December 9, 2011 by Leah
I thought the previous post on sleep safety would be my last on that particular topic, but it turns out I’ve run across so much information (and left some loose ends) that it wasn’t.
There’s a compelling theory circulating the interwebs that postulates that chemicals in crib mattresses emit toxic gases, and that these gases are what cause SIDS. Furthermore (apparently), it’s not enough to off-gas mattresses, because after crib mattresses are no longer new, they are a great host for some sort of fungus, and when that fungus is found in close proximity to chemicals in crib mattresses, the combination creates even nastier heavier-than-air gasses than new mattresses create alone. This blog entry is a really nice summation of the issue, with references. I have to admit, the toxic gas theory makes sense on a lot of levels. If the gases are heavier than air and congregate right on top of crib mattresses, it makes total sense that babies sleeping on their backs, or in rooms with fans, are less susceptible to SIDS. (Which, if this theory is true, isn’t really a syndrome at all, but the systematic poisoning of America’s babies by chemical corporations.) It also makes sense that SIDS disproportionately affects the children of minority, impoverished, and teenage parents.
While the gas theory makes sense, I’m kind of skeptical about the fungus thing. There’s one specific fungus that grows in crib mattresses (and sheepskins) the world over? We’ve been living in houses for a long time. The ecosystems and environments in which houses exist vary widely from one state to the next, never mind across oceans. Couple those observations with the staggering amount of biodiversity exhibited in the microscopic world, and I’m not convinced. (The people over at the Green Baby Guide are with me on this one.)
That said, we’re talking about preventing dead babies here. If we happened to have a regular old crib mattress, would I send away for a $40 polyethylene mattress cover? Hatred of plastic aside, I don’t see why not.
So, am I getting a mattress wrap? No. Well, not right away.
Trying to navigate the baby learning curve via blog and Facebook has been fun, because I’m getting a ton of great feedback from all my friends and relatives who also happen to be parents. And guess what? My unofficial stats say that most of you sleep with your babies – and your dogs – and tuck the babies in with blankets. I find this very refreshing, because it’s what people have been doing for millenia. Most of you also say that the sleeping arrangements end up being whatever works in order to maximize sanity amongst all family members. (Seriously, hearing all your stories is great – now if Aaron decides to decamp to the guest room for a while next summer, I’m not going to freak out and feel rejected.)
When it comes to “where will baby sleep” we’ve actually come up with what I think will be a really good “Plan A.” It feels right, anyway.
I ordered an organic crib mattress this week. It was on sale for less than half its original price on Zulily (another phenomenon I’d never met nor cared to meet until recently…), and while it’s not a Naturepedic mattress, which some websites will tell you are the only chemical-free and waterproof crib mattresses, it’s totally chemical free. (These websites also tell you to look for only waterproof mattresses because of the Fungus.) It’s made from latex, coconut fiber, and organic cotton. (I went with the cotton cover over the wool cover since cotton is machine washable.) You can get water-resistant wool-based covers for them. I’m a lot happier relying on wool and cotton than plastic. Even if there is a fungal risk, the mattress is new, so there’s no fungus. Maybe we’ll wrap it for subsequent children.
So, now we have an organic crib mattress. We also have a crib, sitting in pieces in our guest room. Yesterday, in a blog comment I made a joke about removing one of the sides and bungeeing the crib to our bed. Turns out, people actually do this. It’s called “the sidecar arrangement.” Which makes it totally legit. Aaron was thrilled with the idea, because it means we will be working with what we have, rather than getting a bunch of new stuff that we will only use for a year. Voila. Plan A.