Every once in a while the questions in my inbox are partially organic and partially not. I tend to answer these privately, or refer people to experts better suited to answer their queries. But one arrived this week that I've had on numerous occasions so I thought best to tackle it publicly.
First, THANK YOU and Deirdre for your book - I bought it when my husband and I decided to have a baby and it really set the tone for how I've approached my entire pregnancy. I truly appreciate the work and thoughtfulness that went into the guidance in your book.
I'm now just about 37 weeks pregnant and have been mired in the search for the best crib mattress! Time is ticking away, so I thought I'd email you about my concern to see if you might have an opinion on the issue. I have been researching mattress options for our co-sleeper as well as crib and want to use an organic mattress, for all the reasons you have outlined. A question about each option:
Co-sleeper: The Arms Reach co-sleeper includes warnings against putting any additional mattress or padding on the mattress board that comes with the unit. However, the Dax co-sleeper mattress is indicated to go on top of the existing mattress board - apparently, the board is needed for support. I'm concerned now about putting the Dax mattress I've ordered on the co-sleeper mattress (along with the puddle pad). Any advice?
Crib: The latest data on SIDS prevention suggests using the firmest mattress possible. However, after talking with the folks at Dax Stores and doing some reading, it seems that a bit of firmness is sacrificed with an organic mattress because wool is used as the flame retardant, making the mattress slightly less firm. Also, using wool "puddle pads" is an extra layer of cushioning. So, I have thought that a happy medium may be Naturepedic's mattress (wouldn't need puddle pads), but I don't fully trust the polyethylene and would prefer an organic innerspring with wool puddle pads, were it not for the SIDS concern.
Hi Alexandra (I like your name!),
Although I write often on all things crib mattress and setting up a nursery, I'm not a SIDS expert, so I don't tend to address this topic, especially not in print, even though I obviously do address organic mattresses.
But since you asked me, an environmental health expert, instead of a SIDS expert, I can only tell you that it is a very good idea to cover conventional sleeping surfaces to make sure the layers closest to your infant are safe to be breathing, and to use an organic crib mattress.
There has been some discussion and research regarding the toxic gases from conventional mattresses and their possible link to SIDS. This HealthyChild.org article outlines the work on that front and has an interesting reference list at the bottom. Nowhere in here is the firm conventional vs. slightly less firm organic mattress covered, by the way.
We bought an organic crib mattress and wool puddle pads for our daughter. A puddle pad, by the way, is a pretty thin piece of wool, not really very cushy. Not that she ever slept on them. She slept in our bed. So right there that should show you I wasn't following any conventional SIDS advice. But I did think having her next to me meant I could hear her when/if there was distress. But that's me.
As for the co-sleeper mattress insert, see for yourself how safe it feels once you've inserted it. What does Dax have to say about the fact that Arms Reach says not to use anything on there? Everyone is likely just covering themselves legally because SIDS does involve some unknowns, and it's so tragic.
Your email reminded me of the week before my daughter was born, when I was setting up some sort of snuggle nest contraption for her. It was supposed to go in the bed between us so we could have her there and not roll over on her. I wanted to replace its PVC-covered mattress with something safer. An organic leaning mom I know told me to fold up the puddle pad and put it in the sheet that it came with (it looks like a pillow case) and I could not for the life of me understand how to do this or how it would be safe. I tried it every which way, and emailed this mom countless times. It was very puffy and didn't lay flat.
What I didn't understand then and couldn't have understood until I was in the moment is that it's really hard to imagine how baby gear works until you have a baby to put in said gear. Slings, diaper pads, even little baths - it's all impossible! Once you have your babe and you lay them down and learn how weak or how strong they feel already, even at a few hours old (or maybe it was just mine - too much spinach during pregnancy?) you may feel more - or less - comfortable with that co-sleeper insert. All of this is to say you'll know how you feel about the safety when you know - much of it is instinctual. And not everything is preventable. Which is scary. And no amount of research reading and gear questioning can take away that fear. Wait until you're chasing a scooter piloted by a tiny daredevil on a city street!
That's said, beyond a firm sleeping surface, there are other things experts suggest doing regarding SIDS. I'm sure you've seen the lists. Here's another one. If you're going to use a pacifier because some experts believe they help, the purest version on the market is made of natural rubber by Natursutten. These weren't available stateside that I knew of when my daughter was born.
Congrats on your full term-ness. And enjoy your babymoon!
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