Dear Organic Mom,
Baby number one is on the way and we're going to have lots of guests once she arrives. We don't have enough room to set up a real bed with a real mattress in a guest room and - thanks to you! - we don't want to buy an inflatable bed made from PVC plastic. Do you know of any stowaway guestroom options that aren't PVC?
-Maryanne in D.C.
Good question. First off, congrats! Oddly I got your email the same day this topic was being discussed on my local parenting Yahoo! Group board. Something in the air? Some thoughts:
Aerobed makes tons of PVC versions as well as a PVC-free version, the PerformaLite Inflatable. Many people I know have these in the twin size for kid sleepovers. After poking around to try to find out what else they use to replace PVC, I came up short. But most things are better than PVC and this isn't something that people will be sleeping on night in and night out. That said, it will be in your home night in and night out so will offgas its contents wherever you keep it. If you have a basement or a garage where you don't spend much time, store it there. One note of warning: kids seem to find the PVC Aerobed doable but I've heard from more than a few adults that it's too thin for their liking and comfort.
Roll up camping mats are another possibility, but might also be too thin for adults. I have found it is the rare new grandparent who wants to sleep on a camping mat. If your parents or in-laws are up for it, Aerobed makes a PVC-free camping mat, and if you do an internet search for "eco" camping gear you will find a whole host of eco-foam items that are PVC-free, as well as some organic cotton numbers. Just make sure to find out what the foam is in the camping mat, even if it's covered in organic cotton. Natural latex or even soy foam are vastly preferable to petroleum-derived foam. The latter is where the worst flame retardants tend to lurk.
Another option is to is to buy a natural or organic futon and keep it under your own bed (just don't forget to pull it out and HEPA vacuum under and around it) or rolled up in a closet big enough to stash it.
Pullout couches that don't contain the worst flame retardants and materials are few and far between. But do you have room for a daybed? A metal one means no particleboard concerns. Put a good mattress or futon or even natural latex or soy foam with no bad flame retardants upholstered in good fabric on it. Use it as furniture when no guests are there and as a bed when guests arrive. A futon with a hardwood frame can serve the same function.
Meanwhile, a word of unsolicited and not necessarily organic advice re all of those guests who will descend after the baby is born - unless they're going to be helpful and you really truly want them there, sometimes the best guest bed you can offer when you have a newborn, especially in a small space, is one not inside your home or apartment! Can they stay at a hotel? Or rent a short term apartment or a room nearby? Do you have a generous neighbor with extra room who might be willing to house them? I say this because those first weeks after baby is born are a special you-can't-get-it-back-once-its-gone time for new parents to get to know their baby, and to settle into what my birth class teacher refers to as "the new normal." While it is lovely that family and friends want to visit and meet your wee addition, do not feel obligated to host them overnight. Especially if these are people who make you anything but totally comfortable. Don't worry about sounding rude for wanting, needing, or requesting they give you your space as you learn to breastfeed, care for a newborn, and cope on very little sleep. You will have a perfect little excuse.
Enjoy the duration of your pregnancy.
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