Choose a Crib Mattress That is Safe and Pthalate Free
When choosing a crib mattress for your baby, safety must be your priority. A safe baby mattress will be extra firm that will provide proper support. It will fit tightly inside the crib, and should be adjusted to a height that depends on baby size and mobility. The inner components of the mattress should be composed of high quality materials. A safe crib mattress will not contain any traces of pthalates or other harmful chemical agents.
To avoid entrapment or suffocation it is critical that the baby mattress fits snugly inside the crib. You should not be able to fit more than one finger between the side of the mattress and the crib/rails. I also recommend that you go with a standard size baby mattress. It should measure 51 5/8” by 27 1/4” and should not be more than 6” in thickness. Please make sure you measure the mattress yourself before placing it inside the crib. This is because manufacturer labels are not 100% error proof. This was the case with the 20,000 Simmons mattresses that were recalled in June 2008. A safe baby mattress should not only fit tightly inside the crib, but it must also provide adequate support.
Choose a crib mattress that is firm and uniform throughout. A sturdy interior support system will prevent the mattress from sagging. This will keep the fitted sheets tight and loose areas (suffocation hazard) will not be created. You may quickly test the firmness by squeezing from both sides in the middle. A firm mattress will quickly snap back once you let go and will not conform to the shape of your hand. However, an extra firm baby mattress may still become a springboard for a possible accident, if it’s placed to high inside the baby crib.
The mattress height is adjustable to several different levels in most cribs on the market today. This is a safety feature that must be used once your baby becomes more mobile. Once your baby is able to stand, I recommend lowering the mattress to the lowest level. This will prevent your little one from climbing out. However, if your baby is constantly attempting to climb out (or is taller than the sidebar), then the crib and mattress are no longer safe. However, during that critical first year of development, I recommend investing in a quality crib mattress.
Since your baby will spend the majority of the first year on the mattress, avoid buying a cheap mattress that sells under $80. Cheap mattresses are not very durable and in my opinion, simply not safe enough. While a good quality baby mattress will be made of high quality materials, and as a result expect to pay more.
In my opinion, the best crib mattresses on the market are those that are made of 100% certified organic materials. These mattresses are not chemically treated during the manufacturing process, and therefore will not leach harmful chemicals like phthalates.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are potentially toxic. They are considered more harmful for infants since they are still developing and growing. Studies on phthalates indicate they may cause an increased risk of asthma, allergies, and disrupt the reproductive development of babies.
Phthalates have been added to traditional baby mattresses for decades. Mattress manufacturers have been adding phthalates to PVC plastics in order to create a flexible and soft waterproof vinyl cover for baby mattresses. The hazard is created when phthalates often leach or gas out from the plastic mattress covers into the surrounding air.
Babies may spend at least 10 hours on their crib mattress every single day. This may continue for at least the first two years of a baby’s life, which are also the critical stages for healthy development. Considering how close a baby will sleep to the mattress cover, combined with duration, the potential for high exposure to phthalates is great.
In 2004, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) informed baby mattress manufacturers that they have the option of voluntarily eliminating phthalates from their mattresses. However, these companies did not listen. Since the removal of phthalates from their mattresses, would have resulted in a very hard and unusable sleeping surface.
Just recently, on February 10, 2009 the CPSC came up with new guidelines. These guidelines were created to minimize the use of six types of major phthalates (over 0.1%) in the production of mattresses for babies. In my opinion, these guidelines are simply not good enough. Especially since the CPSC has not completely prohibited phthalates in baby mattress production. But they certainly should, since scientific studies have proven the toxicity of these chemicals. One of my main concerns is whether manufacturers will actually follow these guidelines and how well will they be enforced.
My advice for parents is not to wait around for mattress manufacturers to change their production habits. I recommend they avoid investing in any mattress that may contain even slight traces of phthalates. The risks are considerable. The only viable solution that I can think of is to invest in a 100% certified organic crib mattress. Organic mattresses are produced without the addition of harmful chemical additives or toxins.
Phthalates should be banned from all baby products. The well-being of our newborn babies should not be compromised due to convenience or old manufacturing practices. Instead of ignoring the issue at hand, companies should do everything they possibly can to find a safe replacement for phthalates in the production of baby mattresses. Our precious babies cannot afford to be exposed to these toxic chemicals, especially when they are so vulnerable while peacefully sleeping on their crib mattress.
A safe baby mattress is just one of the many necessary components for your baby’s nursery. I strongly believe that safety should take precedence over style or design. So please invest in a high quality and safe crib mattress first. The furniture and nursery design should be secondary, since it won‘t affect your baby‘s well being.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Martin Dejnicki lives and works in Toronto, Canada. He's the owner of the Crib Mattress Guide, which is a resource for parents that are looking for crib mattress safety and buying advice.