When our son was born, we bought an organic crib mattress for him. He slept in our bed for a few months, and still comes in from time to time to sleep with us during the night, but most of the time he sleeps on his crib mattress. Last year, we got a wooden toddler bed and moved the mattress into that, which had been working perfectly. But with another baby on the way, we knew we needed either another crib mattress for the baby, or a twin mattress for our son so that we could take his little mattress and put it back in the crib for the baby.
My first thought was to just get another crib mattress. The organic ones are available for a couple hundred dollars, and we’ve been very happy with the one we have. But I knew that would be a relatively short-term solution. Our son is going to outgrow the toddler bed and the extreme firmness of a crib mattress before we know it. So although they are a lot more expensive, I started looking at organic twin mattresses.
Given that a standard twin mattress can be bought for a couple hundred dollars, the price tags on the organic mattresses were a bit hard to swallow. But I reminded myself that we’re frugal for a reason. It’s not so that we can hoard money and just save it aimlessly. Instead, we want to make sure that we use our money mindfully, on things that really matter to us. There’s a lot of controversy about mattresses and the chemicals that are in them. I don’t claim to know everything about the issue, but my gut instinct is to err on the side of caution when it comes to exposure to synthetic chemicals. That’s why the only cleaning products that make their way into our home are baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, soap nuts, and Dr. Bronner’s soap. It’s why we don’t use any synthetic chemicals on our lawn or garden. It’s why we buy organic food.
In general, I try to balance my desire for a toxin-free home with both our budget and with our efforts to be as environmentally-friendly as possible. That means that we’re not going to replace stuff we have that is still in good shape (like our living room furniture, for example), just to get toxin-free versions. But when we need to replace something or get something new, we try to choose the most environmentally-friendly and toxin-free version we can afford.
And that brings us back to searching for a mattress. We wanted to get something that would last our son for a long time. We looked at mattresses at a local organic bedding store, and of course the solid latex ones were divine. They were also $1500 for a twin size. We decided to go with an innerspring instead, and add a latex topper to it in a few years when our son is heavier and needs a softer bed. The Green Baby Guide has addressed the fact that there aren’t a whole lot of choices available for reasonably-priced twin mattresses, and I agree. I looked at both of the ones they mentioned, but didn’t buy either one. The $600 Naturepedic is waterproof and from what I read, it’s just about as firm as the hard-as-a-rock crib mattress our son already has. I know that’s perfect for babies and small children, but not as likely to be a good long-term solution. While I liked the price tag on the $400 Natura Kidz mattress, it looks like soy-based polyfoam isn’t really that much of an improvement over regular polyurethane foam, and to get a truly “organic” mattress from natura Kidz bumps the price tag up to $1100.
I liked what I read about Naturepedic mattresses and their non-toxic fire protection system (another alternative to toxic fire retardants is wool, which is naturally fire resistant, but adds a lot more to the cost of the mattress). Eventually I settled on their quilted organic cotton deluxe mattress for $700. I felt that would give us a mattress that could be used long-term (with the addition of a latex topper as our son gets older) and was a good compromise in terms of price. I ordered it from The Clean Bedroom because they offer a ten percent discount if you become a fan on Facebook. That allowed me to get an organic waterproof mattress pad ($79) essentially for free. There was also no tax and no shipping charge.
Since we were spending so much money on the mattress, I wanted to find a good deal on a bed frame. We wanted a bed with a solid support under the mattress (so that we wouldn’t need a box spring) and we were looking for something with drawers so that we could move our son’s dresser into the baby’s room. I also wanted something made of solid wood instead of particle board and veneer. Happily, Craigslist rarely lets me down. After a few weeks of searching the listings, I came across a bed that was exactly what we wanted. Solid wood, drawers underneath, a solid platform for the mattress, and in excellent condition. We got it for $160. It looks a little odd right now, because we have the crib mattress on it while we wait for the new mattress to be delivered:
We moved our son’s dresser into the baby’s room, and all of his clothes are now under his bed. In addition, the big middle drawer holds all of his stuffed animals, so they aren’t crowded all over the bed anymore.
All in all, I’d say we did pretty well. We ended up with a solid wood bed/dresser, an organic mattress that should last a long time, and an organic waterproof mattress pad, for a total of $860. The mattress should be arriving any day now, and our son is very excited about his big boy bed. The price was more than we usually spend on stuff like this, but in the nearly three years since our son was born, we’ve spent very little money on supplies for him. And I feel good knowing that he’ll continue to sleep on a toxin-free mattress.
The only thing that bothers me about this whole process is how unaffordable non-toxic mattresses are for a lot of people. We’re thrifty and careful with our money, which helps us budget for larger purchases. But we’re also fortunate to earn a good income and be able to afford something like this if we want. For many families, a $700 mattress for a child is out of the question, no matter how carefully they budget. It shouldn’t be that difficult to get non-toxic products. I do feel like the tide is turning a bit in terms of people understanding that “better living through chemistry” might not be better after all. Hopefully as time goes by, non-toxic products will start to be the norm rather than the expensive exception to the rule.