Co-Sleeping: Our Non-Toxic Family Bed
We recently moved across the country (again) and didn’t have space to lug our giant king family bed with us. So, we decided it was the perfect time to finally upgrade our sleep situation. I had been dreaming of non-toxic sleep for years. Seriously. Other people may dream about clothes and cars and vacations, but all I wanted was a non-toxic mattress. Now, I am so excited to share what the four of us have been sleeping on for the last few months!
*If you're wondering what's up with this "family bed" thing, read this post: Why Our Baby Will Never Have A Nursery*
The Issue With Conventional Mattresses
I’ve always thought of mattresses as one of the most important investments for our health, and that became even more important after I had babies. Here are some of the toxic ingredients usually found in conventional mattresses.
Foam: Made from byproducts of gasoline that are sold to foam manufacturers by companies such as Dow Chemical. Contains known carcinogens and neurotoxins. Foam breaks down considerably over time, releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air you breathe. Highly flammable, meaning that these mattresses must be soaked in toxic flame retardants.
Synthetic latex: Made from two petroleum-based compounds, butadiene and styrene. Both are known carcinogens and have been shown to negatively effect the skin, eyes and nervous system. If you’re buying a latex mattress, look for “100% Latex”.
Flame retardants: Oooh, the worst! As of 2007, all mattresses are required to contain enough flame retardant chemicals to withstand a 2-foot wide blowtorch open flame for 70 seconds. In order to pass this test, most major mattress brands treat their sleep products with toxic chemicals. And guess what? There’s no mandate on the labeling of chemicals used in fireproofing. Manufacturers can use whatever chemicals they want, as long as they past the fire test. There are only two ways to buy a mattress without flame retardant: (1) Get a doctor's prescription or (2) Find a mattress that passes the flammability test without the use of toxic chemicals. For example, wool is naturally fire-resistant.
Toxic glues and adhesives
Plastics or vinyls containing phthalates. These are usually found on crib mattresses to help with waterproofing.
How These Chemicals Get Into Our Bodies
Chemicals are absorbed through the skin. These chemicals also off gas into the air, settle into dust, and then we ingest that dust. (This is why I used to cringe when watching my sweet baby breathing during naptime on our old mattress. Yikes.) It would be one thing if we were only exposed to these ingredients for a few minutes at a time, but we spend 6+ hours asleep every night. For babies, exposure is much longer.
My advice: Skip the traditional baby registry and invest in your family's health. Get a non-toxic mattress!
Our family bed consists of two queen size organic cotton and wool shiki futon mattresses from The Futon Shop. They're pushed up right next to each other on the floor, with my 2.5 year old and his Dad on one mattress, and my baby and I on the other. We all have plenty of space to ourselves and I am sooo pleased with this arrangement, especially after having been squeezed together in smaller beds for the last few years.
What's a Shikibuton? It's a thin, foldable sleeping pad traditionally used in Japan. Because ours are queens, they're a little heavier than a traditional shiki, but they still fold up just fine and we even put them out in the sun regularly. Here's a great article all about traditional Japanese shikibutons if you're curious.
Why a thin floor bed? Well, many reasons.
It's safer. I cannot tell you how many times I hear other co-sleeping moms ask about bed safety. They try bed rails, co-sleepers, foam bumpers and on and on, but nothing -- nothing -- beats just putting the mattress on the floor. We've been sleeping on the floor since our first child was born and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's great to be able to relax all night long and not worry about my baby falling off the bed. She usually wakes up before me in the morning, at which point she'll quietly crawl off the mattress and play nearby.
It's healthier. Our ancestors have always slept on the floor and many cultures in the world still do. We think of modern-day mattresses as a luxury, but are they actually good for us in the long-run? My research says no. Thin mattresses preserve the health of our spine and keep us in good alignment. They allow us to stay mobile through the night instead of being locked into a stiff sleeping position. Optimal breathing, healthy circulation, the benefits go on and on! (Note: My first night spent on the floor was very uncomfortable. We were on a 2inch mattress topper, on wood floor, and I was tossing and turning all night. But the second night was better, and the third night was great. The adjustment period was actually fairly quick for me!)
Here's a must-read, fascinating article about this topic. Instinctive sleeping and resting postures: an anthropological and zoological approach to treatment of low back and joint pain.
It's more affordable. If you want a non-toxic mattress, but don't have a huge budget, a futon is the way to go!
It's easier to move.
Because they're lighter and more flexible than most mattresses, we can carry them with ease. This is especially important because we like to fold up our mattresses daily and sun them weekly, to prevent mold from growing. (For those of you who can't fold up your mattress, you can just put the mattress on it's side against the wall so that it can air out!)
We also recently took one of our mattresses with us on a trip out of town. It fit well in the back of our car and I didn't have to worry about our sleeping situation for the weekend.
Another note: It would've been nice to have these mattresses when we were moving homes every few months. Who wants to haul a giant, heavy mattress with every move?
Once Ruby is a little older, I hope to build a short wood platform for our mattresses so that they get continual air flow. For now, we just try to be diligent about rolling them up.
The Futon Shop
The Futon Shop was founded by Suzanne Diamond, who started designing and making non-toxic futons herself in 1976. Their ingredients are sourced locally, either directly from the farmer or through brokers who share their integrity and concern for the environment. And they even make everything here in the US, in San Francisco! The same cannot be said for most mattress companies, whose mattresses are made overseas with who-knows-what chemicals.
It has been such a pleasure to work with this company and I already plan on coming back for custom floor cushions in the future. They have something for everyone! (Even thicker non-toxic mattresses, for those of you who think this thin mattress idea is too weird, hehe!)
To accompany our organic mattress, we have 100% certified organic cotton sheets from a wonderful company named DOPLNOK. These high quality sheets are made from non-GMO cotton and they've never been exposed to harmful chemicals or toxic dyes. DOPLNOK workers are treated like family, too, with healthy working conditions and fair wages. (This is so important to me!) We plan to sleep on these sheets for many years.