Are you getting the baby’s room ready right now? One of the most important things you will purchase is the baby crib mattress. But which ones are the safest for your vulnerable little infant? You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best & worst organic mattresses (for adults), best & worst air purifiers, & safest infant car seats, join us for our investigation of baby crib mattresses.
Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.
Chemicals of Concern You’ll Find in Crib Mattresses
The baby crib mattress industry is a bit problematic in terms of exposure to young infants. This is a time in their life when they are extremely vulnerable and not able to naturally detox and defend themselves from chemicals of concern the way adult bodies are able to. Below are some of the chemicals of concern we will focus on here.
- PFAS Chemicals: waterproof chemicals that are linked to immune issues, thyroid problems and cancer.
- Antimicrobials: these are chemicals added to kill bacteria or viruses. Although that sounds good, there is no evidence these chemicals work to protect your child, but lots of arguments on why they should be avoided.
- Plasticizers: these are chemicals added to make plastic bendy or flexible. They can include ortho-phthalates, which are hormone-disrupting.
- Fire Retardants: these chemicals are added to polyurethane foam to meet federal flammability standards and are linked to immune system issues and certain cancers.
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): is used as waterproof cover material and likely contains plasticizers like ortho-phthalates, which are hormone-disrupting.
- Heavy metals: they can be found as a contaminant or as the byproduct of a contaminant.
The Baby Crib Mattress Study of 2020
Clean & Healthy New York & The Ecology Center partnered on a study looking at harmful chemicals found inside baby crib mattresses sold to consumers in the United States.
They reviewed 227 product webpages from 37 crib mattresses brands to determine materials used, and emailed brands to ascertain what they were transparent about. Then they tested different mattress cribs from 13 different companies to see how the disclosures lined up with reality. The results were a bit shocking.
- Only 6 out of 13 products matched up with disclosed chemicals and materials used, meaning that less than half of mattress companies are transparent and accurate about their materials. And only ONE COMPANY was completely transparent and had no chemicals of concern present–Naturepedic.
- 7 companies had undisclosed chemicals of concern in their products: Foundations, Dream on Me, LA Baby, Colgate, Graco, Nook Sleep, & Safety 1st.
- 19 phthalates or non-phthalate plasticizers, 82 fire retardant chemicals, 43 PFAS compounds, and a range of metals and halogens were found in lab tests.
- Almost half (6 of 13) crib mattresses had vinyl covers
- Colgate, Safety 1st & Nook had total fluorine levels indicative of PFAS chemicals added. Nook had the highest levels of PFAS.
- Foundations & Dream on Me contained antimony at levels likely to indicate antimony trioxide as a flame retardant
- Safety 1st & Serta contained EHDP (2-Ethylhexyl diphenyl phosphate) on their PVC cover
Disclosures & Transparency in Crib Mattress Industry
When it came to the disclosures of materials used inside baby crib mattresses, the industry was disappointing as well. Here were some of those findings.
- COVERS: About 28% of the time, the brands were not transparent with all the materials used.
- COVERS: Although 27% of mattresses tested contained PVC, only 11 companies reported using it.
- WATERPROOFING: It’s close to impossible to determine the water resistance materials used for 37% of mattresses
- WATERPROOFING: Vinyl is the most common material used 21% of the time
- WATERPROOFING: Only 3 companies disclosed using PFAS chemicals, while many more did
- ANTIMICROBIALS: While 7 companies claimed to use antimicrobial chemicals, only 4 companies disclosed where and what they were
- FLAME RETARDANTS: 22% of brands do not disclose any details about fire retardants
- FLAME RETARDANTS: Only 12% of mattress brands surveyed did not use any chemicals to meet FR standards
- PADDING: 27% of mattresses include polyester/polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fibers
- PADDING: 25% have a polyurethane foam layer
- PADDING: 14% of mattresses contain padding, but don’t identify those materials used
- CORE: 34% of mattresses have a polyurethane foam core
Ways These Companies Attempt to Trick Consumers
There are several ways that mattress (crib mattresses or adult) will try and trick you into thinking their product is superior to others. If you see any of these things, look closer.
- Watch out for companies that claim to use “organic” ingredients without any proof. It’s nice to use organic ingredients, but it doesn’t really mean anything unless they are GOTS or GOL certified. So many things can go wrong without certification, so don’t be taken by the marketing. This is especially problematic in adult organic mattresses, but don’t worry, we investigated all those brands.
- There are sneaky ways of saying polyurethane foam: “soy foam” “infused with plant oil” or “plant-based foam.” Avoid brands that use these marketing terms.
- Crazy Greenwashing–watch out for brands that offer you a single organic layer, but the rest of the mattress is conventional on the inside. That’s not what you want. And that is happening a lot.
- These are not legal terms, so don’t be swayed by them: “Non-toxic” “eco-friendly” “sustainable” etc. None of these terms have legal definitions so they can be made whenever they want. Look for certifications instead.
- Tests that don’t really mean what you think they mean–the low VOC tests like UL’s Greenguard or Green Guard Gold don’t really mean something is non-toxic. The mattresses is expected to have more off-gassing during the life of the mattress than this test will be able to demonstrate. Oddly, Green Guard used to have a more stringent certification for their mattresses called “Select” that they no longer have because we can only assume it wasn’t profitable. Very few mattresses (basically only one: Naturepedic) qualified because it was so stringent.
When the Baby Sleeps On Fossil Fuels
When we think about how we are going to survive on this planet, it’s inevitable that we must cut down on our reliance on fossil fuels. Many industries are guilty of using fossil fuels inside their products, but mattresses are particularly problematic.
Most plastics start out as fossil fuels that were extracted from the earth as oil or gas and then refined and treated with chemicals. Then some types of plastics like polyurethane, polyester & polyvinyl chloride (vinyl) have additives, byproducts, & unreacted precursors added, and become riddled with contaminants.
These are the ingredients you will typically find in a mattress that start as fossil fuels:
- Polyurethane: This is the foam inside the mattress, which is typically made by blending oils and chemicals that are carcinogenic isocyanates. Then additional additives are added like ethanolamines, surfactants, blowing agents, catalysts, flame retardants, and other additives. Polyurethane foam is also referred to as “gasoline” because of how incredibly flammable it is. This is why fire retardants are needed to pass the flammability standards. Polyurethane foam on its own is incredibly flammable.
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC or Vinyl): This type of plastic typically contains hormone-disrupting chemical phthalate as an additive. Phthalates are particularly problematic for young boys. But mostly, the addition of chlorine to this type of plastic releases highly toxic dioxins and furans, as well as forms hydrochloric acid. This ingredient is linked to types of cancers.
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET): This plastic is commonly made of antimony, which can show up in the final product. This is also the material that makes up polyester.
- Polyethylene: This plastic can be recyclable in both forms. As high density (HDPE), it becomes a #2 plastic and as low density (LDPE), it’s #4 plastic. Although most polyethylene is made of fossil fuels, some of it is made from cane sugar, which is more preferable provided it’s done with sustainable farming.
- Polypropylene: This plastic can also be used as a waterproofing layer.
Brands that avoid fossil fuels: Naturepedic, Lifekind, Obasan, OMI, Soaring Heart, White Lotus, Lullaby Earth, Sealy’s (certain models), My Green Mattress & Ouef.
Mamavation Investigation of Baby Crib Mattresses
This investigation was primarily based on the report from Clean & Healthy New York & the Ecology Center. Lab tests determined chemicals of concern and products were ranked accordingly.
Not My Favorite Baby Crib Mattresses
These baby crib mattresses tested positive for chemicals of high concern. Most of these brands also gave incorrect information about the materials used in their mattresses after labs were compared to their disclosures.
- Foundations: This brand was not transparent about all materials used and the lab found antimony in the cover and determined this product was of high concern. Note: this brand is also using a vinyl coating and contained antimony at levels likely to indicate antimony trioxide as a flame retardant.
- Infrapure Mattress
- Dream on Me: This brand disclosed information that did not match up with lab tests. The lab found chemicals of high concern. Note: this brand is also using polyurethane in the padding and core & contained antimony at levels likely to indicate antimony trioxide as a flame retardant.
- 2-in-1 Breathable Twilight 5″ Spring Coil Crib with Toddler Bed Mattress with Reversible Design
- LA Baby: This brand disclosed information that did not match up with lab tests. Testing revealed chemicals of high concern. Note: this brand is using a PFAS coating and polyurethane foam in its core. It’s also using an undisclosed fire retardant, which labs determined was triphenyl phosphate and tris (4-tert-butylphenyl phosphate).
- Triple Zone 2 in 1 Soy Foam with Blended Organic Cotton Cover
- Graco: This brand disclosed information that did not match up with lab tests. Note: this brand is using fire retardants and polyurethane foam in it’s padding and core.
- Premium Foam Crib Mattress
- Nook Sleep: This brand disclosed information that did not match up with lab tests. Testing revealed chemicals of high concern. Note: This brand is using PFAST chemicals, fire retardants, and polyurethane in it’s core. It also tested with the highest amount of fluorine, which is indicative of PFAS.
- Pebble Lite (now suddenly discontinued)
- Safety 1st: This brand disclosed information that did not match up with lab tests. Testing revealed chemicals of high concern. Note: This brand is using a vinyl cover and EHDP on its PVC cover which is a fire retardant.
- Little Dreamer Baby Crib Mattress
- Colgate: This brand disclosed information that did not match up with lab tests. Testing revealed chemicals of high concern. Note: this brand is using a vinyl cover, polyurethane foam in both it’s padding and core, and fire retardants. Antimony was also found in its padding layers.
- zenBaby Hybrid 2-in-1 Crib Mattress with Kulkote
Better Baby Crib Mattresses
These mattresses were determined to be of medium concern after lab testing was finished. Most of them either did not disclose information.
- Newton Baby: This brand was transparent about materials used but the lab detected moderate concern level. Note: this brand uses polyurethane in the coating and phosphate-based flame retardants.
- Newton Crib Mattress
- Serta: Undisclosed information and lab detected a moderate concern level. Note: this brand uses vinyl in the cover & coating, uses polyurethane foam in the padding & core, & tests found EHDP on its PVC cover which is a fire retardant.
- Nightstar Balance Supreme Cool Action Mattress
- Sealy: Undisclosed information and lab detected moderate concern level. Note: this brands uses PFAS coating, vinyl in the cover, silica as a flame barrier, and polyurethane foam in the padding & core.
- Nature Couture Cotton Bliss 2 Stage Crib Mattress
Best Baby Crib Mattresses
These mattresses were tested in a lab and found to be of low concern. Only one brand was fully transparent with researchers and matched up completely. This is the one we are recommending.
- Naturepedic: Complete transparency. No chemicals of concern found.
- Ikea: Incomplete information but everything matched lab analysis and lab results suggested low concern. However, uses polyurethane foam in the core and padding.
- Moonlight Slumber: Incomplete information but lab results suggested low concern, however this brand uses vinyl in their cover and coating.
- Little Dreamer Mattress
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Mamavation is recommending Naturepedic mattresses to parents desiring their baby sleep on a non-toxic mattress. We have found them not only to be one of the best baby crib mattresses, but also mattresses for adults and children. Naturepedic is offering a special discount of 5% off everything in their store when using “MAMAVATION5” at checkout. Here are some of your options:
- Lightweight Organic Cotton Classic Crib Mattress
- Breathable Organic Baby Crib Mattress
- Breathable Ultra Organic Baby Crib Mattress
- Mini Crib Mattress
- Oval Shaped Crib Mattress
Naturepedic also offers several other organic products to keep your families safe such as adult organic mattresses, organic face masks for anyone concerned with off-gassing plasticizer materials inside masks, and organic pillows.
- Protector pads for mattress
- Organic sheets & pillowcases for kids
- 6 pack of organic cotton face masks (that we’ve tried and you can’t blow out a candle when wearing)
- Organic Pillows
- Adult Organic Mattresses