Whether you are pregnant and planning to co sleep with your baby, or your baby has arrived and you’re finding yourself co sleeping because that’s the only way you get any rest, you’re not alone.
Whether or not they admit it, many parents co sleep with baby. In fact, 70% of women involved in a study in Georgia admitted to bed sharing with baby at some point. Another study found that 56% of breastfeeding mothers co slept with their baby on a regular basis.
Bed sharing makes it much easier to get sleep while breastfeeding, and it gives you a better chance of breastfeeding success. Besides, there’s something really sweet about a family bed.
But if you choose to co sleep with your baby, it’s important to do so safely. In fact, I have a whole article on safe bed sharing with baby (based on extensive research while co sleeping with all four of my children).
RELATED: Bed sharing safely – How to co sleep safely with the cuddle curl
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One of the most essential parts of safe co sleeping is a safe sleep surface. Many mothers choose to sleep with baby in bed, cuddled up beside them.
(WARNING: NEVER fall asleep with your baby on a sofa or in an armchair. If you are so tired that you think you might fall asleep with your baby, you are much better off going to bed with your baby than accidentally falling asleep with him on a sofa.)
Here, I discuss what you need to know to choose a safe surface for your baby to sleep on if you choose to bed share.
How to choose a safe mattress for bed sharing with baby
Most importantly for baby’s safety, you need to have a firm mattress if you choose to bed share. You want to make sure your little one doesn’t sink into the mattress, making it more difficult to breathe.
In addition, memory foam is not a good surface for co sleeping with baby. The way that memory foam sinks isn’t safe. On top of that, memory foam often off gases dangerous chemicals, which we’ll get into more detail with later.
What size mattress do I need to co sleep safely?
Depending on your situation, you may need a larger mattress to co sleep (even though your baby is so tiny!)
If it is just you and baby (no partner in bed), a full size bed will be fine. But if your partner is in bed with you, you’ll need a larger bed. It is safer for your baby to be to the inside of you (instead of beside the edge of a mattress), so you want to make sure there’s plenty of space between you and your partner. My husband and I made this work with our first two children with a queen mattress, but we got a king before we had our third child and I think it was a good idea.
WARNING: Do NOT let other children or pets sleep in bed with you if you choose to co sleep. Neither you nor your partner should sleep with your baby if you smoke or are under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medications that make you excessively tired.
What toxic chemicals do I need to watch out for when co sleeping?
Believe it or not, one of the worst places for being exposed to toxic chemicals is your bed. You spend around one-quarter to one-third of your life sleeping, so you are in close contact with whatever chemicals are in your mattress.
And when you think about the fact that infants sleep 12-14 hours a day, that really adds up! You’ll want to make sure your mattress is non-toxic.
Conventional mattresses are usually made with polyurethane foam, which can release dangerous chemicals such as fire retardants and other additives. These chemicals are “off-gassed” from the mattress, meaning you can inhale them from the air. Plus, the concentration of these volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is much higher at right above the surface of the mattress (you know, where your breathing space is during sleep).
For these reasons, it’s better to choose mattresses with the following qualities:
No fire retardants added
Polyurethane foam (and memory foam made from polyurethane) has some great properties. It’s comfortable to lie down on, it resists mold and mildew, it wears well, and it’s cheap. The problem? It’s also highly flammable.
Manufacturers solved this problem by adding fire retardant chemicals to mattresses. Previously, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were used, but we have found that there are scary consequences to this chemical – reproductive effects, breast cancer, and neurological effects. And these problems are more likely to affect babies and children than adults.
In 2015, California began requiring that all furniture be labeled as to whether it contains fire retardants. You’ll find a tag on all newer furniture and mattresses like this:
Avoid vinyl in mattresses
Sometimes a mattress is made with latex or some other polyurethane foam free filling, but then they don’t stick the landing because there is vinyl casing in it.
Vinyl, made of PVC, is often used in waterproof mattress covers. Unfortunately, PVC is known carcinogen linked to all sorts of problems, including asthma, learning disabilities, reproductive effects, and even cancer.
In addition, vinyl often contains phthalates, chemicals that make plastics more flexible. Phthalates are also endocrine disruptors, meaning they can cause reproductive effects and be related to some cancers.
And the scariest thing about all these chemicals (flame retardants, vinyl, and phthalates)? They bioaccumulate, meaning that once you’re exposed, they are stored in fat tissue (which we all have) and stay in your body. There’s no “detox” you or your child can do to get rid of these chemicals.
Which certifications let me know that a mattress is non-toxic?
There are several certifications out there claiming that they mean a mattress is a safe product. But you have to watch out! Not all of them actually mean something. Here’s a quick rundown on what each certification means and how reliable they are.
GOLS and GOTS
The Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) each tell you that a mattress is made from with either 95% pure organic latex or 95% pure organic material. They contain no polyurethane foam and no fire retardants.
The only trick: Make sure that the mattress itself is certified GOLS and/or GOTS. If it uses a material that is certified GOLS in one layer of the mattress but then another layer contains toxic materials, it doesn’t really help.
Greenguard-Gold and Okeo-Tex Standard 100
Both Greenguard-Gold and Okeo-Tex Standard 100 certifications set strict limits on VOC emissions from products. The Okeo-Tex Standard 100 Certification is a bit stricter because it prohibits specific toxic chemicals from being in products.
Which mattresses are best for co sleeping?
When you’re choosing a mattress to share with your baby, you have to consider two issues: mattress firmness and toxic burden. Here, I’ve listed several great natural or non-toxic mattresses that are firm enough to keep your little one safe.
Plushbeds, made in California, is both GOTS and GOLS certified. They also have a Greenguard Gold certification, so you can be sure this bed is non-toxic and safe for your child.
Plushbed mattresses come in several models. For co-sleeping, don’t choose memory foam. Instead, I suggest the Botanical Bliss or Natural Bliss latex mattress in firm. Both models are made without a coil system, instead relying on solid layers of organic wool and organic latex (with an organic cotton cover).
Plushbeds offers free returns along with a free 100 night trial.
Check out Plushbeds here.
Soaring Heart is based in Seattle, Washington. Their mattresses are both GOLS and GOTS certified, meaning they contain no chemical fire retardants or other toxic chemicals. In fact, their organic latex mattress is made from a single piece of latex wrapped in soft, organic wool.
Make sure you choose a firm mattress for bed sharing.
Soaring Heart has a 30 day Comfort Guarantee, where they will allow exchanges within the 30 days of purchase. Make sure you choose a firm mattress for bed sharing.
Check out Soaring Heart mattresses here.
The Naturepedic mattress is crafted in Ohio. This company is GOTS and GOLS certified. It is different from the other mattresses listed in that it is an innerspring mattress made of certified organic cotton.
Both the Naturepedic Chorus and Naturepedic Verse mattresses are firm enough for co sleeping. The Verse is listed as a kid’s mattress, but it comes as large as a queen size.
If you order directly from Naturepedic, they have a 90 day money back guarantee.
My Green Mattress
My Green Mattress is another good choice of a firm, non-toxic mattress brand. This company is also GOLS and GOTS certified, as well as Greenguard Gold certified.
Their Natural Escape mattress is made with a high quality, spring-latex hybrid design. It has a five-zone, pocketed coil system to provide comfort in the lumbar region and extra support at the edge of the mattress (which is important, because no matter how tiny your baby is, she can always seem to shove you to the edge of the bed). It uses organic latex at the surface, and organic wool as part of the top cover to allow more wicking and cooling. Hand tufting and stitching on the mattress cover sidesteps the need for toxic adhesives.
Finally, My Green Mattress offers a 120 day money back guarantee. And with a much lower price point than other truly organic, non-toxic mattresses on the market, it can be a great choice for your family.
Check out My Green Mattress here.
The Avocado mattress company is also GOLS certified, GOTS certified, and Greenguard Gold certified. In addition, they have the coveted Okeo-Tex Standard 100 certification.
Avocado’s Green Mattress is tufted by hand to avoid dangerous adhesives. They advertise themselves as a firm mattress using five support zones for lumbar support and perimeter strength.
In addition, Avocado gives a generous one year trial period so you can be sure you love your mattress.
Check out Avocado here.
How to position your mattress for safe co sleeping
Once you choose a mattress, you’ll want to make sure you have it safely positioned.
Ideally, you should have your mattress directly on the floor (not on a bed frame). That way, your baby is safe in case there’s a fall.
In addition, you should not have your mattress pushed against a wall. I know it might seem tempting to do this to avoid falls, but the problem is that your baby could roll into a crevice between the mattress and the wall. Just have your bed on the floor and keep baby to your inside on the bed.
Conclusions on choosing the best mattress for co sleeping
I hope this post has helped you with all the considerations you’ll need to make when choosing a mattress for bed sharing. If you have more questions on avoiding toxic chemicals in your home, make sure you sign up for my Chemical Safety Toolkit.