Are you looking for a safe and environmentally-friendly crib mattress for your baby? Many brands use the terms “natural,” “eco-friendly,” and “organic.” But how do you know if the products truly are those things?
When I had my first child, I wanted to find an alternative to traditional crib mattresses which release chemicals that harm both us and the environment. The more I tried to find a product like that, the more complicated I realized the organic label is.
Luckily, that was some years ago, and things have gotten better for today’s new moms. There are now a host of certifications to help you understand what’s really organic in your mattress… and what’s not.
Quick ComparisonOur Top Organic Crib Mattress Picks of 2019 Read Full Reviews
Natural vs. Organic: What’s the Difference?
Thanks to the work of journalists and environmental groups, we now understand that many modern products are made with a host of harmful chemicals (source). From pesticides to fire retardants, chemicals are introduced into products at every stage of the manufacturing process. Baby products, like crib mattresses, are no exception.
Unfortunately, for many of these chemicals, we don’t have a clear understanding of exactly how they impact human health. We do know that once products are in the home, these chemicals can “off-gas” and affect indoor air quality. Poor air quality can, at the very least, lead to eye, nose, and throat discomfort for your child (source).
In response to these revelations, several brands have started offering “natural” or “organic” products. These allegedly contain fewer harsh chemicals, such as heavy metals, pesticides, or phthalates.
In reality, though, the “natural” label means almost nothing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a policy on using the word “natural” with food products. However, it doesn’t apply to textile products like mattresses (source).
In essence, companies are free to use the term to attract buyers. The products behind the label don’t actually have to contain fewer chemicals or be more eco-friendly. So, the next time you see the word, it may be a good idea to dig deeper!
Items under an “organic” label are a different story, although still a complicated one. As of writing, there isn’t a 100 percent organic certification available for mattresses. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) allows non-food brands to use the term organic, even when only a portion of the materials are certified organic.
There are, however, a variety of helpful eco-friendly and organic certifications that can tell you more about your mattress. They will help you find out more about one or more of the following criteria:
- The percentage of organic materials in the product.
- The types of chemicals not used in the product.
- The sustainability of the supply chain.
- The labor practices for the workers that manufactured it.
Using these certifications, you’ll be able to find out if the mattress you’re interested in is the most organic the market can offer.
Organic and Environmental Certifications: What Do They Mean?
When it comes to crib mattresses, six different certifications may apply. Some of them apply to chemical levels in the mattress, while others indicate the way the material was farmed and produced. Mattresses can have more than one of these certifications, or none of them.
This certification is the cream of the crop when it comes to mattresses. Products with this certification must meet the stringent environmental, social, and human toxicity criteria set by the standard (source). The standard is subdivided into two sub-categories: “organic” and “made with organic.”
“Organic” produced certified under GOTS must be made of at least 95 percent certified organic fibers. “Made with organic” products must be made of at least 70 percent certified organic fibers, but with no more than 10 percent synthetic fibers.
All GOTS-certified products must contain no heavy metals, formaldehyde, or other harsh chemicals. Additionally, the workers manufacturing the mattress must not be held under forced labor, work excessive hours, or be forced to work in unsafe conditions.
The standard is regularly updated and considered by a group of stakeholders. After they’ve made changes to the standards, manufacturers have a set period to comply and maintain their certification.
The Global Organic Latex Standard is similar to the GOTS standard, but it applies to mattresses made with latex (source). More and more mattresses are being made with latex due to its durability and flexibility. This standard ensures your product meets certain environmental and social regulations.
Like the GOTS standard, a GOLS-certified mattress must be made of at least 95 percent certified organic raw material. Every link along the supply chain, from the rubber plantation to the final retailer, must meet the standard to comply.
A GOLS-certified mattress must be tested for harmful chemical emissions, labor conditions, and filler material percentages. Mattresses can be both GOTS and GOLS certified.
This standard applies to any non-food product, including mattresses (source). This standard only considers whether the materials in the product are organic or not. It does not verify the level of harmful chemicals that may or may not be present.
Products certified to this standard must be made of at least 95 percent certified organic materials. It covers the entire supply chain, from processing to the distribution of the mattress. If your product is certified, the label will say “OCS 100 certified.”
This standard does not ensure that the materials in your mattress were produced organically, but it can assure you that the mattress contains fewer chemicals. Mattresses that meet this standard must comply with harmful chemical testing limits. These limits are reviewed and revised annually.
This standard also provides a helpful online tool for customers who want to verify that their product is actually certified. All you have to do is go to their website, enter in the certification number, and you can be sure that the label is real (source).
This standard is designed to reassure buyers that their products are low chemical and particle emitting. Like the GOTS standard, it has two sub-categories: GreenGuard and GreenGuard Gold.
The GreenGuard certification tests products for levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). VOCs are compounds that can easily turn to vapor or gas and subsequently be inhaled by humans (source).
The GreenGuard Gold certification holds products to even stricter standards for VOCs. Products must be tested and meet maximum levels for all VOCs combined.
The CertiPUR-US standard is designed for products that are made with foam. Many crib mattresses are made almost entirely of foam. If you choose this kind of mattress, this certification will help assure you that it has reduced chemicals.
Mattresses that comply with this certification are made without ozone depleters, phthalates, certain flame retardants, or formaldehyde, and have low levels of VOCs.
Like other standards, buyers can find brands and stores which stock CertiPUR-US certified products on the website (source).
What Else to Look For
When it comes to crib mattresses, there are so many options. For many families, eco-friendly and organic materials are a top priority. However, other factors should be considered, to ensure a safe sleeping environment for your child.
A firm mattress is crucial for babies, especially newborns. Those guys aren’t yet strong enough to roll over or move their heads well. A firm mattress will be less likely to sag or conform to their bodies —minimizing the potential for suffocation on fabric and mattress material.
A great way to test for firmness is to push on the mattress you’re thinking about buying. When you push your hand down and then remove it, can you still see the imprint afterward? If so, it probably isn’t firm enough for a young baby.
When you buy a mattress, you should make sure that it fits your crib perfectly. This sounds obvious. However, both mattresses and cribs can vary slightly from their standard sizes, leaving some room for your baby to fall into the gap.
Test your crib and mattress compatibility before baby arrives. Many cribs have the recommended mattress sizes on their packaging. If in doubt, ask someone at your local baby store.
This one is less about baby safety and more about parent safety. Some mattresses can weigh more than 20 pounds. Foam mattresses tend to be between 9 and 13 pounds, while coil mattresses can be between 15 and 25 pounds.
When you change the sheets of your mattress or take it out to be cleaned, you’ll be picking it up while bending over the railings of the crib. It can put a lot of strain on your lower back, especially because most cribs are pretty deep on the lowest height setting. It’s a good idea to test the weight before you purchase.
Crib mattresses can take a beating. Diaper blowouts, spit up, and vomit can all cause liquids to soak into your mattress. If left unattended or not cleaned properly, these liquids can harbor mold or mildew.
Many mattresses come with removable, waterproof covers, and these are a great option to consider. They make accident clean-ups super easy and protect your mattress from potential damage.
The Best Organic Crib Mattress of 2019
We’ve reviewed the available organic and environmentally-friendly certifications available for crib mattresses. We also looked at some other important factors to consider when choosing a mattress for your baby. Are there mattresses out there that combine most or all of them?
Fortunately, yes. We looked at a variety of organic mattresses out there and found five that we really like.
1. Emily Organic Crib Mattress
This coil mattress has many of the certifications we discussed above, to assure buyers of its high-quality material. The mattress has a 150 coil count and is padded with GOTS-certified organic cotton for comfort.
Rather than using chemicals for fire protection, the mattress has an OEKO-TEX certified wool quilted cover to protect it from flames.
When it comes to chemicals, the mattress is GreenGuard Gold certified. This means it is held to stringent chemical emissions limits. The mattress also comes with a 10-year manufacturers warranty for defects, which always gives peace of mind.
Because it’s two-sided, you don’t have to worry about sticking to the “more organic” side —you can flip sides without concern, to ensure that it’s wearing evenly.
At just over 24 pounds, though, this is one of the heavier mattresses out there. If you haven’t been lifting weights recently, changing the mattress could be a two-person job.
- GOTS, OEKO-TEX, and GreenGuard Gold certified.
- Two-sided design.
- Firm mattress.
- 10-year warranty.
- Some moms say that the wool cover smelled at the beginning until it aired out.
2. Lifekind Organic Bassinet Mattress
Bassinets are used in the earliest days, but this is also the time when children are most sensitive. If you’re looking to go organic from the beginning, but don’t want to use a traditional crib just yet, the Lifekind bassinet mattress is a great option.
This mattress is made with a GOLS-certified organic rubber latex core. A latex core helps protect it from long-term liquid damage — perfect for those newborn diaper blowouts.
The outer layers of the mattress are made with double-stitched GOTS-certified cotton and wool. The wool acts as a natural flame retardant, avoiding the use of harsh chemicals. The mattress also meets the GreenGuard Gold standard for chemical emissions.
At 5 pounds, this is super lightweight and easy to handle. Note, however, that the mattress is circular. Many bassinets are round, but some aren’t, so take care that yours is the right size and shape before purchasing.
- GOTS, GOLS, and GreenGuard Gold certified.
- Natural flame retardant.
- Round shape means it won’t fit all bassinets.
3. LA Baby Foam Crib Mattress
However, there are mattresses on the market that provide some level of organic material and reduced chemical levels, while also being more affordable.
This soy foam mattress is CertiPUR-US certified for its low chemical emission levels. Soy foam is also high-density, ensuring this mattress provides the support that new babies need. Because foam is usually petroleum-based, this soy alternative helps reduce your carbon footprint.
One side also includes a memory foam layer. This is for toddlers who are strong enough to control their bodies and can safely sleep on a softer mattress at night.
On the outside of the mattress is a blended organic cotton cover. “Blended organic” means it doesn’t quite fit the higher percentage standards of GOTS, but it does contain some organic raw material. This cover is waterproof and hypoallergenic for babies that are more sensitive.
At 13 pounds, it’s lighter than many on the market. It’s also designed with air vents to promote durability and a longer lifespan.
- CertiPUR-US certified.
- Blended organic cotton cover.
- Not fully organic.
4. Colgate Eco-Classica Mattress
Petroleum-based foam can have a larger impact on the environment. However, many mattresses today are being made with plant material to minimize this impact.
This mattress is CertiPUR-US certified, ensuring that the foam material is made with fewer chemicals. It’s also compliant with the GreenGuard standard, which means it meets more stringent requirements for VOCs.
The mattress is covered with certified organic cotton, which, means it contains a percentage of organic raw material. On the back side of this cotton cover is a waterproof layer, which will protect the mattress from accidents.
At 6 inches thick, you’ll get a nice tight fit for sheets, reducing the potential for suffocation hazards in your child’s crib. And at just over 9 pounds, this mattress is extremely lightweight.
Like others we have reviewed, this mattress is two-sided. As your child grows, you can flip it over for more comfort.
- CertiPUR-US certified.
- GreenGuard certified.
- Blended organic cotton cover.
- Not fully organic.
- Some parents felt it was too firm.
5. Naturepedic Organic Cotton Mattress
With these mattresses, however, it’s important to ensure it’s firm enough for your newborn. Remember to do the hand test, and you’ll be assured that the mattress will give your child the support they need.
This is made with GOTS-certified organic cotton and doesn’t contain polyurethane foam. The mattress is also GreenGuard certified and contains no phthalates, vinyl, latex, perfluorinated compounds, formaldehyde, or flame retardants.
It’s covered with food-grade polyethylene waterproofing that isn’t derived from GMO plants. This keeps both liquids and biological irritants, like mites, out of your mattress and away from your child. It can also be beneficial for babies that are sensitive to allergens, such as dust and pollen.
The size of this mattress contributes to its durability. It will fit most toddler beds. If taken care of, this mattress can last from the newborn days through the toddler bed years.
- GOTS and GreenGuard certified.
- Can be used with a toddler bed.
- Materials are good for kids with allergies.
- Some reviewers felt the mattress lost its shape too early in its life.
Safe Sleeping Practices
Your baby will spend at least 10 to 12 hours a day sleeping on their mattress (hopefully!). That’s why it’s so important to make sure it’s a safe environment. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers some great tips on best sleeping practices (source).
Sleep tips include:
- Bare crib: Your baby’s crib should have only a mattress, a sheet, and a baby inside.
- Back is best: Lying on their back is the safest position for your child when sleeping.
- Room sharing: CDC recommends sharing a room with your baby, but not a bed.
Organic mattresses are a great way to minimize your impact on the environment. Most certified mattresses also reduce your child’s exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
Some of the higher-level mattresses have been made in environmentally and socially sustainable ways, so you know you’re supporting ethical business all along the supply chain.
My favorite is the Emily Organic Crib Mattress. It has all of the top organic certifications that ensure safety and sustainability. While the mattress is heavier, the coil springs make it more likely to remain firm through the toddler years.
The organic mattress market is continually growing and providing consumers with more options. Have you bought an organic mattress? Share your experience in the comments section below, and let other new moms know about your top pick.