Co sleeping is safe and healthy when you follow safe co-sleeping guidelines and sleep on a non-toxic mattress.
by Jane Sheppard
Developmental and anthropological studies suggest that for breastfeeding and nurturing throughout the night, both mothers and babies were designed biologically and psychologically to sleep next to each other. Babies were not meant to sleep alone in a room separate from their mothers. Babies have been sleeping with their mothers safely since the beginning of time.
The benefits of co-sleeping are enormous as co-sleeping positively affects a baby’s emotional and physical health. When safe co-sleeping guidelines are followed, SIDS rates for co-sleeping infants are actually lower than for crib-sleeping infants. Breastfeeding is known to reduce the risk of SIDS, and co-sleeping definitely allows for more frequent breastfeeding.
Some doctors and researchers believe that during co-sleeping, the physiological regulation of the baby’s breathing and heartbeat with the mother’s makes co-sleeping safer regarding SIDS. Mothers who sleep directly next to their babies can sense the proximity of their babies in order to avoid smothering them. The sleep studies done in the laboratory of James J. McKenna, Ph.D. of cosleeping/bed-sharing mother and infant pairs (2 to 4 month olds) reveal that both breastfeeding mothers and their infants are extremely sensitive throughout the night – across all sleep stages – to the movements and physical condition of the other. Mothers who sleep with their babies can readily respond to changes in the baby’s status – such as if it were choking or struggling to breathe.
If you co-sleep, make sure you create a safe sleeping space for your baby – Safe Co-Sleeping Guidelines
There are many benefits to co-sleeping. View the following articles for more information:
Does Co-Sleeping Lead to SIDS?
The Family Bed Defended
Ten Reasons to Sleep Next to Your Child at Night
Typical Adult Mattresses are Toxic to Babies
Adult mattresses contain toxic properties similar to crib mattresses. Typical adult mattresses contain dangerous chemicals and toxic gases that are not healthy for anyone, but particularly not safe for babies. They contain petroleum based chemicals, toxic foams, synthetic fabrics, and are treated with chemical fire retardants. Both children and adults can become ill by repeated and continuous exposure to the low level of chemicals continuously emitted while sleeping. Babies are particularly vulnerable to these chemicals, and there is research that suggests that the toxic gases emitted from mattresses can be a cause of crib death or SIDS (see article on toxic gases and SIDS).
Organic Cotton is a Safe, Non-Toxic Mattress and Bedding Material
100% organic cotton is the safest, most non-toxic mattress material available. Cotton is also firm and breathable and provides a comfortable sleeping surface.
There are two issues when considering an organic cotton mattress. First, you will need something to protect the mattress from the baby’s or child’s fluids and night-time “accidents.” The typical vinyl (PVC) or polyester laminate waterproof mattress pads may be toxic and can contain phthalates, so you will want to avoid these.
Second, pure organic cotton, by itself, is not fire-resistant. If a mattress is not fire-proof, federal law requires that it cannot be sold without a doctor’s prescription.
Naturepedic makes the quilted organic cotton deluxe mattress, which is perfect for co-sleeping since it is a very firm mattress. This mattress has an innovative design using natural materials to make it pass fire regulations, and it is GreenGuard Select certified – the most stringent certification for off-gassing. It is completely safe, non-toxic and firm. An organic cotton waterproof pad is recommended to protect the mattress from wetness.
There are other organic, non-toxic mattresses that may also work for co-sleeping. A firm futon mattress is an option, or you may want to go with an organic latex and wool mattress. Just keep in mind that latex and wool may be allergenic to your baby. You can avoid this exposure using an organic cotton mattress until you know your baby is not allergic to wool or latex.
Royal-Pedic makes an excellent organic cotton mattress – also perfect for co-sleeping. This mattress has no fire-proofing and does require a doctor’s prescription before it can be sold. If a doctor’s prescription is too difficult to obtain, this mattress is also available with a wool wrap that makes it fire-proof. An organic cotton waterproof pad is recommended to protect the mattress from wetness.
We have extensively researched materials and checked out these companies to find the safest, non-toxic organic mattresses for your whole family. Here you will find options with or without wool or latex, at a wide range of prices.
Will a mattress cover protect the baby from chemicals and toxic gases in a typical adult-size mattress?
BabeSafe mattress covers (made of polyethylene) are the only covers available that are currently tested and confirmed to block toxic gases, and unfortunately, they are not available in twin, full, or adult sizes. No matter what anyone says, a cloth mattress cover or dust mite barrier pad will NOT block toxic gases. Cotton, wool, latex, barrier covers or any type of synthetic mattress cover or pad may protect the mattress, but will not protect you or your children from toxic gases coming from the mattress.
What do you do if you can’t afford to buy a non-toxic, organic mattress?
See my recent blog post that answers this question in depth – How Can You Prevent Toxic Off-Gassing when You Can’t Afford to Buy an Organic Mattress?
So What’s a Co-Sleeping Parent to Do?
This is not a black and white issue, nor is it currently an easy one to solve. It’s important to protect babies from toxic mattress exposures. But keep in mind the positive aspects of sleeping right next to your baby, attentive to her natural breathing rhthyms and protecting him with plenty of breastmilk. A sensible approach may be to have your baby sleep in a non-toxic bassinet, cradle or co-sleeper next to your bed. The organic baby mattresses made by Naturepedic are completely non-toxic and don’t need to be wrapped in a BabeSafe mattress cover. You can bring your baby in bed with you to nurse frequently. Purchase the most non-toxic mattress and bedding that you can afford for your own bed and enjoy your time with your baby.
At Healthy Child, the health of babies and children is our main priority and we have done a huge amount of research and searching to find the highest quality, most non-toxic mattresses and bedding available. We offer these to you at the most competitive prices possible with free shipping since we understand the financial challenges that many families have.
NOTE: If your baby will be sleeping in a bassinet, crib, cradle or co-sleeper for naptime or otherwise, you can purchase a NaturePedic organic baby crib, bassinet, port-crib, or cradle mattress. Naturepedic makes the safest baby mattresses available that are also waterproof, dust mite proof, and fire-proof. These mattresses do not need to be covered or wrapped since there is absolutely no off-gassing. If you have a typical toxic baby mattress and can’t afford to buy a non-toxic mattress, you can use a BabeSafe mattress cover to block the toxic gases from these mattresses. You can also contact us and we can have an organic cotton bassinet, cradle, porta-crib, or co-sleeper mattress custom made for your baby.
This information is purely for educational purposes and is NOT meant to be SIDS prevention advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Healthy Child does NOT make ANY claims that co-sleeping or using a non-toxic mattress will prevent SIDS since this has not been 100% scientifically proven, and there can be other factors involved in SIDS. None of the information or options presented here are considered to be SIDS prevention advice.