Hello and welcome. I have been designing, manufacturing and retailing baby mattresses for over 30 years; you could say it's become a passion of mine. I wish to share my knowledge with you so that you know everything you'll ever need to know about cot mattresses. I'd like to think that I may be able to help a little towards keeping your baby comfortable and safe. I would also like to share some thoughts on the future of our planet and how that may affect your purchase.
Lets start from the 1980's. Evidently back then, smoking was popular in 71% of men and 54% of women. Some smokers were falling asleep with a cigarette and setting fire to settees, couches etc, by far the biggest cause of house fires.
In response to this, it became law that all the foam produced in the UK had to be made flame retardant. To achieve the flame retardant specifications, it transpired that toxic chemicals were being used in the foam's production. Baby mattresses came under the same law.
In the late eighties two bio chemists suggested that a main cause of cot death was fungi and that certain micro-organisms, when combined with body fluids, were reacting with the fire retardant chemicals, causing a toxic gas that when inhaled by a baby, could cause cot death.
N.B The reason I have started with this is because all foam in the UK still has to be fire retardant and this will be relevant as we progress with the mattress story
You can imagine what panic this caused parents in the late 1980's, who were unwittingly putting their most precious gift on a mattress that could kill? Regrettably, the media of the day exacerbated the situation with some sensational and irresponsible press and TV coverage.
The government, in an effort to address the risk head on, commissioned 'The Limerick Report' which in effect suggested that the toxic gas theory was not proven.
However, the fire retardant chemicals were changed somewhat and the "Back To Sleep" recommendations were actively promoted by the FSIDS, and some calm was restored.
Parents were encouraged to allow their babies to sleep on their back, to allow them to inhale fresh air and not any toxic air that was heavier and would lie on the mattress. Also a well ventilated room would help to disperse and dilute any toxic gases.
Foam when new can have a very strong chemical smell and it might need to be aired for 48 hours or more depending on where the foam was cut from in the entire block and how it has been stored. All the data says that the smell is not dangerous to a baby's health. However, there is a reluctance on the part of most parents, to be unconvinced by this. Generally speaking, the cheaper the foam, the longer it takes to De-gas (ventilate). You might want to read some of the feedback on Amazon about foam cot mattresses; the biggest initial complaint is the chemical smell. But, the new TCPP FREE foam has hardly any chemical smell.
The "Back to Sleep" campaign had a massive effect on reducing the number of cot deaths in the UK. The figures are both amazing and heartwarming.
One of the recommendations of the "Back to Sleep" campaign was 'New Baby - New Mattress'. The theory behind this thinking is that second-hand mattresses may be left unused in a loft, becoming unclean over time and a breeding ground for mold and bacteria which reacts with the fire retardant chemicals.
Another suggestion was to put forward to add a wipe-able waterproof cover over the mattress and under the cotton sheet, to prevent any toxic gas coming through from the mattress base. This would also prevent any body fluids reaching the foam and reacting with the fire retardant chemicals. However, this raised concerns about insufficient air getting to the baby, especially when one of the aims is to prevent overheating. I will refer back to this later when we talk about fabric options and waterproof protection.
Next week we will look at foam, sprung and pocket sprung mattress bases.