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Non-Toxic Sleep May Save Your Baby’s Life

Non Toxic Sleep For Babies

“Back to Sleep,” we were told when our oldest was born in 2005.

The pamphlets and posters were everywhere, instructing bleary-eyed parents to place their infants *only* on their backs for sleep, because research had shown that the position decreased Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Your baby, dying in their sleep? What could be more terrifying?

So we Americans do what the posters say. And within seconds, or maybe twenty minutes, our babies wake up. If not well swaddled, the startle reflex kicks in and their eyes bolt open.

We used to joke that babies weren’t dying of SIDS as often because none of them were actually spending any time sleeping in their cribs when all the parents were putting them “back to sleep.” We’re now raising a nation of children who sleep in their carseats, in baby swings, and propped up slightly by foam bumpers, all because desperate parents yearn for some shut-eye but are afraid to put their infants down on their tummies for sleep.

So why is my baby in the photo smashing his little face into the crib mattress?

Because we’ll take what sleep we can get.

While Americans were fighting SIDS and making gains, but certainly not winning the war with over 2,000 babies still dying every year, New Zealanders were trying something different.

They began wrapping mattresses, especially older mattresses, with polyethylene covers. Polyethylene doesn’t allow gases through from the mattress to the baby.

And you know what? While the US was celebrating a 50% reduction in SIDS deaths, not one single baby died on a properly wrapped mattress in New Zealand.

100% success rate.

And for some reason, we continue to ignore it.

We say “the rate of SIDS decreased as babies lying on their backs increased.” But you know what? From what I’m understanding in this NPR report, infant deaths aren’t counted as SIDS if the baby is in an “unsafe sleep environment,” one definition of which is “sleeping face down.”


So if you don’t count the babies sleeping facedown as dying from SIDS, amazingly, SIDS rates are dropping.

Isn’t that a bit of a case of changing the definition, or is it just me?

A Safe Mattress May Save Your Baby's Life - Reduce The Risk of SIDS

Source: CDC

In 1999 the definition of SIDS was updated. Notice how any gains made against SIDS after that point are offset by accidental suffocations (the green line). Taking the facedown infants out was the only way of making the SIDS rate continue to drop.

RELATED: Why Are Flame Retardants in Children’s Pajamas?

New Zealand Does It Differently

Dr. James Sprott, a scientist from New Zealand, completed research in 1996 that confirmed and expanded a study done by a British Dr. Richardson in 1994 (Journal of the Forensic Science Society 1994;34(3):199-204). They both found what they believe is a link between mattresses and SIDS (or “crib death” or “cot death” as it’s referred to down under and by the Brits).

Their “toxic gas” theory is actually alarmingly simple:

When flame retardant chemicals commonly applied to all mattresses (including but not exclusive to crib mattresses) react with common household fungi in the mattress, toxic nerve gasses are produced which hover low above the mattress near the baby’s face.

There’s a very succinct step-by-step explanation of how SIDS occurs according to the toxic gas theory here, including the catalysts of phosphorus, arsenic and/or antimony (by-products of common flame retardant chemicals). We went over the risks of flame retardant chemicals in adult and child mattresses when we launched the How to Get Healthy Sleep series, but this one is by far the most terrifying.

In an unrelated study from Scotland published in the British Medical Journal, 2002, researchers discovered that “Routine use of an infant mattress previously used by another child was significantly associated with an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome.” Correlation does not equal causation – meaning there is not proof that something in a used or older mattress actually contributes to unexplained infant deaths – but it may lend some credence to Richardson and Sprott’s theories. Older mattresses would likely harbor greater bacterial and fungal growth, increasing the risk of creating the toxic nerve gas.

A number of other studies contribute to the discussion and may support the theory:

  • SIDS occurs more often in babies further down the birth order in their families (statistics from the United Kingdom, also Risk factors of sudden infant death in Chinese babies, American Journal of Epidemiology 1997;144:1070-73)
  • Many studies, including those that inspired the entire back-to-sleep campaign, demonstrate that babies sleeping on their back suffer from SIDS less often than tummy sleepers. Connecting that to the toxic gas theory is a short step: The heavy gasses hang low above the mattress, so babies sleeping facedown are exposed to a greater amount of the gas.
  • In both New Zealand and the UK, covering mattresses to prevent gasses from reaching the baby demonstrated incredible improvement in the rate of SIDS deaths.
  • A British researcher demonstrated that yes, there often are fungi in babies’ mattresses: Final Report of the Expert Group to Investigate Cot Death Theories: Toxic Gas Hypothesis (Limerick Report), May 1998.

Here’s another (2012) bit of research showing that one of the common flame retardants impedes learning ability and sociability, especially when children are exposed to it. That’s totally not SIDS related, but yet another reason to avoid the flame retardant chemicals on something on which your baby or child will spend 12+ hours a day!

Simple Solutions to Fix the Toxic Problem

Naturepedic crib mattress 1

I want my babies and older children to be sleeping on safe surfaces already, simply because of the carcinogenic and psychological risks of flame retardants and foam that we covered earlier this week. I’ve been working on finding affordable, non-toxic mattresses for the whole family for three years now, and it’s a HUGE process! I’ll close this series in two weeks with all the possibilities for adult and child mattresses, but for today, let’s talk cribs.

My first two babies slept on a hand-me-down mattress that I was so grateful to receive from the family of one of my students. We were just starting off our adult lives, more or less, and we used anything and everything that was given to us for free.

That mattress is on a toddler bed now (free from Freecycle!), and my 3yo is still sleeping on it. Sad smile We hope to move him to a twin soon, so we don’t want to invest in a new mattress for just a year, since we have another very safe non-toxic crib mattress for baby no. 4, Gabriel. The hand-me-down mattress has clearly seen better days – it’s cracked in a million places (which is making me cringe more and more as I dig into the research for this series!!!!) and is starting to take on more of a horseshoe shape instead of lying flat. We always make sure to cover it with a waterproof pad or two, which I’m hoping does something to reduce the off-gassing, but I know it’s not enough.


Genevieve from Mama Natural offers great week 2 week pregnancy updates. I wish I had these when I was pregnant!

I’m so happy to introduce you to Genevieve from Mama Natural. I loved her video series for years before I met her and I’m proud now that our families have become dear friends. She’s such a sweet, genuine woman!

Not only do I love her weekly pregnancy updates, but she is now offering a Natural Baby Care Course. I wish I had this with mine!

Imagine having access to a team of expert health professionals in your home, whenever you need them, as you raise your newborn.

  • A holistic pediatrician to give you tips on what to feed your baby.
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More of a book person? You must check out Genevieve’s week-by-week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth. It’s the natural answer to “What to Expect” and soooo comprehensive and beautiful!!

There are two proven ways to obtain a safe sleeping surface for your infants and toddlers:

  1. Wrap your old mattress with a Babesafe cover
  2. Buy a mattress without flame retardant chemicals or petroleum-based foam

Mattress Wrapping

The Babesafe mattress cover is made of food-grade, BPA-free and vinyl-free polyethylene plastic and at least 5 mils thick has been lab-tested to block all gasses from transmitting from the mattress to your baby. It also blocks dustmites and bed bugs that may be in the mattress.

Wrapping mattresses with this material is what parents did in both England and New Zealand when their SIDS rates first started dropping (in England, it was about two years before their “back to sleep” campaign). One study showed that babies sleeping with a vinyl mattress protector also had a greatly reduced rate of SIDS, which lends credence to the toxic gas theory – but you don’t want anything vinyl in the crib, because vinyl is a huge source of offgassing VOCs (ever smelled a brand-new shower curtain? Ugh.). 

Babesafe is the brand sold in New Zealand, but there’s also one on Amazon that is vinyl-free, polyethylene and the right thickness to prevent off-gassing: Harlow’s Earth Crib Mattress Cover. UPDATE: Thanks to a reader for sharing the US distributor for Babesafe.

The mattress wraps are plastic, and they’re crunchy/loud, potentially like sleeping on a potato chip bag. Some say if you put another thick or folded blanket in between the fitted crib sheet and the plastic wrapping, it’s really not so bad. But fair warning!

You can get full-sized mattress wraps here, but the shipping could be bad from New Zealand. ? For a bit of a DIY solution for bigger beds, necessary for co-sleeping, I wonder if you could get polyethylene chair covers from Amazon and duct tape them together under a mattress pad and fitted sheet. They are only 2 mils thick though, so you’d need 3 layers to follow protocol. We slept on a plastic sheet (like the ones used for tarping while painting) in the week or so leading up to Gabe’s birth in the fall, and it was slippery and a little weird but not a sleep killer – and it was over, not under, the regular mattress protector, so I think that would make a positive difference.

Safe Baby Non-Toxic Crib Mattresses

Baby Gabe with super cute hat

There aren’t many out there, sadly, but that does make it easier to choose the one you want.

Here’s what to look for in a non-toxic crib mattress:

  1. No vinyl (PVC). 
  2. No chemical flame retardants. The mattress should use cotton or wool to inhibit flames and pass the government’s test. Silica is another mostly natural, non-toxic fire blocker. Boric acid will be in some crib mattresses as a flame retardant, and that one is debatable on safety. When it comes to your baby, why not avoid it if you can? (more on mattress flame retardants)
  3. No petroleum-based foam. Beware of brands that claim they use a soy-based foam – you have to ask questions about whether it’s 100% soy (many mix a small percentage of soy-based foam in with the highly flammable polyurethane foam), as well as whether there are chemicals mixed right into the foam itself. Ask about antimony, arsenic, and boric acid at least.
  4. Organic mattresses are best, especially since cotton is one of the most highly sprayed crops in the U.S.

We got to review a Naturepedic crib mattress a few years ago, and I do believe it’s one of the best crib mattresses out there (if not the best). It’s waterproof without using vinyl, and for me, that was important. I didn’t want to have to rely on an external mattress pad to create the waterproof barrier necessary to keep my expensive mattress safe.

Here are the non-toxic crib mattresses I was able to find for you to choose from (this may not be an exhaustive list, but I’m happy to hear your suggestions in the comments if I missed any!):

  • Naturepedic crib mattress on Amazon (many independent retailers like Healthy Child also carry Naturepedic)
  • Organic Grace crib mattresses (including organic cotton, wool and latex plus the Savvy Baby brand)
  • Cocomat is totally different – made of coconut husks and lambswool, no polyethylene, but not waterproof
  • Babyletto is another brand using coconut, and it looks very clean – they do offer waterproof versions
  • White Lotus (cotton and wool)
  • Natural Sleep Store (Eco Baby and Sueno brands)
  • Lullaby Earth crib mattresses (endorsed by Healthy Child, Healthy World)
  • As with adults, you can get a doctor’s prescription for a mattress without any flame retardant qualities at all as long as you can find a company to custom-make one.

There are many brands of organic crib sheets on Amazon to complete the picture. This brand is what we use (and we’ve bought at least 2-3 sets plus others as gifts! They hold up incredibly well and are very soft.) To cover the waterproofing issue, we reviewed the many waterproof mattress pads we’ve tried in the past ten years and also have another post just on research into waterproof mattress pad safety.

Although I’m normally a huge proponent of using second-hand products because of both the cost savings and the environmentally friendly aspect, I can’t recommend used mattresses for babies (unless you’re willing to wrap them, which is more like a $40-60 cost instead of a few hundred).

Non Toxic Sleep For Babies

What If “Toxic Gas” Is a Load of You-Know-What?

Some say that the mattress wrapping info is totally bunk.

In a 2009 article from American Academy of Family Physicians, the authors state this about the cause of SIDS:

“Current literature supports a triple-risk model, which suggests that SIDS is the final common pathway of three coinciding factors. This model proposes that an infant must first have an underlying vulnerability and then be stressed by an exogenous source, such as prone sleeping placement. Finally, for SIDS to occur, the stress must occur during a critical developmental period, namely in the first year of life. The last two factors in the triple-risk model have been well researched and defined in the medical literature, but the underlying vulnerability remains to be identified.”

They do not discuss for one moment that the type of mattress or any chemicals could be related to SIDS. Since 2000, mainstream medicine has brushed of the toxic gas theory, largely because of a study done by Limerick in England between 1996-2000. Note that they don’t bring it up and disprove or disagree with it. It’s just completely left off the table. I’ll let you interpret that move how you wish. ???

So what’s with this Limerick report?

An expert group spent 3.5 years studying Richardson’s toxic gas theory, and when they published their results, they debunked all of it (according to media sources). They proved that antimony is in kids’ blood even before birth and called into question that it comes from crib mattresses; they found no correlation between SIDS and antimony; they couldn’t replicate Richardson’s results; and they said not enough crib mattresses were being wrapped from 1993-5 to make any impact on the decrease in crib deaths. (source)

Some argue those results. They say that only one of the three gases was tested for, only PVC (vinyl) covered mattresses were tested, and that some of the results were skewed because of the perspective from which data was analyzed. (Dr. Sprott is the assume original author of that page, although it’s been copied in many other places on the web without attribution.)

Unfortunately, a large percentage of the websites sharing the mattress wrapping information seem to have the same ultimate source, even though they’re all different URLs. That increases my distrust of the whole theory, BUT on the other hand, the research is compelling and makes so much sense to me. There haven’t been any studies that disprove the theory well, depending on how you interpret the Limerick report.

The results of mattress-wrapping in New Zealand is incredibly compelling but also controversial.

235,000 babies slept on properly wrapped mattresses in New Zealand over about a decade. In that time out of that number, the rate of SIDS would be expected to be about 1.1 per 1,000 babies. That means almost 258 babies should have died in their sleep with no explanation – and there were none. ZERO.

The dissenting sources often cite 3 deaths on wrapped mattresses. The counterpoint is typically given that those mattresses may not have been wrapped with thick enough polyethylene. But you know what?

Even if that statistic is true, I bet those 255 parents who didn’t lose a baby would be grateful beyond belief. I’ll bet my forty bucks on being in the 255 instead of the 3 and wrap my mattress. (In the U.S. the rate of SIDS is 0.57 per 1,000 babies, but that would still equate to 136 deaths out of the 235,000.)

In the end, more unbiased research is needed.

But for my family? In the face of the unknown of SIDS plus the known risks of chemical flame retardants, it only makes sense to me to buy the safest non-toxic crib mattress I can find and rejoice in the fact that decreased risk of unexplained death is a likely byproduct of that choice. The only downfall of getting a non-toxic mattress is the cost – which can be a big problem for many families, unfortunately. I fervently hope that costs of non chemically treated mattresses continues to come down!

What steps do you take to keep your baby safe at night?

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 (list of research)

Click to Read the Whole Healthy Sleep Series:

How to Have Healthy Non Toxic Sleep

Read all the How to Get Healthy Sleep series posts HERE.

Disclosure: Links in this post will generate commission for this site, but I worked hard to include many resources beyond my affiliate links as well. I received a Naturepedic mattress for review directly from that company three years ago.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

74 thoughts on “Non-Toxic Sleep May Save Your Baby’s Life”

  1. Hi! Any idea what happened to Babesafe mattress covers? My youngest is six and my new youngest is about to be born. Something changed… The covers are nowhere to be found! Did anyone replace what they were doing?

    1. Susan from Kitchen Stewardship

      Hi Whitney, I did a quick search and found that BabeSafe is no longer in business. I don’t know if there are other similar ones out there, but I hope you can find something that will work for you.

  2. Interesting article. I wondered why mattress wrapping got little to no attention in North America. Also was curious what you thought about greenguard certified mattresses? Wouldn’t they reduce the risk of unexplained SIDS (possibly due to offgassing) and how would they compare to organic mattresses?

  3. Katie, I’m a bit older… Had my babies in 1993, 1995, 1997, & 2000. Back to sleep was just becoming a thing. I remember asking my pediatrician about it at one time and he shrugged and said my kids slept on their tummies. I tried them on their backs, then guiltily, nervously eventually let them sleep on their stomachs so I could sleep too. My mother in law commented to me once “the more they sleep, the more they sleep”. That seemed to ring true. So here’s my thoughts. As adhd and add seem to be increasing, I’ve wondered if there is a link between kids not sleeping well and that increase. It seems kids who don’t sleep well don’t know how to sleep and I wonder if their little bodies just go into permanent overdrive. I’d love to see some research on that

  4. Stacy Russell

    I just came across this article on Pinterest. One of the first things I learned about when my first child was born was about the off-gassing in mattresses and I got that babesafe mattress cover. That was before it was easy to search resources.
    I hadn’t thought about that cover until reading this.
    I do remember when I passed down the baby bed to my friend that I told her NOT to throw away the mattress cover!
    I never did all the layers on the bed to make it soft like I’ve heard some people do. My girls got used to the crackle of the plastic I guess. LOL
    I will be sharing this with my readers.

  5. I dont like how the categories have changed, but if we want to see if sleeping on backs prevents death, wouldn’t we want to only look at babies sleeping on their backs? And compare that proportional number (how many of the babies who sleep on their backs die, relative to how many sleep on their backs) to the proportional number of how many babies die in all positions relative to all babies. (In that way it makes sense to take babies who die from sleeping on their stomachs out of the equation if we are seeing if back to sleep makes a difference.). However anytime you change a definition you need to go back and look at the old numbers using the new definitions, or at least make sure you still keep the overall big pictures numbers the same.

    1. Hi Amy,
      I guess the main things to keep in mind with any second hand mattress are things I never thought of when I received one – just that it’s waterproof and/or hasn’t had urine, etc. festering in it. ?? I would think most secondhand organic mattresses would be a great find…I hope! 🙂 Katie

  6. Hi Katie,

    I read in the comments you used a waterproof Naturepedic mattress. I was searching for that mattress or something similar. I found the Lullaby Earth™ Super Lightweight Baby Crib & Toddler Mattress. Do you happen to know if it’s a good, non-toxic mattress. It seems to be, but I don’t mind checking with different sources.

    Thank you!

  7. Katie, I know that this post is old, but it looks like IntelliBed no longer makes mattresses for cribs. I don’t know if you update old posts or not, but you might consider taking the link down. I am currently considering buying a Babyletto mattress. They look pretty “clean” and are a little cheaper than the Naturepedic mattresses. Have you heard anything about them? Here’s the link:

  8. Hey there, I do SIDS research and my sister sent me this blog post. I think you need to reconsider talking about topics that affect the life or death of other people’s children. Below is my response to your post:

    Very interesting to read. All in all, her article kind of bothered me. I feel that she is discounting the American Academy of Pediatrics just to prove her own point. Sadly too, it is a point that she gets PAID to push. Every one of her links to these mattresses are affiliate links. This is how bloggers get paid. See in the link below the name of her blog?

    See the “tag=kitchestewar” ? now she might believe this theory too OR this mattress company might just have reached out and convinced her of this theory.

    Now on to the theory:

    There is a lot of confusion with SIDS. A TRUE SIDS case is like she says in the article “having no explanation of what caused the death” this means the baby was found oh his or her back. If the baby is found on his or her belly, that means it was actually accidental suffocation not SIDS. The problem is that how a death is classified completely depends on the city’s local fireman or coroner. A lot of them don’t classify correctly because they don’t know but often because they want the parent to feel like it was not their fault. Saying “hey you suffocated your baby” will really mess someone up emotionally. So they call it SIDS. Even though it is not a TRUE SIDS. Now the fact that they may have found that no babies passed from SIDS might hide the fact that some DID still pass away from accidental suffocation. So on that point, I don’t know.

    More on The Gas Theory:

    Again research has been done on this there are world wide AAP conferences on this so the fact that she thinks she has found the cause being this Gas Theory and the rest of the science world is just too dumb to see her wisdom bugs me. There are a LOT of theories. (Long QT syndrome, low serintonin in the brain, inner ear defects, the list goes on) The truth might be that they all add up in some way to TRUE SIDS cases. The AAP reviews its guidelines every 2 years and comes out with advice once the data comes out that is compelling enough to get behind. Gas Theory came out in 2000 which means it has had 8 chances to make it into the AAP guidelines, but the data is not compelling enough. She says “modern medicine has brushed it off” what the heck is she thinking? Modern medicine wants babies to die!?!? No. The truth is the Gas theory is hot air. (Haha pun intended)

    Why her post bothers me:

    Now what IS NOT hot air is the safe sleep guidelines that help prevent hundreds of infant deaths each year. That is putting a child to sleep alone, and on their back. She shows three images of her baby sleeping unsafe with extra blankets, face down, and with a beanie on. A lot of people just don’t know better. However she is claiming herself as a SIDS expert and is trying to warn people of this very small potential gas thing but is touting in the beginning how she is too good for modern medicine and is going to put her baby face down. It angers me that someone else might follow suit and their baby might die. Then pile on the fact that she is getting paid for this post and it just puts the cherry on top for me. She is probably a good person just uneducated on this matter. Which is fine, unless you put yourself out there as an expert that people will rely on.

    1. Hi Jo,
      I appreciate your comments and especially your status as a researcher, and I’d love to hear more from you.

      I could have left your note “unapproved” and not displayed it, since it certainly paints this post in a very negative light. I am not a professional researcher, and I’m pretty clear about that in my disclaimer on my blog. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert within the article, and I never recommend that parents put their babies to sleep on their tummies (although I understand that pictures speak 1000 words).

      I think your points on SIDS deaths and how they are misclassified is very interesting, and actually I’m beyond shocked that any death on a baby’s belly must be 100% suffocation and is mis-designated as SIDS. So SIDS can *only* happen on a baby’s back? Then why are we putting babies on their backs? That doesn’t make sense to me. That designation says that every single baby who dies on their bellies are suffocated. That’s saying that SIDS doesn’t happen on the belly – can’t have it both ways. If I’m misunderstanding this, thank you so much for helping me unravel the terminology.

      I would also really like to hear from you more on the research points in the article. I hear you that we should respect the AAP and the fact that they’ve passed on this research 8x, but I’m also someone who understands respectful skepticism. Guilty until proven innocent, when it comes to things like flame retardants in mattresses (not the AAP). I want more proof that these flame retardants aren’t hurting babies. Can you find some counter-research on the flame retardants or refute the statistics in the article, which felt very compelling to me, as an amateur? In other words, why is the Gas theory hot air (with a proof other than “the AAP doesn’t think so”? Also, isn’t it more prudent to get a non-toxic mattress and lay baby on his back than to only do one thing to protect against something awful that the medical community is pretty clear that it doesn’t understand?

      That brings me to your skeptical point, and I applaud you for “following the money” – it’s exactly what I do when I’m trying to figure out the truth about something that will affect my family! Notice this line at the end of the post: “Disclosure: Links in this post to Amazon and intelliBED will generate commission for this site, but I worked hard to include many resources beyond my affiliate links as well. I received a Naturepedic mattress for review directly from that company three years ago.” So you bet, when I link to Amazon, I use my affiliate link. But about half the recommended products are not affiliate links at all, which means I’m not making any money on them. No brands worked with me on this post whatsoever, so I hope that dispels your “financial skepticism.” If I was out to make a buck, I would tell people to buy an intelliBED mattress and be done with it – but I won’t, because I’m still unsure about some of their formulations. I’ve forfeited a lot of income by cancelling a webinar with them as I discovered discrepancies between their MSDS and website. So please…challenge my research. Answer my misconceptions with links to other research. Tell me I’m wrong and help me understand why. But I would request that you not question my character.

      Thanks again for sharing this comment – perhaps we can work together on a follow-up post, because I truly would love to have a SIDS researcher for an interview!
      Best, Katie

  9. Great information! All my newborns slept on an organic sheepskin from New Zealand on their tummies. I look forward to the rest of your series as I have number 7 on the way!

    1. Sheepskin (even organic) poses a risk to babies according to Dr. Sprott. I believe it’s got naturally occurring antimony.

  10. I’m so thankful for the information you provided and was wondering if you could give me a bit of clarity on your below comment:

    Good question! No, you should not have to wrap an organic mattress as far as I can tell. There are no chemicals to offgas.

    I have the waterproof Naturepedic and love it, so if I was starting over, I’d get that. You can just put a sheet on without a mattress pad, but I prefer to double sheet for efficiency, so I use a sheet, then waterproof crib pad, then another sheet. Hope that helps!!!

    I’m taking this as you purchased an additional waterproof crib pad? So you have 2 pads and 2 sheets? Am I correct in my thought?


    1. Kimberly,
      Yes, I have two pads and sheets – because the mattress is fully waterproof, I wouldn’t need a pad on the bottom, but it’s easier to whip off the pad and toss it in the laundry than spray down the mattress in case of urine accident and wait for it to dry before re-sheeting. So if there’s an accident in the middle of the night, I can take off the top sheet and waterproof pad and then baby can go right back in on a clean sheet. Sanity saver for sure!

      If you’re shopping mattress pads, read these:
      🙂 Katie

      1. O ok, at first it seemed a bit excessive but the easier clean up makes more sense. Definitely something i wouldn’t have thought of as a first time mom! Thanks for the tip!

  11. So, I didn’t see this mentioned as a safer alternative to a regular baby mattress – but it’s what my husband and I plan on purchasing if we are ever blessed with a little one.

    1. I am also looking into this mattress and haven’t found it rated against other mattresses. If anyone has experience with it I would like to hear about it.

  12. Did you look into Moonlight Slumber mattresses? That’s what the upscale baby store near my parents’ house recommends, but the website isn’t answering all of my questions, such as what kind of foam it is. Curious to know if you contacted the company. Thanks for all you do to keep ALL of our babies safe!

    1. Hi Emily – I did! Someday I’ll add more to this post:

      They responded in email: Thank you for your interest. Our fire stocking is a derivative of sand.
      Silica is ground down n woven into a stretch poly fiber that is inherently fire resistant. It simply will not burn in it’s natural state. Absolutely no Fire Retardants are used
      We brought this to the baby industry over 11 years ago and it has become a standard that our competitors have tried hard to copy.
      All of our crib mattresses pass vigorous testing for both off-gassing and we also perform component testing, (something our competitors do not do) making sure VOC’s are not present.
      This product is also used in every stretcher pad for operating rooms as well as mattresses for all of the hospitals we supply.
      Due to the proprietary information about our products as well as competitors always looking to copy us, we do not release anything further.
      If there is a specific chemical of concern you are worried about, let me know what that is an I will happily contact our supplier and confirm it’s absence.

      I double checked on antimony and she responded: “We are antimony FREE!”

      Hope that helps! 🙂 Katie

  13. The purpose of wrapping is to isolate the toxic gass from the government mandated fire retardant chemicals. The suggested and proper method is to wrap the mattress is to include only a 100% cottontowel between the cover and your baby. If you use all the blankets and other materials they could easily have fire retardant materials. ALL mattresses. by law. have fire retardant toxic chemicals including organic.

  14. Wow, I raised 4 girls they all slept on their tummy’s, on unwrapped mattresses, maybe the old mattresses weren’t so bad. We put down a mattress pad then the sheet and on top of that a lambs wool pad. My youngest is 28. Glad I didn’t have all this stuff to worry about. good article and I’m sending it to my great granddaughter who is due in June 2015.

  15. I’m in Australia – and finding a plastic free mattress cover is tricky! We ended up buying a tea tree bark mattress which is great, if a little rustic – you have to smooth it out every few days! It smells lovely and is completely chemical free. The tetra people say they do not recommend a mattress cover but that parents tend to use a cotton rug over the mattress and under the sheet to avoid the protector. This does not seem fail safe to me. I’ve found mattress protectors made of cotton and tencel – did you research this? I also had a look at our old mattress protector from my daughter and it is made from cotton and nylon. What is your opinion on nylon? It has no plastic but is nylon plastic?

    1. Hmmm, Valerie, I’ve never heard of tencel. Nylon is synthetic…but I don’t know for sure if it counts as “plastic” or not. I am not worried about it one bit personally. If you’re still curious, I bet you could find the answer here: Beth would know! 🙂 Katie

  16. Thank you so very much for sharing such an important topic! I was one of those “too afraid” to put them on their tummies to sleep and well never slept until I learned about this, got an amazing safe mattress and then let my youngest sleep on his belly. He is an amazing sleeper and yes, this tired mamma got some sleep while he was small. Hopefully we can shot from the rooftops to all those sleep deprived mammas that a non-toxic sleep surface is so very important!

  17. Hi there,

    So for my son’s crib, I just bought the Harlow’s crib mattress cover.

    I noticed today, while changing the crib sheet that there’s already a snag in the plastic – positioned on the side, close to the bottom of the mattress. Hmm. I think it snagged on the crib frame.

    Does anyone know, will this compromise the functioning of the mattress cover at all?


  18. We have a regular crib mattress and cannot afford to replace that right now. So I’m planning to purchase the mattress cover to prevent off-gasing. I thought I would also buy an organic mattress pad to go between the cover and the crib sheet to help prevent noise, but I’m having trouble finding one that is not also chemical laden. Even the organic mattress pads all say they are waterproof, which seems to indicate there are some plastics or chemicals involved. I feel like I don’t need a waterproof mattress pad since the mattress cover seems to be waterproof, is that right? Does a chemical-free, plastic-free (safe) organic mattress pad exist?

    1. Hmmm, good question Sarah – I reviewed a bunch of waterproof pads here – – I would look at the Naturepedic brand. Try Healthy Child – – if they don’t have what they’re looking for, I bet the ladies there can direct you. Because I think you’re right, waterproof would be redundant. 🙂 Katie

      1. We have both types of puddle pads in our house, the Naturepedic (organic cotton covering a food-grade plastic that is said not to offgass on their website) and a wool puddle pad from Both work very well against accidents (and boy have they been tested lol) getting through the mattress so from a functionality perspective we are good it’s more a matter of preference! Both did not have any smell of chemicals when received (a big thing that I test being chemically sensitive). I personally like wool better as it is a natural fiber w/out plastic – it is the only completely plastic free puddle pad without that you will find (at least that I know of through my research) based on it’s natural qualities. Wool is amazing and versatile as it helps you sleep warmer when it is cold out and cooler in the summer.

    2. Use a cotton bath towel. My 13 year old (as a baby!) slept on a BabeSafe mattress cover with a bath towel between cover and sheet. People always ask, “Doesn’t it bunch up?” Not really. The fitted sheet holds it in place. You could get those stretchy bands that attach to the corners of the towel and wrap around the corners of the mattress, but it’s totally not necessary. The towel was suggested to me by Dr. Sprott and worked like a charm.

  19. Hi Katie,

    I am trying to decide what to buy for my first baby coming this summer, and I have to admit I’m a bit overwhelmed by all the info your series. If I go with an Organic Mattress (Naturepedic or LullabyEarth), do I still need to wrap it? Or just layer it with a Naturepedic waterproof crib pad? Or both? I’m not sure what the best combo is. What do you recommend if you were starting from scratch?

    Thank you!

    1. Julie,
      Good question! No, you should not have to wrap an organic mattress as far as I can tell. There are no chemicals to offgas.

      I have the waterproof Naturepedic and love it, so if I was starting over, I’d get that. You can just put a sheet on without a mattress pad, but I prefer to double sheet for efficiency, so I use a sheet, then waterproof crib pad, then another sheet. Hope that helps!!! 🙂 Katie

      1. Organic mattresses by law still have to contain fire retardants. Organic mattresses should still be wrapped with a BabeSafe cover.

  20. Hi there,

    Thank you for putting this info out there. I’ve read through the posts and comments and am still not sure what the best solution is for wrapping a king sized bed, to prevent off gassing. It’s literally brand new, so buying a new organic one is not an option right now. Also, I’m planning on co-sleeping with my newborn due this June so will need to also purchase the naturepedic waterproof mattress pad. That will go directly over the plastic wrap right? But again, I need direction on which plastic wrap to obtain for our king sized bed.

    Also, can you wrap a bassinet pad and the pack n play with the babesafe wraps as well?

    Thank you!!

    1. Jen,
      I’d check the FAQs on the babesafe mattress wrap (or other American brands listed here too) about the bassinet and pack n play mattresses, but I’m guessing that the wrap would be too loose to be safe.

      As for the king bed, I thought I saw somewhere at some point that sold large size mattress wraps but couldn’t locate it again when I was writing the post. 🙁 Some people say to buy 3-4 babesafe covers and tape them together. There’s just not a big market for it, so it’s hard to find.

      Congrats on your little one!
      🙂 Katie

    2. Jen,

      There are different sizes of babesafe covers to fit bassinets and pack n plays. The website will walk you through how to measure the mattress to choose the size, and if you’re still not sure you can email them with your measurements and they will pick the right size for you. There are instructions on how to fold and secure the cover with packing tape so it fits snugly.

      As far as wrapping an adult mattress, there aren’t any polyethelene covers that I know of and babesafe does not recommend bed sharing. What I did, on the recommendation of another friend who had discussed it with someone involved in a study about bedsharing and SIDS with a positive light on bedsharing, was to get a non-vinyl, waterproof, allergen, zippered mattress cover for my own bed and cover it with an organic mattress cover. I know it’s blocking at least some of the gases, because every once in a while, I have to unzip it a little bit and push the air bubble out. That made me much more comfortable having my preemie newborn, who I knew would need to sleep with us for any of us to get sleep, be in our bed.

      I hope this helps!

      1. So, a mattress cover like this one:

        1. That is the type of mattress cover, but I would go with the zippered rather than the fitted sheet type. The organic cover only comes in the fitted sheet type, but the waterproof type comes in both. I’ve used the aller-ease brand before and had good success with it. 🙂

            1. The Aller-ease is NOT a viable substitute where a baby will sleep. It is backed with PUL which does NOT meet Dr. Sprott’s guidelines for proper bedding protocol. Of course he is very strict and also does not promote bedsharing at all, but he has good reason and wants to protect babies 100%.

  21. My doula back in 2011 gave me a pamphlet about mattress wrapping. I looked into it and like you, felt like $40 was money well spent. We have a babesafe mattress cover still on that mattress in case another baby comes along in the future.

  22. Back in 2010, when our first baby was born, I did my research! I’m glad to hear that you’re confirming it now 🙂 We ordered a natural mattress (not organic, so it still had toxins in it, but wasn’t as bad), and a Babe safe mattress cover. I can’t measure the amount of toxins in the air, obviously, but our boys but slept relatively well as babies and are very healthy 🙂 Thanks for continuing to do the research, Katie. I think this is an important oversight in the U.S. There’s a reason behind SIDS deaths, and I really believe this is the major one…

  23. The source in North America for Dr Sprott’s Babesafe covers is It’s run by a former midwife and her husband (who is a chemist) who attend my church. They became so convinced by the research that they wanted the covees to be more readily available in this country. There are instructions included with every cover on how to use it. When properly wrapped, a mattres should not crinkle because the wrap will be too snug to crunch. I have a cover on each of the mattresses my babies sleep on, bassinet, pack n play and crib.

    1. Brittany Bergman

      Thank you so much for sharing this source! I’m currently using a pack n play as a bedside bassinet. How do you wrap such a thin mattress? Do they sell wraps for this size mattress, or do you cut one down to fit? Thanks!

      1. There are different sized covers for different mattresses. The website has instructions on how to measure the mattress, plus if you watch the videos, you’ll not only get to see me talking with the midwife, but also get a step by step how to of wrapping a pack n’ play mattress as we wrap one of them at our church. I also try to throw in some tips of what’s worked for us to keep baby warmer and the mattress less crinkly.

  24. Small technical point: the polyethylene wraps are likely 5 mils thick, not 5 mm. 5 mils is 5 thousandths of an inch, whereas 5 mm is more like a quarter inch. Interesting research! I’ve always used waterproof mattress pads, so I wonder if they are impermeable to air as well.

    1. Ah, you’ve got to be right, Alison, and I just interpreted it as something I was used to and didn’t picture how thick that was! Oops! On the waterproof pads, I don’t think so. I’m reviewing those next week and did learn a lot when we were shopping in the fall. Only some actually keep dust mites and bed bugs away from faces, usually made of vinyl in the conventional world, but you don’t want those.

      Thanks! 🙂 Katie

  25. The shop that sells the wraps says that even organic mattresses need to be wrapped which seems unusual to me. I’m in Australia and there seems to be a range of prices available here. I’ve found a supplier that does 100% organic cotton mattress covers and the actual mattress is filled with tea tree bark which hasn’t been treated in any way. I’m thinking this might be a great alternative for us! We need a new mattress for this baby now that he’s outgrown his bassinet. My only question is whether the mattress needs wrapping still?

    1. Valerie,
      I wouldn’t wrap my mattress because it’s already waterproof and has no chemicals – so if the tea tree bark mattress isn’t waterproof, you need to protect it with something. whether you need something 5.5 mm thick or not…I don’t know. I think the site is just trying to be extra safe and sell more mattress covers! Hope that helps unravel things a little bit for you – Katie

      1. The wraps are really cheap so I don’t think it’s that. They seem to be of the view that nothing should go on a mattress apart from their wraps? We will definitely be using a sleeping bag as I can’t see how a bsby can stay warm in between two sheets like they suggest. We will need to get some kind of waterproof sheet because the tea tree mattress is obviously not waterproof.

        Our SIDS and kids website says the mattress wrapping theory has been disproved? I think better safe than sorry…no one knows for sure what causes it and it has got to be better than a chemical bed! I find it interesting that more children die of SIDS in winter than summer when fans would be going and windows would be open. Seems to add weight to the gas theory.

        1. Valerie,
          Or the “too many blankets/smothering” theory! It’s really tricky since no one can figure this out, and yes, the toxic gas theory is super controversial. The reasons it was “disproved” though are not holding water with me, and so I figure better safe than sorry too.
          🙂 Katie

    2. There is a website that sells mattresses to people with prescriptions who state that even organic mattresses are treated with chemicals. Supposedly you can only get a chemical-free mattress with a prescription, and “organic” does not mean it doesn’t have additional chemicals making it fire retardant.

      Additionally, US labels cannot be fully trusted. A “100% cotton” quilted fabric can be 100% filled with polyester and only labeled “100% cotton” because that’s what’s on the outside. I have seen it myself at fabric stores. Dr. Sprott is insistent that all mattresses be wrapped, unless it is a BabeSafe mattress (only available in NZ).

  26. The website says not to put babies in a sleeping bag? I wonder why? It also says to wrap an organic mattress? I’m confused! We hVe a mattress my daughter used and I was thinking I’d just wrap that.

    1. Valerie,
      I hear you – it’s so odd that the mattress wrapping sites pretty much recommend the exact opposite of conventional SIDS avoidance techniques. I’m guessing it has to do with overheating, but I have no idea. I don’t think the bags have chemicals added to them!

      As for wrapping an organic mattress, could have something to do with possible allergens from wool or sheepskin (commonly used in Australia for mattresses). Probably just being safe? I wouldn’t bother wrapping the one I have because it’s waterproof already, but that could have something to do with it, too, trying to keep bodily fluids off the mattresses. 🙂 Katie

  27. This may seem a little extreme, but my kids are happy to just sleep on a blanket on our wood floor. One night we were reading bedtime stories there, and the boys were so tired and didn’t want to go get in bed, so they asked if they could just sleep there. At the time I was trying to figure out an affordable option for a toxic free sleep environment, so I said, absolutely. They’ve been there for months now, and I got rid of the mattresses all together!

  28. Lullaby Earth is another brand of safe crib mattresses. It’s an offshoot of Naturepedic and is more affordable.

  29. Great article!
    Do you know if it is any better to use a Pack N’ Play instead of a crib/crib mattress?

    1. Shante,
      They’d have to pass flame tests too, so if the cushioning is foam, and I think it is, it would be the same. 🙁 I’m going to have to go read those tags though because I was thinking it was the same, but if it’s not foam, there’s a possibility there aren’t chemicals added. 🙂 Katie

      1. Elizabeth Kegans

        For one of my sons, we didn’t have a crib so I used the Pack n Play. I put a thick folded blanket down on the pad, and put a crib sheet over that. I didn’t know I was probably protecting my son; I thought I was just trying to make it soft for him!

  30. Great article! Thanks for always sharing such great info! Just fyi, a few years ago I ordered the plastic full-sized mattress covers you linked to and never received them nor was I refunded my money. I tried to contact the company several times, but never heard from them. If possible, I’d suggest finding another source with better contact info than just an email address!

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