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There’s no doubt the biggest baby registry conundrum is the crib mattress. It needs to be not just firm but “baby firm.” Organic may not be, well, organic (say, what?!). It must be waterproof, fireproof, but of course natural. Here’s further insight into the criteria that went into our 3 mattress picks.

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First things first: you need a new (not the time to go second-hand) firm mattress made specifically for a baby to reduce the risk of suffocation and SIDS. Secondly, be mindful of what’s lurking inside that bad boy. Most crib mattresses are filled with polyurethane foam – it’s essentially a mound of petroleum-derived plush-ness that is often treated with toxic chems like formaldehyde and benzene. The issue here isn’t so much direct contact with the foam, but chemical “off gassing” – the emitting of icky fumes that baby inhales while he sleeps.

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Pick a firm mattress made specifically for babies and avoid ones filled with polyurethane foam.

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We don’t need to explain why you need a waterproof mattress, but know that a damp mattress can lead to mildew and mold growth and when baby breathes that in, health woes are sure to follow. A crib mattress with a plastic (yes, plastic) cover is the way to go. But be aware that all plastic crib mattress covers are certainly not created equal. Look for mattresses with waterproof covers clearly labeled as “nontoxic” (polyethylene is a safe choice) and avoid PVC like the plague – it’s bad as is, never mind the fact that it’s been “softened” by phthalates, a notorious chemical plasticizer linked to a wide array of health concerns, many affecting nursing and pregnant mothers.

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PVC is the enemy. Opt for a waterproof mattress with a nontoxic plastic cover made of polyethylene.

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All mattresses must meet government flammability standards, and this can be done by adding chemicals or by incorporating a natural material that’s inherently flame-resistant. Avoid those with chemical fire retardants. While, you can sleep tight without worry of your crib mattress spontaneously combusting like something out of a Stephen King thriller, the chemicals themselves are almost scarier. These fire retardants, particularly polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and chlorinated tris (TDCPP, TCEP, TCPP), come equipped with their own serious concerns – exposure to them has been linked to cancer, hormone disruption and the list goes on. The solution? Opt for a crib mattress that naturally meets fire safety standards with the use of a material like wool. But keep in mind that even crib mattresses free of PVC and marketed as “organic” may contain some level, albeit a lower one, of chemical fire retardants. Our advice? Any brand vocal about being free of chemical fire retardants is worth looking into; any brand that is loud and proud about being “organic”  but does not discuss chemical fire retardants should be approached with caution.

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Fire retardants, particularly polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and chlorinated tris (TDCPP, TCEP, TCPP), are dangerous. Pick a mattress that uses a natural material like wool to meet fire safety standards.

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Here’s where things can get really confusing. Don’t put too much faith in the words “organic” “non-toxic” and “natural” when it comes to crib mattresses since they’re not monitored by the USDA (unless there’s a line of edible mattresses sold at Whole Foods that we’re unaware of). As with everything, Europe has stricter standards, so look for terms like Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) or Oeko-Tex – that ensures the textiles used to manufacture the mattress are free of pesticides and other harmful substances. Also, if it’s made in China, be wary.

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Organic doesn’t necessarily mean non-toxic. Look for a mattress made of materials that meet Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) or boasts the Oeko-Tex to ensure it’s free of pesticides.

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It’s almost too perfect: baby sleeping on a mattress filled with naturally fire- and water-resistant wool as a flock of sheep dangle dreamily above his head. A hugely popular alternative to polyurethane foam-filled crib mattresses, natural wool has a whole lot going for it. But there’s always the slight chance that baby might be allergic to the fiber itself so keep that in the back of your mind. The same goes with natural latex, an alternative to petrochemical-based mattress fillings, it’s a good option but could trigger a little one’s allergies. Other options with less risk of allergies include organic cotton and coir, a natural fiber extracted from coconut husks.

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Organic cotton, coir, wool and natural latex-filled mattresses (or a combo of those materials) are good safe options, but keep in mind that babies can sometimes be allergic to wool and natural latex.