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The ABCs of Eco-Friendly Baby Bedding

baby bedding

(Photo by stickwithjosh, via Creative Commons)

There is not much I enjoy more than research, so my husband left most of the job of filling out our baby registry to me. I vetted the options and asked what he thought of my favourite picks, and we put together a registry that covered our needs and hit a variety of price points.

For the most part, this system worked well for us, but my husband did question one of my picks — he wondered why I had chosen a mattress on the more expensive side of the options. I felt it was important to go with a mattress that was eco-friendly, for the health of the baby and the environment, and that is what we ended up registering for once I explained my reasoning. But there was an initial bit of sticker shock for him, especially considering we’ve purchased used items where we’ve been able.

It’s true that eco-friendly baby items can be more expensive, but there are also many more options — at a wider variety of price points — available now than there were just a few years ago. Consumers are increasingly aware of the concerns associated with some materials commonly used in manufacturing, and many will avoid certain chemicals or components in their baby’s gear even if they will use it in their own.

Here’s a look at what baby bedding you might want to avoid and why, and what your options are.

 

Baby bedding

Most baby bedding is made of cotton or a cotton-poly blend — this seems like a sensible enough choice, but both of these fabrics have their environmental consequences. Polyester is petroleum based, which means it is made with oil — and of course, oil extraction and processing is tough on the environment and linked to greenhouse-gas emissions. And cotton, when conventionally grown, actually requires heavy pesticide application — cotton growth uses 16 percent of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single crop. These pesticides are both dangerous for the people working with the crop and damaging to the environment when they inevitably find their way into the air and water. That’s why going with organic cotton is a more environmentally friendly choice for your baby linens.

Another option is to look for linens made of bamboo, another natural fabric. Bamboo is a fast-growing crop with a variety of uses, and is often not irrigated; the fabric itself is also biodegradable. Bamboo crops also require much lighter pesticide application, and some bamboo is organically grown. As another bonus, bamboo is very soft and light. Other options for natural fibres for baby linens are hemp, which grows quickly without conventional pesticides, and wool, which can be a good option for colder weather.

Some options:

 

Mattresses

Crib mattresses are often made with materials like vinyl, foam, and flame retardants, all of which may carry some health concerns. Mattresses made with petroleum-based polyurethane foam, for example, can let off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that may be harmful; fortunately, these are less and less common. There are also some concerns about the safety of flame retardants used in some mattresses. And some fabrics, like conventionally grown cotton or oil-based plastics, are just hard on the environment.

A variety of different fillers are used for crib mattresses. Those made with recycled polyester foam, like Eco Dura Bond, have lower VOCs than new foam because mattresses let off most of their gases when brand new. Other mattresses may use coconut-based coir, wool, cotton, natural latex, or bamboo. Fabrics like cotton, bamboo, or natural latex — organic or otherwise — may also be used to cover the mattress instead of vinyl or other plastics.

Mattresses labelled as “eco” or “green” are not necessarily organic — organic mattresses, like other organic textiles, can be certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard but there is no over-riding legal standard. That doesn’t mean, however, that a mattress without that certification can’t also be a solid choice for your family; it will also likely be more affordable. Check out the Consumer Reports guide to organic and eco-friendly crib mattresses for more details. Babble also has a round-up of their favourite eco-friendly mattresses.

Some options:

 

Other baby linens

You’ll need a variety of fabric items for your baby, including burp cloths, receiving blankets, face cloths, changing pads, and reusable cloth baby wipes. The advice from above applies to these items as well, but I have one more tip. Instead of going with conventional burp cloths — cute but they can get pricey! — pick up some prefold diapers. These are a good size for the job, made to be absorbent and used frequently, and well priced.

Some options:

 

Safety note

While you’re researching bedding and other linen options for your baby, take some time to review the safety standards as well — here’s the advice from Health Canada.

About the Author:

Terri Coles is a freelance reporter specializing in health and lifestyle topics who lives and works in Toronto, Ontario. She contributes regularly to PawesomeThe Teal Cat Project, and Vegansaurus, and is currently blogging about her experience as a pregnant vegan at Veggo Preggo.


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