Sleeping Situations- How safe is that new mattress you bought for baby?

by Amanda Hammond

As we already know, our babies spend between 10 to 14 hours a day asleep on a mattress.  Whether it’s in a bassinet, a crib or your own bed, it is hugely important that you know what your baby is sleeping on.   Since the late 1980s, some scientists began wondering if the skyrocketing cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome weren’t coming from their actual sleeping conditions.  It seems only rational as this syndrome is synonymous with infant crib death.

The idea of mattresses being to blame was first posed by a British scientist named Barry Richardson.  Could the cause of SIDS be as simple as mattress ingredients? Dr. TJ Sprott from New Zeeland found Richardson’s studies intriguing and began the Campaign Against Cot Death in his country- home to the highest SIDS rate at that time.  The idea was to have as many parents wrap their mattresses with polythene barrier as possible, thereby reducing their crib death rate. 

The results are staggering and too significant for the U.S to be ignoring.  Of the nearly 200,000 New Zeeland babies who have slept on  wrapped mattresses since 1995, there have been NO crib deaths.  During the same time period, there have been 990 crib deaths in which mattress wraps were not used.   The proof derived from this campaign is more than one billion times higher than the amount usually needed to establish a valid medical proposition.  Yet no mainstream safety or health organization relating to SIDS will endorse the use of mattress wraps as a means of SIDS prevention.    Government agencies, foundations and companies would be liable for misrepresenting facts and green-lighting the use of questionable flame retardants in our babies’ mattresses.  That is not the type of weight I’d want on my shoulders.   Soooo…… the professionals who know about this evidence stick their heads in the sand instead.  It is unethical to withhold these studies and statistics from families when such a simple fix as wrapping a mattress could be… and is elsewhere… saving lives!

Here is what we, as parents can do to protect our babies until safer mattress guidelines are enforced. 

Buy mattresses that are Greenguard Certified.  This certification is done by the Greenguard Environment Institute to ensure that a product emits the lowest level of pollutants possible.  At this time there are two mattress companies that hold Greenguard Certification- Naturepedic and OMI/Lifekind.  If you can’t afford to invest in a mattress like the two mentioned,  wrap your mattress in a Babesafe mattress cover (the cover specifically designed by Dr.  Sprott for use in the Campaign Against Cot Death).  According to his studies, this was enough to prevent harmful emissions.

 Keep in mind that the sheets and mattress pad- any crib bedding- should be pure cotton.  Look for mattress pads with a Campaign Against Cot Death logo or a certificated showing they contain no phosphorus, arsenic or antimony.  Naturepedic makes a nice organic cotton mattress pad as well as matching sheets. 

When I found out about the New Zeeland SIDS statistics 5 months ago, I was horrified.  My son had been sleeping on his firm mattress pad with no top sheet or blankets per our pediatrician.  She said nothing about wrapping the mattress.  She said nothing about phosphorus, arsenic or antimony…. That these were most likely if not definitely in the mattress he slept on as a newborn.  I felt angry and confused.  Why isn’t this information given some medical weight?  After all, we don’t know much about SIDS.  It is like the miscellaneous category for infant deaths.  We know it occurs most often in the crib.  We know it is devastating.  Information is out there connecting this to airflow and the wear of the mattress.  Sleeping on the back is best.  Sprott’s study connects all these mysteries to one culprit.  Flame retardant chemicals found in infant mattresses interact with fungi found in mattresses when repeatedly exposed to heat or urine.  This makes a toxic gas cocktail that a baby will breathe in because it is heavier than air and right by their face.  Yes.  Put your baby on her back.  Yes!  Avoid fluffy bedding and stuffed animals.  Absolutely avoid overheating.  Please don’t reuse your mattress if you can help it.  And now that you know… you can do even more than that to arm your family against infant crib death. 

Amanda Hammond, IMI blog contributor,  is the founder of Ready Or Not Baby Planning Services in Wisconsin.

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