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Ask The Green Mama: How do I find a nontoxic baby crib that doesn’t cost a fortune?

Hi! I have your book and remember reading about recommendations for nontoxic baby cribs. However we are moving and I can’t seem to locate the book right now! We are expecting a little one in a few months and I’m trying to find a non toxic crib, but so far I’ve only found ones that are over $1000. Are there any options that are less, but still safe?



Congratulations Rebecca!

As you know from the book, furniture is the biggest polluter in most homes and a new baby’s bedroom is likely already the most polluted in the home. Luckily, yes, there are cheaper alternatives than a new wood crib.

Furniture is the most significant source of formaldehyde exposure in your home. In a nursery it is the crib, change table, and rocking chair to eye with suspicion, but bookcases, cabinets, and other furniture found in the rest of the home may also contain formaldehyde. The VOCs may be hiding out in the material itself (particularly in composite materials such as pressed wood or particle board), in the glues that hold it together, and in the finishes.

Neither the Canadian nor the U.S. government regulates cribs for VOCs, including formaldehyde, despite increasing scientific data about their long-term health effects. Similarly, the national limits on heavy metals (which can be found in paints and finishes) in children’s furniture aren’t stringent enough according to many experts.

Cradles, bassinets, and co-sleepers can be affordable alternatives to buying a crib (a co-sleeper is a small crib or cradle-like structure that attaches to the parent’s bed on one side). However, they can suffer from the same problems as cribs, and contain composite materials, vinyl, or flame-retardant chemical additives. Luckily, buying an all-wood, naturally finished cradle, bassinet, or co-sleeper is possible and much less expensive than buying the same in a crib.

What to actually do now that it’s purchasing time?

Buy furniture that doesn’t contain pressed wood (particle board) or other composite wood products or formaldehyde-emitting glues and finishes. Be vigilant: cribs, change tables, and kids’ furniture typically are the worst offenders. Look for third-party certifying bodies to guarantee a product is what it claims, for instance, FSC certifies sustainably harvested wood and Greenguard items have safer levels of VOCs.

A truly green crib with real wood and safe finishes can cost more than $800. If that isn’t an affordable option, don’t despair. Other options include opting for something smaller like a co-sleeper, cradle, or bassinet. Or buy an unfinished all-wood crib that you can finish yourself. I know families who have bought a single-size organic mattress that they put on the floor, who wrapped their own bed with rubber and a wool puddle pad and then shared it with the baby, who used a hanging cradle made from organic cotton, and who bought a tiny wooden crib with a bottom made of mesh instead of a mattress. 
If you need to green-up a less-than-perfect used crib, find an older crib (that has had more time to off-gas) but make sure it meets current safety standards. Call the manufacturer to get the current assembly instructions and to find out if there have been any recalls or parts re-issued. If there is pressed wood being used as a support under the mattress, replace it with a safer metal or all-wood option.

And, remember, an old conventional mattress is not any safer than a new mattress and may actually be associated with an increased risk of SIDS.

Read more about the importance of finding a truly natural mattress as well and making an affordable DIY alternative when you can’t afford anything else.

And, don’t forget my new book on pregnancy which is loaded with information on fertility, health, sleep, skin, diet, creating a happier postpartum period, and loads of DIY tips and recipes for everything mentioned.