Green and eco-friendly living have come a long way from being just another buzzword to become an established, and important, fact and facet of modern life. If living a green, eco-friendly lifestyle is important for adults, then how much more important is it for our children? Our future, as represented by our children, and how our lifestyles affect our children’s future, is not something we can afford to be complacent about.
If it’s an important consideration in adult’s life to live in a green and eco-friendly way, then it should certainly be a consideration in the environments that we put our babies down to sleep in. Quality of rest is an important part of our lives, and it’s even more important for our babies, who do so much of their early growth and development while they sleep. Outfitting baby’s crib with an organic crib mattress should be one of the things we take careful consideration of.
As per the Environmental Protection Agency, the very chemicals and manufacturing processes that produce mattresses and other, common household items – items we take for granted – can negatively affect your baby’s health. Chemicals known as VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds are most likely to evaporate and impregnate the air your baby breathes, and over time the resultant fumes can contribute to medical conditions such as asthma, or allergies, or even other potentially dangerous health issues.
What Exactly Does “Organic” Mean?
Any product which is certified to be organic is certified to be so by a third-party certifying body to be made only from all natural materials and without any chemical additives. This ensures that the product in question is, in truth, eco-friendly and all natural. Without this certification, any statements as to the product being eco-friendly, environmentally friendly, or natural are just claims not backed up with proof.
Organic crib mattresses, and for that matter, organic adult or toddler mattresses, do not exist, at least, not exactly. No manufacturer can truly claim that their mattresses are, in fact, 100% organic; any such mattresses will, necessarily, be made with a mix of both organic materials and natural components.
Actual organic crib mattresses made only from similarly certified all-natural materials and produced without the use or addition of potentially harmful chemicals, can contribute greatly towards the quality of the air your child breathes, which in turn contributes towards your baby’s overall health. It thus becomes of primary importance to make sure that when one is buying a supposedly organic crib mattress that one is, in fact, getting what one is paying for.
So What Counts As Organic, And What Doesn’t?
Latex foam is a fairly common component in most mattresses and is available in natural, synthetic (man-made), and blended varieties. Naturally, a certifiably organic mattress will contain only natural latex. This is not to say, however, that merely containing natural latex foam automatically means that the mattress is certifiably organic.
The Control Union, which is the standards body that certifies latex under the Global Organic Latex Standards, or GOLS, requires that, for a particular latex to be certified as organic latex, 95% of the latex itself must be made from certified organic components.
Most companies actually include very little certified organic latex, considering the cost. Most commonly, only one out of eight inches of “natural” latex will be certified organic by GOLS standards.
Two components that are virtually always organic are organic wool and organic cotton. Organic cotton is not genetically modified and is specifically grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. This results in a material with a positive effect on health, as there are no chemical residues left in the cotton that can be absorbed through the skin. Organic cotton is even better when left unbleached as this ensures that no potentially harmful bleaches and associated substances have been used, or remain, on the cotton.
Organic wool, which is a common component in organic mattresses, presents a set of pros and cons specific to organic wool. Due to the presence of lanolin, a naturally occurring wax, in the wool, it is very good at drawing off moisture, keeping your skin cool. It is the presence of lanolin in the wool that keeps sheep’s wool dry and soft through harsh, inclement weather.
Wool is, however, an animal fiber. In addition to needing to be washed at least once per year, its nature as an animal product makes it less than hypoallergenic, and because of this mattress containing wool can induce allergies and similar conditions.
Ultimately, the choice to go with organic crib mattresses for baby guarantees that your child’s sleeping surface is made of natural materials, and is free of potentially harmful chemicals. As well, for those who believe in living by the principles of a green, eco-friendly lifestyle, these mattresses are generally made using responsibly-sourced products made from renewable or sustainable sources.
These benefits, however, are offset by the fact that choosing to go green is generally more expensive, and because of the special considerations are taken in the manufacture of the mattresses, they are more prone to damage than more “normal” mattresses and are generally not available with any sort of waterproofing, as more normal mattresses are.
Also, as previously mentioned, just because a product states that it is organic doesn’t necessarily mean that it is, in fact, certifiably so. There is more to an organic, eco-friendly lifestyle than merely choosing to go organic.
Tips For Choosing An Organic Crib Mattress
The first thing to do is to settle on a mattress style. Organic mattresses are available either in a traditional innerspring model or as organic latex foam. While foam mattresses are generally considered to be more comfortable to sleep on, foam does not always “breathe” well, and can become uncomfortable. Foam mattresses also tend to deform over time, which can pose its own difficulties and dangers for baby.
Inner spring mattresses, which comprise several layers of material on a bed of steel coils, are generally cooler and more durable. This is offset, however, by the fact that inner spring mattresses can become a reservoir for dander and dust mites. If you’re looking for a more generally hypoallergenic option, then foam is most likely a better choice than an inner spring mattress.