If we are well rested, we are spending about 1/3 of our lives sleeping.  For children, this is even more time, during the first three years of life when the brain is developing so quickly and they are growing like crazy, children spend more than half of their time sleeping (usually!). This is why it is so important to make sure what they are around while sleeping is as non toxic as possible.

For our family a natural mattress was even a higher priority than organic food- I’m going to tell you why I feel so strongly about choosing a natural materials for you and your children’s sleeping area.

  • Conventional mattresses are full of toxins: The everyday mattress that you buy in the store is –by law– flame retardant.  The most inexpensive way to make a mattress flame retardant is to use toxic carcinogenic chemicals.  The alternative is to use wool, which is more healthy, sustainable, and nontoxic. But with those attributes comes a price- wool is more expensive than dousing synthetic fabrics with chemicals or inserting an off-gassing fire resistant core piece into the mattress.
  • Natural mattresses are an easy change: I get emails and comments all the time asking me ‘how do I get my kids to eat this healthy food?!’ but with a mattress, the change should be much simpler, and you are making a big difference every day with no struggle!
  • Over time natural mattresses give you a good return on your investment: I calculated the cost per month of my daughter’s crib mattress, which she will be using until she is at least 5.  It is $5/month, and the mattress can be used again for another child.  An adult queen sized mattress that gets 20 years of use out of it (as higher quality mattresses should) works out to about $7/month.
  • The toxins in mattresses may be linked to the following conditions (references linked): SIDS (and another), allergies, asthma, autism, fertility problems.  I suspect that many of our modern chronic conditions come from repeated chemical exposure, so greatly reducing what we are exposed to while we sleep could help a lot.

Purchasing a natural mattress:

Thankfully as we vote with our dollars the mattress manufacturers are getting up to speed and providing less toxic and nontoxic alternatives. Adult sized natural mattresses are important for children too- toxins can cross into the baby in utero, toxins are excreted into breast milk, and most families do co-sleep at one time or another.

Natural mattresses can be found online, and occasionally at Costco.  In the Pacific Northwest there are a number of local natural mattress shops, just check the yellowpages.  I haven’t found a natural adult sized mattress at any conventional mattress stores yet, but they have assured me that they are working on them as there is a high demand.

What to watch for:

  • Beware of ‘greenwashing’ and the liberal use of the word ‘natural’ – read the fine print to see exactly what the mattress is made out of, it should only consist of natural fibers with names that you recognize such as cotton, wool, and natural latex (from trees).
  • There should be no polyester, vinyl, or flame retardant in a natural mattress.  The mattress actually should not be waterproof- see how we use an old sweater as our mattress protector.
  • Check to make sure you are buying a whole mattress, not just a topper at a premium price.
  • Call the manufacturer or store before purchasing if purchasing online, and check the return policy. Ask how they pass the flame retardant mandate, the correct answer should be that they use wool.  Even organic crib mattresses are caught using using boric acid (roach killer) as to pass the requirements!

I called Naturepedic about Naturepedic Quilted Organic Cotton Deluxe Crib Mattress.  They said that they use baking soda and hydrated silica to pass flammability standards.  I would prefer wool, but hydrated silica does have a low toxicity rating.

The Pure Rest Organic Innerspring Crib Mattress says that it only contains wool and organic cotton, this is the type we have for our children.

We have a natural latex adult mattress, with an organic cotton cover, our pillows are natural latex also.  We use a goose feather pillowtop on top, and cotton sheets.  For the kids, they have the natural cotton and wool mattresses, goose down pillows, and most of their crib sheets are made from our sheet set- we don’t use the top sheet, so I cut that up and sew crib sheets out of them.

I do consider healthy sleep surfaces to be an important investment in our family’s health, I hope you found this helpful for yours as well!

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