20 lbs | Dimensions:
51.63" L x 27.25" W x 6" H
Great dual firmness support
Top-notch, healthier materials
Waterproof & dust resistant cover
Hands-down the Naturepedic Organic Cotton Classic 150 Seamless 2-Stage is our favorite. Its sturdy construction is built to last with appropriate firmness and great edge support that promotes safe sleep. The 2-stage option provides a firm side for infants and a bit more give on the opposite side for toddlers. Its materials are top-notch (i.e., GOTS certified organic cotton and heavy-duty 150-coil steel innerspring), so it is a safer choice for families with allergies and asthma. There is no polyurethane foam in any Naturepedic mattress, and the use of flame retardants is not an issue with this brand. This mattress has no chemical odor and is Greenguard Gold certified. Its food-grade polyethylene cover is waterproof and seamless, which makes clean up easy, protects from dust mites, and reduces the possibility of microbial growth.
Keep in mind that this Naturepedic is the heaviest of our favorites at 20 lbs due to its innerspring construction, so it requires some muscle to change the sheet. Also, if you are looking for a non-waterproof cover, this one is not the best option for you as it uses food-grade polyethylene for waterproofing. Last, be forewarned that while the measurements of this mattress are within the standard size, its corners are square, and so it may not fit in every crib. The crib mattress plus crib combination can be a "chicken and egg" dilemma, so our advice is to purchase from a retailer with a generous return policy (like Amazon) in case your products don't match up the way you hope. Naturepedic has excellent customer service and a warranty for the original purchaser.
15 lbs | Dimensions:
52" L x 27.5" W x 6" H
Great quality at a value
Firm & comfortable
Beneficial properties of wool
Potential wool odor
Not dual firmness
The Emily Natural by My Green Mattress is a great choice for those who want to avoid synthetic materials. Unlike the Naturepedic brand, My Green Mattress produces ONE crib mattress. Plus, they have great customer service to boot. The Emily has a soft quilted cover that uses GOTS certified organic cotton with Oeko-Tex certified natural wool sewn underneath. We like the use of wool in bedding as it regulates temperature, aids in flame resistance, is naturally resistant to dust mites and mold, and has some water-resistant properties. The internal structure is a combination of 150 13.5-gauge innerspring coils, all-natural coconut coir (GOTS certified organic coconut), and GOLS certified natural latex with heavyweight organic cotton batting. Even though the Emily mattress uses innerspring, it is 5 lbs lighter than the Naturepedic Organic Cotton Classic 150 Seamless 2-Stage making it an excellent choice for those who desire a lighter weight without resorting to foam. The Emily Natural is also Greenguard Gold certified.
There is a noticable natural wool odor when you open this mattress, that can be particularly strong in humid climates. According to My Green Mattress, the smell originates from the natural wool, so the company changed its wool supplier in December 2016 to attempt to remedy the issue. The new all-natural wool is washed in a GOTS compliant organic detergent to help decrease the natural smell. While non-toxic, if you still detect an odor, My Green Mattress suggests hanging the mattress uncovered in the sun for 1 to 2 days to help neutralize it. The Emily Natural has no integrated waterproofing, so we recommend using a waterproof pad like the Naturepedic Organic Waterproof Fitted Crib Pad to keep your mattress clean.
9 lbs | Dimensions:
52" L x 27.875" W x 5.5" H
The Babyletto Pure Core with Dry Waterproof Cover utilizes a recyclable polyethylene mattress core that exceeds flammability standards by using 80% modacrylic and 20% polyester fiber batting instead of chemical flame retardants. It is a good choice for those with allergies and asthma and purchasers comment on zero odor and nice dual firmness (firmer infant side is the one with the Babyletto tag). The Dry Cover has a polyester outer and an inner cotton lining that is waterproof and easily wipeable for clean-up; it is washable and feels soft. The Pure Core mattress can come with either the Babyletto Smart Cover, which is water-repellant/moisture-wicking, and Oeko-Tex certified, or the Babyletto Hybrid Waterproof Cover which has a waterproof inner and organic cotton outer layer. Depending on the cover you choose, we recommend purchasing a second replacement cover for easy wash rotation. Trust us. You'll need it.
Foam Mattresses May Not Work With Movement Monitor Sensor Pads
Because movement sensor pads rely on vibration feedback from the mattress to determine if the baby is moving/breathing regularly, a foam mattress is often not compatible as it can diminish movement, so the sensor pad can't "sense" it. You need to avoid foam mattresses or contact the monitor manufacturer to determine compatibility. While the Babyletto isn't a "foam" mattress, it may have similar properties that make it less compatible with movement pad monitors.
< 10 lbs | Dimensions:
51.63" L x 27.25" W x 6" H
Lightweight with dual firmness
Washable, waterproof cover
The Lullaby Earth Breeze 2-Stage mattress ticks all the boxes. The mattress core (59% polyester fiber / 41% polyethylene foam) is springless yet firm with strong edge support. It includes 2-sides with a firmer option for infancy and softer for toddlers. There are no flame retardants in Lullaby's products, and the Breeze is Greenguard Gold certified for low VOC emissions. There is no offensive scent to the mattress when you open it and we appreciate that the mattress and cover are waterproof. The cover is a food-grade polyethylene with seamless stitching that cleans easily with a wet cloth and protects the core from dust mites, moisture, and microbial growth. The removable, washable, polyester cover has a polyethylene waterproof backing and fits the mattress like a crib sheet for easy changes. The cover also has what Lullaby refers to as 3D honeycomb, which supposedly creates a "cushion of air underneath the baby" to help regulate the bedding temperature. At under 10 lbs, crib sheet changes are easier than heavier mattresses and might be suitable for petite moms with less power. Because the mattress cover is removable and washable, we recommend having an extra Lullaby Earth Breeze Washable Mattress Pad available for rotation through the wash.
Be aware that even though Lullaby Earth markets the Breeze Mattress Cover as "breathable," that this marketing should not be interpreted as a safe invitation to place your baby on their stomach to sleep. All babies should sleep on their backs on a firm surface for every sleep. We go into further detail on this topic in the Newton Wovenaire review, where, in our opinion, the "breathability" marketing is a bit excessive. We think the Lullaby Earth Breeze is a quality, lightweight crib mattress. With a washable, waterproof cover and a design that makes changes "a breeze," it is a good choice for most families.
11 lbs | Dimensions:
52" L x 28" W x 5.5" H
Washable core & cover
Rough cover & not waterproof
The Newton Wovenaire is a synthetic, springless, foamless mattress that utilizes recyclable food-grade polyethylene polymer for its mattress core. Newton differentiates the Wovenaire from similar synthetic competitors with its core's unique fabrication and washability. It's pretty darn cool how this company manipulates polyethylene into something characteristic of a block of dried ramen noodles. Newton claims that 90% of the mattress core is air. Now that's innovative! The Wovenaire is a great choice for those with a history of asthma and allergies, as the core and cover are completely washable (in the shower) and resistant to mites and microbial growth.
Along with the removable, washable, 100% polyester 3-D Cloud Cover (two layers of 3-D spacer material quilted together), you can wash the core in the bathtub or shower (cold water only). The core is air dry only, which, according to Newton, takes anywhere from 2 to 6 hours depending on ventilation and your local humidity levels. As such, we recommend investing in an additional safe sleep area like a travel crib to use in the event that your little one needs a nap while the main mattress is drying. Also, Newton claims their cover is water-resistant, not waterproof, so it is a good idea to have an extra Newton Replacement Cover for use during washing, as they recommended the cover be machine-dried on cool or air-dried. Some complain that the Wovenaire's cover is rough, so for babies with sensitive skin, washing the outer cover before first use and using a crib sheet may be helpful to avoid irritation. Also, although the Wovenaire is Greenguard Gold certified, a short period of airing outside may be useful if you detect any odor.
Looking for natural materials?
The Newton Wovenaire is 100% NOT natural from its plastic mattress to its 100% polyester cover. If natural materials are on your wish list, then you need to look elsewhere.
No doubt about it, the Wovenaire is a popular mattress for one reason that concerns us. Newton markets the Wovenaire as "breathable," implying that a stomach sleeping baby can breathe comfortably thanks to the design of the mattress and that the structure prevents re-breathing exhaled carbon dioxide (a suspected risk factor for SIDS). We sincerely hope no one interprets Newton's "breathable" hype as a suggestion or recommendation to place infants on their tummy to sleep, as this is NOT a safe sleeping situation. Wovenaire or not, "breathable," or not, you should always follow safe sleep guidelines. Babies should always be put on their backs' to sleep. There is no dispute about this as supported by the dramatic decrease in SIDS after the advent of the Back to Sleep campaign in 1994. Interestingly, supine sleeping carries more risk than just rebreathing carbon dioxide. In our opinion, Newton's marketing is capitalizing and relying on parent's fear of SIDS. We don't care for this misleading marketing or preying on a parent's worst nightmare. Despite Newton's unfortunate marketing choices, we still feel the Wovenaire is an interesting, albeit expensive, crib mattress for its allergy-friendly attributes and washable core with a removable, washable cover. This design demonstrates out of the box innovation we like. But, please, always put your baby on his/her back to sleep.
Considered but Not Recommended
Our list of favorites may seem small compared to other review categories, where we include 15-30 contenders. Interestingly, this review took us far longer than almost any other we've completed with hours and months of research, time, and effort down the mattress rabbit hole where we considered well over 30 potential competitors. One by one, each product was slashed from the competition for reasons varying from questionable material safety to a lack of transparency from the manufacturer.
Want more information on what's inside the mattress?
While potentially outdated with a publish date of 2011, this overview of crib mattresses and what they contain
is a great place for you to learn more about mattresses and what your baby's sleep surface.
Your baby will spend more time on their crib mattress than anywhere else, making its safety critical. So, while buying a crib mattress might feel like just another piece of gear to check off a list, it is a crucial item where safety takes precedence. Because of this, we feel you should be more selective when choosing a mattress than might be with other gear. We intentionally eliminated mattresses that contain flame retardants, polyurethane foam, vinyl, and other materials we believe are questionable or we wouldn't use with our children. If you don't see a mattress you've been considering, it might contain one or more of these questionable materials, and we encourage you to further research your selection.
Here are some examples of popular contenders that didn't make the list and why.
- Sealy Everlite 2-Stage crib mattress / Sealy Perfect Rest — These Sealy mattresses are made by Kolcraft. After several weeks and five email attempts to receive information from the manufacturer, they finally gave us material information after we told them who we were. We think companies should be transparent about what materials are in their mattresses, and we don't think the average parent would receive an honest answer from this company without significant effort and cajoling.
Colgate Eco Classica III
- Colgate Eco Classica III — In an email from the company, they claim this mattress is "eco-friendly." They also unnecessarily attempted to disparage other companies who use organic materials. Both responses leave a bad taste in our mouth, as this mattress is not eco-friendly (it uses petroleum), and implying negative things about other mattresses doesn't make their mattress a better product. This mattress uses 24% "non-edible plant oil" to replace petroleum-based oil in their polyurethane foam. So, in other words, 76% of this foam still uses petroleum-based oil. The use of petroleum products and the production of foam is not particularly eco-friendly and certainly doesn't qualify this product as good for the environment. This company also told us via email that the "tag on the mattress says only what is legally required to be said on the mattress," we prefer transparency of all materials, not just what the law allows.
Nook claims this foam mattress is "eco-friendly," "healthy," "safe," "non-toxic," and "Earth Friendly," but is it?
- Nook Pebble Pure Crib Mattress/Pebble Lite Eco-Friendly Crib Mattress — Some of the Nook mattresses have a foam core they claim is "non-toxic," we aren't entirely sure what they mean with this claim. We assume they are alluding to the CertiPUR certification. This certification only indicates that the foam meets the emission limitations outlined as acceptable by CertiPUR. The emissions are not equivalent to being "free of toxins." Therefore, we feel they are intentionally trying to mislead consumers with vague, undefined language, and greenwashing (see below for more on Greenwashing). Also, their website lists the Pebble Lite Eco-Friendly as "environmentally friendly," which we believe to be false as the production of polyurethane foam isn't environmentally friendly as a result of its use of petrochemicals. So despite one mattress being natural and interesting, the overall greenwashing on the website is offensive.
Serta Tranquility Eco Firm
- Serta Tranquility Eco Firm — This mattress is advertised (on Amazon) as "non-toxic" and "natural." It is a polyurethane mattress that, while CertiPUR and Greenguard certified, it is not "non-toxic" as it does off-gas VOCs. Begin certified by these two organizations means the mattress meets the requirements for certification; it does not mean it doesn't off-gas and is "non-toxic." It is also not "natural" as it uses man-made foam from petroleum as opposed to materials naturally found in nature like cotton. Also, in an email from the manufacturer, they tell us this mattress has a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) cover. Vinyl is a material we are not comfortable with and wouldn't use with our own babies. PVC has been shown to have adverse effects on health including short term problems like headaches and dizziness to long term effects of potential liver cancer and central nervous system damage. It certainly isn't non-toxic or natural.
Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer
Credit: Moonlight Slumber
- Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer — The Moonlight company has a history of misleading marketing and lying exposed by the FTC including creating and awarding its mattress a made-up "green" certification. This information, combined with the regular use of polyurethane foam, is why you won't find any mattresses by Moonlight Slumber in this roundup.
Why You Should Trust Us
This review was led by a board-certified pediatrician and BabyGearLab founder, Dr. Juliet Spurrier. Dr. Spurrier, mom of 2, was instrumental in the mattress selection process, using her knowledge as a physician to help research and choose products that are healthy and more eco-friendly than the competition. Wendy Schmitz, Senior Review Editor, and mother of 2 rounds out the mattress team. Wendy's obsession with baby mattresses began with the birth of her first child and hasn't stopped since. In her quest to find an odor-free and natural mattress for her son, Wendy purchased and returned more than four products that all failed to live up to the hype or marketing for natural, limited off-gassing, or odor-free claims. Needless to say, both mothers take this topic and gear category very seriously, which is why this review contains a significant amount of information about materials, greenwashing, and health, and why only a few products made the list of contenders. We considered eco-health, safety, quality, materials, ease of use, and ease of cleaning when making our product selections for this roundup.
Guidelines for Safe Sleeping Environment
Given the concern of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), you must create and maintain a safe sleeping environment for your baby for every single sleep.
Back to Sleep
Sleeping on their back is the only safe position for sleeping babies to help avoid SIDS. The "Back to Sleep" campaign encourages and educates parents to place babies on their back to sleep every time. Studies indicate that little ones sleeping on their back are far less likely to have breathing difficulties that lead to SIDs. This back sleeping greatly reduces the risk of SIDS. Research shows that sleeping on their stomach increases a baby's risk of SIDS by two-fold. Since the campaign launch in 1994, the number of infants who have died from SIDS has decreased by over half! Now that is something to celebrate and more than enough evidence to support the back to sleep movement.
Unfortunately, SIDS is still associated with other preventable situations like stomach or side-sleep positions, bed-sharing, too much bundling, a covered head, overheated environment, and smoking in the home.
A firm sleeping surface is critical for a great infant mattress, so set your sleeping preferences aside. Cushy memory foam toppers, sheepskin, fluffy down, or hammocks are not safe for babies even if you love them. Some crib mattresses provide dual firmness (called 2 stages) with an extra-firm side for infants and a firm but slightly softer side for toddlers. The firm surface helps prevent the mattress from indenting under the baby's weight for safer sleep. If the surface indents and your baby rolls to their stomach, this can make it challenging to roll back over or breathe unobstructed.
Any infant mattress you choose should have firm edge support that doesn't sag or significantly compress when pushed. This design helps prevent the entrapment of smaller baby parts between the crib slats and mattress. Foam mattresses often have squishier edges than innerspring, which makes edge inspection even more important. If the sides are easy to squash, you should return the mattress and look elsewhere.
You also need to be aware of the dangers of sagging mattresses. In our research, we see a trend toward bio/plant-based foams significantly sagging over a short time. These are manufacturers like Colgate Eco and Sealy Soy-Foam that blend soy-based oil with polyurethane foam. If you choose this kind of product (which we don't recommend), you should pay extra attention when the product is new and every time you change the sheet to ensure sagging doesn't become a problem.
Baby Sleeps in Their Own Space
Besides a traditional crib with crib mattress, acceptable sleep areas for a baby include bassinets (until 4 to 5 months old) and travel cribs. It is not safe for babies to sleep in the same bed with others or on couches or other furniture. It is also not safe for a baby to sleep in their car seat carrier, swing, bouncer, or similar gear because it can potentially cause airway obstruction when their head falls forward onto their chest. Do not get in the habit of leaving your little one sleeping in any of these potentially compromising situations. While a swing might soothe them to sleep, the risks are not worth the moments of peace.
Mattresses should fit snuggly inside the crib with less than two finger's width gap between the edge of the mattress and the crib frame. If your mattress and crib combo has a wider gap, you'll need to purchase a different mattress or crib to ensure a safe sleeping environment.
Babies should sleep in a bare crib. While this isn't cute or picture-perfect, a crib without bumpers, soft bedding, pillows, stuffed animals, and toys is the only safe way to sleep. The only things that should be in the crib are the mattress with a tightly fitted sheet and your baby asleep on their back. The Newton Wovenaire recommends only using the cover that comes with the mattress to get the most from the "breathable" design. Do NOT confuse this "breathable" marketing with putting your baby to sleep on their stomach. Despite the breathable claim, the only safe way for a baby to sleep is on their back! Do not take the risk!
New Mattress with Each Baby
When it comes to beds, the recommendation is that every baby should have a new mattress. A Scotish study
shows there is an increased risk of SIDs with the use of a used crib mattress. The risk increases if the mattress comes from another home as opposed to use by a sibling. This recommendation means no hand-me-down mattresses. However, as long as the crib is in good shape and adheres to current crib safety guidelines, the crib itself can be passed from one child to another.
New cribs must adhere to certain safety standards, which is why it isn't a good idea to use a second-hand crib, especially if it has been in your family for years or was yours as a child. Things to look for when choosing a crib include:
- Slat Width — The side slates of the crib should have spacing no more than 2 3/8" in width.
- Corner Posts — The corner posts of the crib should not extend more than 1/16" to avoid strangulation by clothing snagging
- Solid Construction — All screws, brackets, and joints on the crib should be nice and tight with all sharp edges and metal out of the baby's reach.
- Decorative Embellishments — The headboard and footboard on the crib should not have decorative cutouts or additions.
- No Drop Down — While cribs no longer come in drop down options, it wasn't that long ago when you could buy one. This crib style has a history of injuries and accidents, including death, so take a hard pass on the drop side, it isn't worth the risk no matter how much money it will save.
Buying Advice: Important Crib Mattress Considerations
So, you thought buying a mattress was as simple as finding a good fit at the right price. However, there are other things you should consider concerning materials and everyday use as you will use this product for 2-4 years.
Ease of Use
- Weight — While a mattress sits immobile in your crib most of the time, the weight matters when you lift and move the mattress to change the sheet. If you have trouble lifting heavier items or don't want to, you'll want to look for a lightweight product. The Naturepedic Organic Cotton Classic 150 Seamless 2-Stage is 20 lbs, the heaviest in this group, which could be a no-go for some. Alternatively, the Babyletto Pure Core with Dry Waterproof Cover is 9 lbs, and the Lullaby Earth Breeze 2-Stage is about the same. Given that nightly sheet changes could be in your future, it is important to consider mattress weight.
- Ease of Cleaning — Every baby has accidents, and no matter what the consistency of the accident might be, the mattress will need regular cleaning. The only washable product in this review is the Newton Wovenaire, but others have waterproof/wipeable surfaces, or you can purchase a mattress cover or pad.
- Waterproof — Unlike regular mattresses that don't typically require the use of waterproof of water-resistant covers, many crib mattresses come with this feature. Waterproofing makes for easy cleaning, and it limits the need for additional bedding that might add thickness. Most water resistance comes from the use of Polyethylene/Polymer in the cover of the mattress. This component is food-grade grade" polyethylene. We recommend avoiding products that use vinyl or PVC as these components can cause potential health issues.
- Materials — Mattresses can include all sorts of materials from polyurethane to organic cotton and natural latex. Some have foam components to create firmness, while others have inner coil springs. We recommend choosing as natural as you can and paying attention to certifications to help your baby avoid inhaling VOCs during sleep.
- Odor-Free - Does the crib mattress emit a strange chemical smell? This odor is off-gassing, otherwise known as volatile organic (not the cool kind) compounds (VOCs). If you choose a mattress with that "new" smell, we recommend airing it out until the smell dissipates. Better yet, send it back and get one that doesn't smell. Why? Because no smell, does not mean no off-gassing. Looking for Greenguard Gold Certification can help reduce VOCs and other toxins. Choosing natural products that don't off-gas is the best option if your budget allows.
- Flame Retardant-Free — We recommend choosing mattresses that are free of chemical flame retardants. This lack of chemicals doesn't mean the bed is kindling waiting to burst into flames; it only means that the product meets the flammability and smoldering laws without the use of chemicals that could potentially be harmful to your baby. Less is more when it comes to chemical additives, in our opinion. Natural wool is excellent at offering flame resistance without chemicals.
Companies that specialize in crib mattresses (i.e., Naturepedic) tend to have healthier, better products than large conglomerates (i.e., Kolcraft/Sealy, Serta/Delta Children's). While not a hard and fast rule, it rings true for the most part. There are things you should look for when making a decision, no matter what the brand or marketing hype. The materials are important, and we can't emphasize enough that you should pay attention to the materials and their certifications.
The Naturepedic Organic Cotton Ultra Seamless Crib Mattress features a premium 252 coil innerspring plus strong 9 gauge edge support.
A traditional innerspring mattress has inner metal coils for firmness and support. This style of mattress is cumbersome compared to foam products, and some parents claim they feel resistance that causes pressure points. However, firmness is vital for babies to help avoid SIDs, and babies are lightweight enough that it is highly unlikely that they feel pressure points the way an adult does.
Some foams are better than others, and certified foam is potentially better than those without certifications. However, we are not fans of polyurethane foam, no matter what certification it has or what percentage comes from plants. Why? Foams are a petroleum-based product with added chemicals to create the cellular foam structure, and as a result, they emit VOCs. VOCs create an unhealthy breathing environment that can potentially cause health problems in both the short and long term.
Which certifications apply to foam products?
- The CertiPUR CertiPUR-US foam certification is a group comprised and run by those in the foam industry. This certification checks for the use of banned chemicals and tests for VOCs up to a certain limit that is defined by foam producers. While we concede this is better than nothing, this isn't the best certification as the certifier benefits ($$) from certifying foam as they also work in foam production and sales. It is similar, in our opinion, to the fox guarding the henhouse. Would you trust a fox to protect your chickens? Would you trust the foam seller to tell you foam is safe?
- GreenGuard is a third party governing body that tests and certifies materials used in building products, furniture, and other items to ensure "better" indoor air quality. The certification allows for no greater than 1/100 of the currently published ACGIH® Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and no greater than one-half of California's Chronic Reference Exposure Levels (CRELs).
While we recognize you can't avoid all VOCs in the modern world, we feel you should make an effort to limit or avoid them when you can, and your baby's sleeping surface is the perfect place to start being proactive about chemical exposure. We prefer GreenGuard certifications over CertiPUR. Why? Because GreenGuard is a third-party tester while CertiPUR is owned and operated by those that create and benefit from the sale of foam. Neither certification means the foam is as safe as organic or natural materials, nor does it mean no VOCs, non-toxic, or even a "safe level of VOCs" as no one has yet determined what a "safe" level of VOCs might be.
Foam-based mattresses may not work with some movement monitors. If you hope to use a sensor pad mattress movement monitor, you'll want to find a good innerspring mattress and skip the foam to ensure compatibility. Check your monitor user guide for more details.
Textiles: Cotton and Wool
The best materials in a mattress include natural textiles like GOTS certified cotton and wool. The inclusion of these types of materials increases the health of the mattress and can be crucial for children with allergies or asthma. The GOTS standard includes the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, trading, and distribution of textiles that are at least 70% certified natural organic fibers. The My Green Mattress Emily Natural has a GOTS certified organic cotton cover with Oeko-Tex certified natural wool.
For products that carry the GOTS label of "organic," they must have a minimum of 95% certified organic fibers. Products labeled "made with organic" must have a minimum of 70% certified organic fibers. These certifications give discerning parents confidence in their purchases. There are other cool things about being GOTS certified (for the environment and fellow humans), and we encourage you to read more about it.
Latex is a great alternative to memory foam and traditional mattresses. Natural latex is breathable, supportive, renewable, and antimicrobial (they even repel dust mites!). These properties make it ideal for people with asthma, allergies, or other sensitivities to chemicals. It can come in a 100% natural option, synthetic, or blend. You'll want to research to see precisely what kind of latex a potential mattress uses, so you can determine if it meets your needs and health or environmental goals. We prefer natural latex and encourage parents to look for GOLS Certified Latex, which is processed with only natural ingredients, or a 100% natural designation to avoid unintentionally buying a synthetic blend. A certification from the Control Union Certifications is the first global standard for organic latex. GOLS defines requirements for latex products from organic raw materials and non-organic materials.
Synthetic vs. Natural Latex
For the most part, even those with latex allergies or sensitivities can still safely select a latex mattress for sleeping. The user is not exposed to the latex portion of the product and it doesn't off-gas. Because mattresses are traditionally encased in cotton or other natural fibers, the potential for exposure to the latex itself is virtually non-existent if the mattress is in good condition. If you have a significant latex allergy or other concerns, you can discuss this with your doctor. Also, in our research, most latex mattress manufacturers have a very generaous return policy including some up to a year after purchase as long as the mattress is not stained or damaged.
Natural latex comes from extracting the milk from the rubber tree, 40% of which is pure latex. Each manufacturer has a proprietary method of processing the milk. Some will use up to 70% of the milk to create latex instead of purifying the milk closer to 40%. Blended latex, or Dunlap, is a combination of natural and synthetic components that bring the elasticity of natural latex together with the stability and firmness of synthetic additives. Talalay Latex is technically a blend of 70% synthetic and 30% natural latex. Talalay latex generally lasts longer and can be produced in different firmness levels. To confuse things further, Talalay Natural Latex is classified as 100% natural and includes 98% natural latex with 2% synthetic as a bonding agent. This latex is generally the most expensive and shouldn't be confused with Talalay that doesn't specify being "natural." Whew! Confusing right? You betcha.
Nook Pebble Pure
Coconut coir may conjure up thoughts of the hard shell of the coconut, but this material is much softer but still firm enough to provide infants adequate support. As a natural product, coir is free of harsh chemicals and flame retardants, making it an excellent choice for families looking for natural alternatives. It is firm, springy, breathable, durable, and allergen-free. Coconut coir can be found in the Emily Natural by My Green Mattress in this roundup, and we can't wait to see how manufacturers will utilize this renewable resource in the future.
Not all baby mattresses are waterproof. However, a waterproof mattress is very useful when your baby has a blowout or vomits, and you need to clean things up to go back to bed. To create a waterproof surface, the mattress must contain some type of synthetic material, and many of the options in use today are potentially toxic. So, what is the point of creating an organic mattress only to wrap it in an off-gassing material? Good question! Finding a good water-proofer that doesn't ruin a natural mattress can be tricky and often comes down to choosing the lesser of the potential evils.
The waterproofing material we prefer is polyethylene, which is non-toxic and relatively inert and traditionally found in products that come in contact with food. This coating is in the Naturepedic mattress and some mattress covers. Alternatively, we are not fans of vinyl. Vinyl off-gasses, and some types can crack or breakdown, making it a poor option for long-term use. There are different types of vinyl, but in our experience contacting manufacturers, it is challenging or impossible to get them to identify what type they use. This lack of information leaves us to assume that the vinyl they use could off-gas into your baby's sleeping environment. We did not choose mattresses in our roundup with vinyl or unspecified waterproofing for health reasons. If we weren't sure about waterproofing material, we always attempted to contact the manufacturer for more information. Not all of them responded.
What is "medical grade" waterproofing?
Good question! After seeing this phrase on several Sealy mattresses, we wondered this too. We sent an email to Sealy three times and received no answer. We also did a deep dive on their website only to come up empty. Without direct information from the manufacturer, it can be challenging to determine exactly what this claim means or includes. What we will say is that "Staph-Guard" is likely a chemical additive that your baby and mattress don't need. We recommend avoiding most chemicals, especially those you can't identify. This advice holds especially true when the manufacturer won't identify the materials when you contact them specifically about the chemical. While we can't remark on the efficacy of this kind of product, we feel confident it is likely unnecessary for an at-home mattress.
If the mattress you choose doesn't have a waterproof cover, it is critical that you use a waterproof pad or added cover to prevent mold and bacteria from growing inside the mattress once it gets "wet." We like the Naturepedic Organic Waterproof Fitted Crib Pad. Some parents prefer the all-natural option of 100% wool "piddle pads", which repel liquids but aren't waterproof. If you choose this route, you must catch accidents immediately and clean and dry your mattress properly after every incident. If you prefer a wool pad, you might consider the Newton Wovenaire mattress. This mattress is completely washable, so a waterproof cover isn't essential, and a wool pad could work well.
Whether or not you choose to waterproof your crib mattress is up to you. A versatile option is the Babyletto Pure Core combined with the Babyletto Smart Cover (water-repellent/moisture-wicking), which is Oeko-Tex certified, or a Hybrid Waterproof Cover with a waterproof lining and organic cotton layer.
Flame Retardant Free
For our roundup, we intentionally only chose crib mattresses that do NOT contain flame retardant chemicals. However, some crib mattresses available for purchase still legally use flame retardants. We believe it is critical for you to consider the materials or chemicals that go into what your baby sleeps on. Mattress materials are especially important as little ones spend up to 10-14 hours a day sleeping and breathing deeply in their crib. With changes for flammability and smoldering limits of upholstered furniture laws in 2013, Technical Bulletin 117-2013, manufacturers have more freedom on how to create safe mattresses without the use of chemical flame retardants. We recommend you look for flame-retardant-free mattresses and use your purchasing power to encourage manufacturers to make safer products. Chemical-free products are still safe and meet flammability safety requirements without the use of potentially harmful chemicals.
Breathable Mattresses: Evidence-Based or Marketing Hype?
Some mattresses claim to be "breathable." While we love innovative and potentially better or safer mattresses for baby that can potentially help prevent re-breathing carbon dioxide, we worry the marketing of these options will encourage or mislead parents into disregarding the "back to sleep" recommendations that have been saving babies' lives since 1994. These breathable claims prey on parent fears of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDs) based on the presumed reduced re-breathing of carbon dioxide. However, research indicates that "breathable" products WON'T prevent re-breathing and that babies sleeping on their stomachs can lead to SIDs for reasons other than re-breathing. For example, reduced cerebral oxygenation, impaired arouse-ability in young infants, altered cardiovascular control/lower blood pressure (circulatory failure in 2-3-month-olds). Also, several studies indicate that tummy sleeping in very young infants (<5 months) increases the risk of cardiovascular collapse and decreased respiratory drive irrespective of re-breathing carbon dioxide.
Don't buy into the breathable hype. If you prefer a breathable mattress, that's cool. We like the innovative Newton Wovenaire. However, even with this type of mattress, you should ALWAYS practice safe sleeping, which includes putting the baby to sleep on their back. Every. Single. Time.
The self-awarded, made up certification badge that the Moonlight Slumber Mattress company awarded to its crib mattresses. The FTC penalized the company for misleading consumers by creating a false badge that means nothing.
What is GreenWashing?
Greenwashing is any marketing or branding that intentionally uses misleading language to make the consumer believe a product is healthy, good for them, or environmentally friendly (green) when it isn't. This marketing hype is an intentional deception by the manufacturer to persuade consumers to buy products they believe are eco-friendly or non-toxic when, in reality, they are neither. Being green is awesome, and when a product is 100% organic, GOTS certified, B Company certified, etc., then the marketing is just "green." When a company uses terms like "eco-friendlier," "eco-foam," or "hypoallergenic," it can potentially be greenwashing, as these terms do not really mean anything. We encourage consumers to question and investigate ALL claims, especially if the claims seem vague, undefined, or seem too good to be true. In our extensive mattress research, we saw a disturbing amount of greenwashing and misleading language in the mattress industry as a whole. This kind of deceptive language can make it extremely challenging for parents to find healthy products for their children.
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You can find out more about the seven sins of greenwashing so you won't be a victim.
According to a recent report, over 98% of "green products" commit at least one of the greenwashing sins in marketing.
So how do you recognize greenwashing? In our research, we encountered significant greenwashing. So much that we decided to help others identify greenwashing when they see it. If you research mattresses and see any of the following words or eco-labels, you maybe being greenwashed: eco-friendlier, eco-foam, certified, hypoallergenic, plant-infused, soy foam, and any language that feels vague or deceptive. Let's define some popular terms and explain why they aren't as innocuous as you might think.
- Eco-friendlier/Eco-foam — We saw these terms in marketing for several mattresses, specifically the Eco Classica III Eco-Friendlier Crib Mattress. The phrases seem to imply that the product is good for the environment or at least better for the environment than other foam mattresses. Upon investigation, we think this claim comes from the use of 24% "plant materials" in their "urethane foam." Polyurethane foam traditionally uses petroleum with additional chemicals (catalysts) that create a chain reaction to produce foam. While this company might be using 24% renewable plant resources, the foam still requires the use of 76% petroleum and the same potentially harmful chemicals for the reaction to create the foam cell structure. As a result, the mattress still off-gases VOCs and contains the same materials that we dislike in polyurethane. Also, this product is not environmentally friendly (as it implies). It is still a petroleum-based foam with a similar carbon footprint as regular polyurethane. However, it often costs more than the competition as the manufacturer hopes you'll buy into the hype and spend more on an Earth "friendlier" mattress.
- Plant Infused/Soy Foam/Natural Foam — We saw these ambiguous phrases in advertising for multiple mattresses that use a percentage of plant oil in their foam. They are often CertiPur, or GreenGold certified, and many claim to be "good for your baby" or "natural" foam. However, these foam products still contain petroleum and toxic chemicals that emit VOCs. The fact that it includes a small percentage of plant oil is essentially irrelevant, as the final product comprises similar or the same properties as the polyurethane foam it claims to be better than. To be clear, there is no such thing as a natural "foam" unless it is describing natural latex. Sadly for everyone, there isn't a foam plant that sprouts little buds of foam that magically turn into a natural mattresses.
- Hypoallergenic — You'll see this term in marketing for all sorts of products. However, it means virtually nothing. Consumers usually assume it means that a product is suitable for allergies or asthma. Maybe you think it means the product is inert or doesn't cause allergic reactions. But does it mean this? Hypoallergenic is an "unregulated" word, which means it has no true or agreed-upon definition in any industry. Any company can use the phrase without testing or offering supportive evidence to indicate whatever it is they claim it means. This lack of regulation means that the definition of hypoallergenic means something different to every company. Unfortunately, as the consumer, you can't be sure what it means from product to product or even if the company making a claim has done testing to support the claim. We think labeling any foam mattress as "hypoallergenic" is intentionally misleading as the chemicals that make the foam can be toxic and unhealthy, and the foam itself off-gases.
We wish that all mattress manufacturers were transparent about the materials they use. Unfortunately, most are not and the law does not require them to tell the consumer the details about what they use. As a result of this lack of transparency, we think you should spend your valuable money with companies that believe in and respect your "right to know." We encourage everyone to reward transparent companies that relay the entire truth by choosing to purchase their products when they meet your needs and goals. At the very least, we highly encourage that parents avoid buying from companies that use greenwashing and misleading language to influence or confuse consumers about their product or materials.
We spent a full year researching over 100 crib mattresses to find truly healthy and safe options we love and would for our babies. Choosing a great crib mattress doesn't have to be as exhausting as it used to be. Thankfully, we have more options than ever, and significantly more companies are creating eco-healthy products compared to even five years ago. If you focus on a few key factors in mattress selection, you'll should be able to find the right mattress for your little one fairly quickly. Once you know your budget, we suggest you choose the best product with the healthiest materials within your budget restrictions. If you aren't sure about our selections and are the type that likes to do their own research, we recommend you to stay vigilant about greenwashing and that you do your best to avoid off-gassing materials (i.e., polyurethane foam and vinyl). Because babies spend a significant amount of time in their crib, we strongly believe you should choose the highest-quality mattress you can afford. We prefer natural materials (i.e., latex and cotton) over those filled with chemicals (i.e., foam, vinyl, and other additives) to help create a healthier environment for your little one to snooze and dream.