synthetic latex mattress from IKEA, since that avoids PU foam, which supposedly off-gasses forever as it breaks down, and also avoids the worst flame retardants (since IKEA doesn’t use them). As for bedding, it took me a LONG time to find waterproof stuff which was not vinyl. I found some decently priced crib wool puddle pads (about $50). Then I got organic twin sheets on clearance at Mervyns and a twin-sized wool puddle pad for “just” $70 (still painfully expensive, but the best price I could find by far) when I thought I was moving my son to a twin bed. But he’s still with us. I couldn’t cough up the money for a queen wool pad, so instead I bought a waterproof queen pad at IKEA, which is made of PUL, not vinyl. And it didn’t smell after I aired it out and washed it. I figure, it’s in his cloth diapering covers, so it’s not too bad, right? A mattress is one thing I will not buy used. I believe that waterproof covers and wool covers are both supposed to reduce the amount of gasses from the mattress that reach the sleeper, but I’m not 100% confident about that.
    It’s basically been compromises all the way. By the way, I got most of my info on bedding choices from The Green Guide by National Geographic. I feel they are reputable and reasonable — not too alarmist. They also look at environmental and personal effects separately, which is nice for those who prioritize one above the other. I also looked in Healthy Child, Healthy World — some useful suggestions, but I agree with this website’s authors that they can be a bit over the top.

  11. We used a regular (non-organic) crib mattress for my son, who’s now 2 1/2. I knew organic was better (in a vague way) but didn’t actually know about the toxins. He moved to a “big-boy” bed (a futon with a cotton-and-foam futon pad) at 15 months–though he spends half the night there and the second half of the night (whenever he wakes up) co-sleeping in our bed. We do have a mattress pad on the futon and I don’t know what chemicals may be in that… but for our bed we just use an old, thick blanket as a mattress pad (we have a pillow-top mattress).

    I do hope that as more people start to use organic items the price will become more affordable. I think for a bed mattress it makes sense to spend more if you can, as you will probably use it for 10-20 years. For items that will be used for a year or less I find it a little harder to get worked up about it.

  12. We don’t have organic mattresses for our girls but I wish we did or that we at least had something to wrap around their mattresses. I’m confused on that point, what exactly do you wrap your mattress in? Orgainic mattress pads or something else? Gotta work on finding that out.
    A little bit back I did do some research and found that the IKEA mattresses weren’t as bad as regular mattresses as far as flame retardants (because they don’t have them) and they’re a whole lot cheaper. I got that info from EWG ( I actually did a post on it too). I was hoping to get one for our crib as I moved our littlest little into it from the pack n play (which I’m sure has it’s own issues). I never did get one though b/c our nearest IKEA is 5 hours away and I think there’s only one, maybe 2, mattresses that ship.
    After being reminded again of it’s importance maybe I’ll go back and think about getting some from IKEA. We definately will for the twin. Right now we’re in a crib and a toddler bed so I have a hard time shelling out for something that won’t be used for very long.

  13. Sara:
    Ikea beds are definitely better than most mainstream crib beds because they aren’t covered in vinyl which is loaded with PVC but they are treated with a fire retardant. (I recently called them and checked.) If you live in Canada, Ikea’s mattresses are free from chemical fire retardants but here in America it’s required.

    The mattress wrapping campaign of Dr. Sprock involves using polyethylene plastic to wrap around the top and side surfaces. Since polyethylene is food-grade and doesn’t decompose in the way vinyl does, he believes this method will be enough to protect the baby from toxic gases that are emitted as the mattress breaks down. You can buy a mattress wrap for just $30 on a few of his websites, but the facts are a little shaky. Apparently his campaign reduced SIDS by a huge margin in New Zealand, but I’ve since written a green mom blogger in New Zealand who said she didn’t find the whole movement very credible. There are also quite a few questions about the quality of the data. Still, if an organic mattress is too expensive and the mattress wrap would make you feel better, it’s nice to know there is a cheaper option. Environmentally, it’s a toss up–buy a plastic mattress wrap or throw out your old crib mattress and purchase a new one. It’s a tough dilemma!

  14. Joy- I went back and checked my own post since I’ve obviously forgotten what I learned! It was that IKEA has PBDE free mattresses which apparently is the most offending of flame retardants. So better than nothing or I guess better than the other option. I guess we could go to Canada to buy our mattresses! I wonder what shipping would be like from there!

  15. I bought our organic crib mattress from Costco online. It was the same one for sale at our local boutique, but half the price!

  16. I chose to buy an organic crib mattress and an organic co-sleeper mattress for my baby, but she has slept in my bed 90% of the time. I still think they are a good idea, I just wish I’d invested in an organic mattress for my bed instead. They are more expensive, but I think it’s worth it. My mom ended up in the emergency room from off-gassing from her brand new tempurpedic mattress and then they agreed to take the mattress back.

    I wrote more about organic mattresses here.: http://www.growbabygreen.com/?p=22

  17. I wish people had been this aware of organic bedding when I was a kid. I hate to think of what toxic crap I’ve been exposed to in my formative years. I ended up getting an organic cotton and latex crib for my little girl at The Futon Shop. Sure it was a little pricey, like everything organic is, but it’s my little girl.

  18. I don’t think the SIDS people should be taken too seriously. People have agendas. Who wants to say, “Oh, sorry, regular mattresses are killing us”. I am actually pretty impressed that this “miracle wrap” (Babe Safe) is actually only $30. That being said, I would much prefer to avoid the chemicals all together, rather than try to cover them up with more plastic. I have found some wonderful mattresses in our price range and even some natural latex pieces that can be covered with cotton. And wool combined with cotton or latex make the mattress flame retardant enough to meet standards. BUT I live in Alaska and none of them will ship to me for under $100! Most say $140. I am so sad. I don’t know what to do. I am thinking that I’m just going to have to buy the wrap, cover it with a thick natural cotton pad, sheets, etc. and call it “good enough.” Tell you what, next time I travel out of state, I’m bringing one back with me! At least for baby #2!

  19. this is great ive bookmarked this one hehe

  20. Wow! I had no idea that SIDS may be caused by the mattresses a baby sleeps on. How scary is that? What should our babies sleep on then?

  21. I just stumbled across your post. I had the same dilema and have been making the switch in my house this year. I too had no idea about the horrible chemicals and materials in our mattresses and in crib mattresses. I started my own site – rockabyeorganics.com and wanted to offer your readers any help and advice I can. I did a lot of research as well and decided to only offer 100% organic items so moms who visit my site do not have to sort through the real organic items and the fake ones. Please let me know if I can help!

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