Sleeping

SLEEPING/Playards & Travel Cribs

Overview

Sometimes you're going to want to move around and will need a safe place for your baby to sleep. Playards and travel cribs can be very simple (one level, with a thin mattress and space to sleep or play) or very complex (with added bassinet attachments for use before baby is rolling over, separate diaper changing platform, mobiles, and more). 

Hidden Hazards

Playards may be made with materials, paint or other finishes that contain volatile organic compounds and other harmful chemicals. Rigid plastic support materials may be made with PFAS (Teflon in fibers), bisphenol A (in polycarbonate) or polyvinyl chloride (potentially including phthalates or heavy metals. Mattresses, toppers and padding and other products containing foam may contain chemical flame retardants. Some playard mattresses (or sheets sold for them) may have embedded antimicrobials.

Other Considerations

Remember, babies grow fast.  A bassinet or cradle suitable for a 1 month old may no longer be safe or adequate a couple months later.  Make sure to consider height and weight limits. To avoid physical hazards, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends choosing products certified for safety by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). Consider your specific needs and whether you’ll need a bassinet/safe containment product.  Many come with LED lights for changing baby at night, bouncing, rocking or vibrating options, music, storage areas, easy folding for portability, all of which may add to the cost of the product.

Cribs, bassinets, or play yards that meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission and ASTM International's safety standards are recommended, using only mattresses that are intended for that specific product. (Note: While this usually means the mattress from the manufacturer, there are some mattresses made especially for specific frames that are made by third parties, including Naturepedic, which is certified by MADE SAFE.)  Soft objects such as pillows, quilts, toys or comforters should not be placed under sleeping infants, even if they are covered by a sheet. In addition, be careful to avoid placing the bassinet/containment area near any potential hazards such as cords and electric wires.

Recommendations

Check to see if the label states that the product is compliant with “California flammability standard TB 117-2013 and the box indicating “No added chemical flame retardants” is checked. If you don’t see that label, you can contact the manufacturer. Ask about the other chemicals listed above; they are not often listed on product descriptions.

References & Resources

Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers

For evidence that some playards may contain the chemicals above, see this patent description.

SLEEPING/Monitors

Overview

The truth is, this is something you're probably better off skipping. With advances in technology, you can now monitor not just the sounds your baby makes, but also watch them on a screen (with night vision!), track room temperature, talk back, even track their heart rate and blood oxygen levels. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which recommends sharing a room with your baby for six months to a year, recommends against using monitors that claim to reduce SIDS. Sharing a room - but not a bed - with your baby has been shown to reduce the incidence of SIDS by 50%, per AAP.

Hidden Hazards

Nearly all electronic devices have circuit boards inside these days, which can contain heavy metals and flame retardant chemicals. The simpler the device, the likelier it is to contain fewer chemicals of concern. The more complex the system, the greater use of components that require chemicals of concern like heavy metals and flame retardants. Even when these components are tucked inside on circuit boards, these products also harm the people and the environment during manufacture and disposal.

Other Considerations

There is concern about electromagnetic radiation from wireless devices, including cell phones, tablets, and the growing Internet of Things (lights, refrigerators, Alexa). Simple monitors emit lower frequency signals, which are thought to be safer.

Recommendations

If you have a small space, or will be near your baby as they nap or sleep, skip the monitor. Generations of parents monitored their children by keeping doors ajar or having babies sleep in the same room. If you'll only need a monitor occasionally, land-line or VOIP handsets can be sometimes used in an intercom mode to stand in for a separate baby monitor. (Just remember to put your side on mute!) If you do choose a monitor, consider a simple analog model that operates on the FM band (40 MHz) and keep cords tucked out of sight. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends keeping the monitor at least three feet away from baby's crib. If you choose a monitor that can connect to the internet, make sure you choose strong security settings, like local-area-network-only options and make sure you change the password regularly. Consider monitors that only transmit during baby's activity to limit baby's exposure to electromagnetic radiation.

References & Resources

Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has a factsheet on Nursery Safety

Learn more about the American Academy of Pediatrics latest advice for healthy sleep.

For information on electromagnetic radiation, see the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health's fact sheet (it's in English).

 

SLEEPING/Mobiles

Overview

This is an item that you probably can do without. However, some parents find that as long as baby isn't sitting up, mobiles can be fun developmentally-beneficial distractions for babies. Note: some parents find that putting a mobile in a diaper changing location is more helpful as a distraction than hanging it over the crib.

Hidden Hazards

Mobiles are often made of plastic, metal, and coated paper. Some mobiles are made to move by electronically-controlled motors, which bring concerns about heavy metals and flame retardants in the interior components. Because mobiles can be made of many different kinds of materials, it is possible for them to contain a wide array of chemicals of concern, with wide variability.

Other Considerations

Make sure they are completely out of reach and securely attached.

Recommendations

If you choose one, look for a simple one that can move on air currents instead of electrical components. This is less expensive and has a better environmental health footprint.

Or, just go without. One less thing to pass along or throw away. After all, the biggest thing you can do reduce environmental health impact and avoid chemicals of concern is to choose to have fewer things cluttering the space. 

References & Resources

Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers

SLEEPING/Bedding

Overview

There are a lot of things you can put on top of your mattress or wrap your baby in. However, there are only a few things you need and a bunch you definitely don't, for safety reasons. To protect your mattress you may want a mattress pad, or a "puddle pad" (a smaller piece of usually wool placed where diaper leaks may happen) to protect your mattress. You'll want several fitted sheets. And you'll need some blankets that can swaddle your newborn and then pajamas or wearable blankets (see sleepwear). And really - that's it. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having nothing but a sheet and your baby in the crib. 

Hidden Hazards

There are a number of ways to make mattress pads and other bed-related items waterproof and some use fewer chemicals of concern than others. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC, or vinyl) is common, which can contain phthalates. If you choose foam-based bumpers, these may have flame retardant chemicals. As with all textiles, they may contain a number of solvents as finishing and manufacturing chemicals. 

Other Considerations

In addition to helping promote a healthy sleep space, keeping a spare crib can save money because you aren't filling it with decorative add-ons. 

Recommendations

Whenever possible, choose organic textiles for items that will touch your baby's body. Products made of fabric are certified organic by GOTS (the Global Organic Textile Standard). Avoid latex to avoid possible allergies. Waterproofing that is safest includes the liquid-resistant wool "puddle pads," and polyethylene/polypropylene coatings. You won't need waterproof mattress pads if your mattress surface is already waterproof, though they can make cleaning up accidents easier.As with all textiles, launder before using them for your baby.

References & Resources

Learn more about why you should skip bumper pads.

Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers

SLEEPING/Bedside Sleepers

Overview

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends sleeping in the same room as your newborn until they are six months to a year old. Yet most families can't fit a full-sized crib into the parents' bedroom. Smaller sleeping spaces like "Moses baskets," cradles, bassinets, and bedside sleepers are available to fit this need. These all stand near or directly attached to the side of the bed. There are also products that fit on the bed, designed to be used above the area with blankets for parents. The AAP says there isn't enough research on bed-side sleepers or in-bed bassinets to say if they are safe. They are intended to create a clear open space for baby, near to sleeping parents, but without the likelihood of roll-overs or bedding interfering with safe sleep. If you can't fit a full crib in your room, one of these options may make sense for you. Keep in mind that they cannot be used safely once a baby can push up on hands and knees.

Hidden Hazards

Just like cribs and mattresses, bedside cradles and bassinets can contain chemicals of concern, including flame retardant chemicals and polyvinyl chloride (PVC, vinyl) in the mattress, and could have additional chemicals added to the mattress pad, including antimicrobials and per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS). In addition, some lightweight bassinets are made with PVC tubing. Some can be made with composite board, and therefore could release formaldehyde. Cradles may be made of iron, and older models may have been painted with lead.

Other Considerations

Look for products that allow airflow. One of the reasons bumpers are not recommended in cribs is because they could contribute to suffocation. The same is true in smaller sized sleep spaces. Make sure, if you are using a second-hand or family heirloom item, that the slats are less than 2 and 3/8ths inches apart, and that the paints are lead-free.

If you are thinking about costs, you could delay the purchase of a large crib by choosing a bassinet, cradle, or bedside sleeper to use for the first few months as you get to know your baby. However, this means making two purchases. Since the smaller sleep space will only be used for a short period of time, get the most for your money by purchasing a used bassinet/cradle/bedside sleeper (made since 2010), choose one that will convert into something else you know you want (small playard or "read to me" seat), or pick one that will hold its value so you can resell it.

Recommendations

Naturepedic makes a number of bassinet and cradle mattresses that are made from natural materials and are free of harmful chemicals, as certified by MADE SAFE.

Otherwise, consider products that avoid the chemicals of concern listed above. This will involve asking detailed questions of the retailer, and sometimes you'll need to contact the manufacturer directly.

References & Resources

Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers.

Learn more about the American Academy of Pediatric sleep recommendations.

SLEEPING/Mattresses

Overview

For sleeping, the crib and mattress are the biggest investments you'll make, and aside from a fitted sheet, the only things you'll actually need for your baby, from newborn to toddler. Recent safety advice advocates no co-sleeping in the same bed, but sleeping in the same room as your baby for at least the first six months.

Hidden Hazards

Mattresses can be made with a wide variety of materials. All must withstand an open flame for a period of time in order to meet flammability standards. Fire prevention can be achieved with a nontoxic barrier material (the most benign being wool; kevlar is another option), or by adding flame retardant chemicals to foam/latex. Many people seek waterproof mattresses and as a result, coverings can be made of polyvinyl chloride (with softeners including some phthalates) or can be coated with per- or polyfluoro alkyl substances (PFAS). Mattress surfaces may also be treated with antimicrobial chemicals. Inside, mattresses may be made with a variety of padding, some of which may include other chemicals of concern including solvents.

Other Considerations

Now that drop-side cribs should no longer used, heavy mattresses can be more challenging to change. However, traditional metal-coil mattresses can be the least dependent on petroleum chemicals, and can more easily meet flammability standards without use of flame retardant chemicals. If you are choosing a foam mattress, beware of green claims for "soy-based foam" which is not made with a significant portion of soybean oil. Such foams are still polyurethane, and are still made with carcinogens.

Recommendations

The Getting Ready for Baby campaign specifically recommends products that have been certified MADE SAFE. For crib mattresses, this includes:

ED Ellen DeGeneres Crafted by Lullaby Earth

  • Slumbertime 2-Stage Lightweight Crib Mattress – Animal Print

  • Slumbertime 2-Stage Lightweight Crib Mattress – Heart Print

  • Slumbertime 2-Stage Lightweight Crib Mattress – Love Print

Lullaby Earth

  • Breeze Breathable 2-Stage Crib Mattress

  • Healthy Support Crib Mattress – Single Firmness – Classic

  • Healthy Support Crib Mattress – 2-Stage Dual Firmness – Classic

  • Healthy Support Crib Mattress – Single Firmness – Leaf Pattern

  • Healthy Support Crib Mattress – 2-Stage Dual Firmness – Leaf Pattern

  • Wisp Air Breathable Crib Mattress

Lullaby Earth for buybuy BABY

  • Lullaby Earth Super Lightweight Baby Crib & Toddler Mattress

  • Lullaby Earth Super Lightweight Baby Crib & Toddler Mattress Stage 2

Lullaby Earth for Pottery Barn

  • Lullaby Earth Lightweight Crib Mattress

  • Lullaby Earth Lightweight 2 Stage Crib Mattress

Lullaby Earth for Rosie Pope

  • Wishful Dreamer Lightweight Crib Mattress

Naturepedic

  • Innerspring Series: Organic Cotton Classic 150 Crib Mattress

  • Innerspring Series: Organic Cotton Classic 150 Seamless Crib Mattress

  • Innerspring Series: Organic Cotton Classic 150 Seamless 2-Stage Crib Mattress

  • Innerspring Series: Organic Cotton Classic 252 Crib Mattress

  • Innerspring Series: Organic Cotton Ultra 252 Seamless Crib Mattress

  • Innerspring Series: Organic Cotton Ultra 252 Seamless 2-Stage Crib Mattress

  • Lightweight Series: Lightweight Organic Cotton Classic Crib Mattress

  • Lightweight Series: Lightweight Organic Cotton Classic 2-Stage Crib Mattress

  • Lightweight Series: Lightweight Organic Cotton Ultra 2-Stage Crib Mattress

  • Lightweight Series: Ultra Breathable 2-Stage Organic Crib Mattress

  • Organic Cotton Bassinet Mattress Oval (13x29x1.5)

  • Organic Cotton Bassinet Mattress Oval (14x29x1.5)

  • Organic Cotton Bassinet Mattress Rectangle (11x29x1.5)

  • Organic Cotton Bassinet Mattress Rectangle (15x30x1.5)

  • Organic Cotton Bassinet/Cradle Mattress Rectangle (15x33x1.5)

  • Organic Cotton Cradle Mattress Rectangle (18x36x1.5)

  • Organic Cotton Mini Crib/Portable Crib Replacement Mattress (24x38x2)

  • Organic Cotton Oval Bassinet fits Stokke Mini (23x29x1)

  • Organic Cotton Oval Crib fits Stokke Sleepi (27x47x3)

  • Quilted & Breathable Series: Organic Cotton Quilted Deluxe 252 Crib Mattress

  • Quilted & Breathable Series: Organic Cotton Quilted Deluxe 252 Crib Mattress with Wool

  • Quilted & Breathable Series: Organic Cotton 2 in 1 Ultra/Quilted 252 Crib Mattress

  • Quilted & Breathable Series: Ultra Breathable 2-Stage Organic Crib Mattress

Naturepedic for buybuy BABY

  • Naturepedic Lightweight Organic Cotton Regency 2-Stage Crib Mattress

  • Naturepedic Organic Cotton Element Baby Crib & Toddler Mattress

  • Naturepedic Organic Cotton Plus Crib Mattress

  • Naturepedic Organic Cotton Ultimate Baby Crib & Toddler Mattress

Naturepedic for Pottery Barn

  • Naturepedic Organic Ultra Light 2 Stage Crib Mattress

Naturepedic for Rosie Pope

  • Pure & Secure Sleep Organic Crib Mattress

 

Aside from these specific recommendations, we recommend looking for mattresses made without flame retardant chemicals, polyvinyl chloride, antimicrobial additives, per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS - this includes PFCs). There is no evidence that "soy foam" offers any environmental or health benefit versus polyurethane foam, which we also recommend avoiding.

References and Resources

Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers

Learn more about how mattresses are made (and what they were made of in 2011) in The Mattress Matters.

 

SLEEPING/Cribs

Overview

For sleeping, the crib and mattress are the biggest investments you'll make, and aside from a fitted sheet, the only things you'll actually need for your baby, from newborn to toddler. Recent safety advice advocates no co-sleeping and sleeping in the same room as your baby for at least the first six months. Cribs can be made of solid wood, metal, or pressed/laminated wood. They can be finished with paints, varnishes, lacquers or, if made of metal, powder-coated. Cribs are durable and can be used by many children, so long as they are made to current safety standards and are free of harmful chemicals. 

Hidden Hazards

Formaldehyde is used in the adhesive that binds pressed board (like MDF), particle board, and plywood together. It can also be used as glue or adhesive with solid-wood furniture. Older cribs sold before 2008 may have been painted with lead-based paint. Metal cribs can be "powder-coated" with a material made with bisphenols. Often, cribs come with plastic bite guards (as babies grow and stand, they can chew the top rail) and some are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Other Considerations

Second-hand cribs may not meet current safety standards that were set to avoid trapping or seriously injuring babies. Cribs with the following features are no longer legal to sell new: drop-side fronts and widely-spaced slats (Current US maximum is 2 and 3/8" wide).

Recommendations

You can stretch an investment in a high-quality, solid-wood crib by choosing a model that can convert to a toddler/day bed. Depending on how fast your child grows, this can extend its life to 2-3 years. Make your choice last by opting for a solid-wood crib with zero or low-VOC finish, or consider unfinished solid wood. Ask about glues, even with solid wood.

If you choose a crib made with plywood, laminate, or MDF, ask about VOCs and formaldehyde - and seek those that are certified to CARB (California Air Resources Board) Phase 2 limits.  

Shopping on a tight budget? Formaldehyde leaves products made with it early in the product's life. Recent second-hand cribs with fixed sides and narrow spacing of slats are worth considering. 

If you do buy or are given a crib that smells strongly out of the packaging, consider setting it up as soon as possible in a well-ventilated area. This could be a garage, or in the new nursery room, with the door closed and the window open enough to allow fresh air to circulate and flush out the formaldehyde.

References & Resources

Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers

Learn more about the California Air Resources Board's limits on formaldehyde and other chemicals.