SIDS. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Hearing those four little words or the one little acronym can strike fear in the heart of any new parent. SIDS is real, random, quick and totally unexpected. Parents will naturally do anything in their power to prevent the unthinkable from happening to their perfectly healthy newborn.
What is SIDS? Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is exactly what it sounds like. A perfectly healthy newborn baby, usually less than 6 months old, simply stops breathing in their sleep. The unsuspecting parents go to wake their child up from his or her nap and find their worst nightmare has come true.
While many theories are flying around about the cause of SIDS, most focus on the deepness of sleep and how it affects the child’s breathing. Babies do not sleep as soundly when they are on their backs and many attribute this fact to the success of the “back to sleep” campaign.
Another theory which you may not be familiar with is that the crib mattress itself is to blame for SIDS cases. It is actually the chemicals and toxins emitted from the mattress that is actually to blame. Arsenic, phosphorus and antimony are intentionally added to crib mattresses by the manufacturers as fire retardants. SIDS was very rare prior to the 1950s when these additives became standard. Click here to review scientific studies, articles and publications supporting this theory.
“As crib mattresses start to age, these fire retardant chemicals react with ordinary household fungi (harmless fungi, at that) to create a very, very dangerous chemical reaction. The toxins emitted, as these compounds interact, are actually a thousand times more toxic than carbon monoxide.”
According to the article found at bestinbedding.com
“As crib mattresses start to age, these fire retardant chemicals react with ordinary household fungi (harmless fungi, at that) to create a very, very dangerous chemical reaction. The toxins emitted, as these compounds interact, are actually a thousand times more toxic than carbon monoxide. While other factors like nutrition, smoking around the baby, and sleep position are still potentially factors in SIDS, given the research relating non-organic crib mattresses to fatal toxin release should be enough for new mothers to take a look at their portable and non-portable crib mattress purchases.”
In addition, the toxins emitted become greater as time goes on. This may explain why SIDS rates are higher for second children…..and higher yet for third children and so on. Many parents will only purchase a crib mattress one time and re-use it for all of their children. In addition, the fungi left by the first baby is already in place to start interacting with the chemicals more quickly when the following children use the mattress.
The toxic mattress theory also explains why the “Back to sleep” campaign has been so successful. If a baby is not lying face down in a pool of neuro-toxins then they at least have a bit of fresh air in the mix and a better shot at survival. The toxic gases released by the mattress when it interacts with the fungi is very dense and heavier than air so it lies in a very thin film on the mattress which the baby is face-first in when sleeping in a prone position.
If you think the toxic mattress theory has merit or if you just want to err on the side of caution then there are three options you have to minimize your newborn’s exposure to these potentially lethal toxins (which some also theorize are connected to the rise in autism in the United States):
1. Purchase an organic crib mattress
2. Mattress wrapping
Let’s quickly explore these three options.
Organic Crib Mattress
Organic crib mattresses are free of synthetic fabrics, plastics, formaldehyde, chemicals, dyes and the hazardous chemicals that are linked to SIDS. The mattresses are commonly made with wool which acts as a natural fire retardant. Even if SIDS does not concern you, do you want your child spending 70% of their early life laying on a toxic, synthetic mattress? Don’t forget to make sure baby’s mattress pad, crib bedding and sleepwear are also organic.
Mattress wrapping is simply wrapping your existing crib mattress in a particular way with an impermeable cover (plastic) to minimize the toxic fumes that your baby comes in contact with. The cover keeps moisture from the baby out and toxic fumes in. It is certainly much less expensive that buying an organic mattress for up to $1000. Parents have been wrapping crib mattresses in New Zealand for the last twelve years thanks to aggressive public awareness campaigns and in that time their SIDS rate has dropped to one of the lowest in the world and there has never been a reported SIDS case on a properly wrapped mattress. Please read that again.
There has never been a single reported SIDS case on a properly wrapped mattress.
Why isn’t this common knowledge? Can you imagine the lawsuit if mattress manufacturers ever have to admit responsibility? Well, now you know and you should probably make a point of telling all of your pregnant friends. If you are going to use a crib with a non-organic mattress, then wrap it. You will probably have to import your mattress cover from overseas but its a small price to pay for not gambling on your baby’s life.
The last option (and the least expensive) if you are interested in keeping your baby safe from SIDS is cosleeping. Odds are that your adult mattress is not organic either, but it contains more springs and frame than pure foam which is what contains the PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) used as flame retardants. (Please never cosleep with your baby if you are using a tempurpedic or memory foam mattress.)
Other than reduced gases, cosleeping offers further protection against SIDS. Breastfeeding babies are a substantially reduced risk for SIDS, and cosleeping facilitates breastfeeding more than any other lifestyle choice. Breastfeeding newborns will also not assume a prone (tummy lying) position while sleeping next to their lactating mothers. Babies generally sleep on their sides or back for easy access to mom. Cosleeping mothers are also in a higher alert state during sleep so they are much more likely to respond to a baby in any sort of silent distress. Lastly, since a fear of fire seems to be the rationale for loading up crib mattresses with chemicals (by federal law mind you), then doesn’t it make sense to keep the batteries in your smoke alarms fresh and sleep next to your child so you can carry them out of your home in the event of an emergency?
If you are concerned about the myths surrounding cosleeping safety, then first keep in mind that there is a reason they call it “cot death” or “crib death” and not “sleeping next to mom death”. One well publicized study which attempted to portray cosleeping as unsafe found 515 cosleeping deaths in an eight year period. While that may sound like a large number, it pales in comparison to the approximately 34,000 crib deaths that occurred in the US in the same time period.
There are other SIDS risk factors such as having smoking parents (smokers exhale toxins when they breathe) and recent vaccinations. Knowing the risk factors and causes of SIDS, particularly the ones that are exceptionally easy to eliminate, is the first step parents can take to sleeping easy knowing your baby is safe.
Learn more about cosleeping and SIDS at:
Other SIDS death factors:
Author: Sheryl Lyon
Image Source: http://flickr.com/photos/peasap/2561252071/