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Is Polyurethane Foam Safe for Babies? — Baby Safety Tips

Is Polyurethane Foam Safe for Babies

Babies spend 95% of their time lying down (and in case you’re wondering, the other 5%? Probably in Mom or Dad’s warm embrace).

That’s why your baby’s mattress is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing people should buy.

If you’re almost due, it’s time to speed it up! We’ll help you with your last-minute shopping with these mattress foam tips.

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Is Polyurethane Foam Safe for Babies?

Flexible polyurethane foam is a common choice for baby crib mattress pads. They’re cost-effective, durable, and efficient.

Despite these qualities, there ARE truths to the dangers of polyurethane foam.

You’re better off buying your little one safer crib mattresses instead.

Is Polyurethane Foam Toxic?

Polyurethane foam is a petroleum byproduct (yup, just like gas for your car!).

Petroleum products, like plastics, contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) like phthalates you can inhale as you sleep.

These hazardous air pollutants cause a LOT of horrible health effects like changes in hormone levels, obesity, and asthma.

Also, if your child has allergies? These volatile chemicals can make it even worse.

On top of that, sleeping babies inhale A LOT more air than adults do per body weight. They can inhale as much as 10 times more VOCs!

Beware of the Flame Retardants

Before the US banned chemical additives in foam, there’s a notorious one that manufacturers used to include: pentaBDEs.

PentaBDEs were added to PVE foam as flame retardants. However, chemicals like pentaBDEs are neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors. And they build up in our bodies, too.

Are these bad for your health? Probably. Are they even worse for your baby’s health? Absolutely!

Luckily, most states banned the sale of polyurethane foams with flame retardant chemicals. Still, it pays to be cautious and double-check if your mattress pad contains other harmful chemicals.

What Are Crib Mattresses Made Of?

Sleeping baby

When you drop by your nearby store or go on Amazon, you’ll find plenty of mattresses on sale.

The two most popular types of mattresses are foam and coil crib mattresses:

  • Coil mattress – a layered spring and foam or cotton. These provide more support for babies, but they’re quite expensive.
  • Foam mattress – made with a thick block of organic, gel, or plastic foam.

If you see crib mattresses in the market, they’re likely a foam mattress variety. Foam products come in many types. Some common ones are memory foam and high-density foam.

Besides the foam’s form, the materials are ALSO DIFFERENT.

Common Bed Foam Materials

Typical mattresses uses latex, polyurethane, or organic materials to help the bed keep shape and elasticity.

Latex Foam

Latex is an organic material you’ll find in a lot of beddings. Some people prefer the way latex foam hugs the body — it’s almost like memory foam, but without the harmful gases that you could inhale.

That’s because most memory foam contains chemical additives that improve elasticity and viscosity.

Unfortunately, these chemical add-ons might result in breathing and allergy problems.

Polyurethane Foam

Polyurethane foam is the most common material for beds and upholstered furniture. This foam is EVERYWHERE!

From your couch to your cushions and even your carpet underlay, polyurethane foam has PLENTY of applications.

But wait! Take a step back before you reach for that mattress pad because the chemicals in polyurethane foam ARE NOT good for you.

Is There a Safer Alternative for Babies?

Smiling baby

If you’re looking for a non-toxic alternative to foam and bedding without the chemicals, try latex foam.

Latex is an organic material made with rubber tree sap. Its manufacturing uses less non-renewable resources and air pollutants, so it’s even better for the environment.

Latex foam products DON’T have toxic chemicals and toxic fumes that your child can inhale, so it’s safe for their lungs, too.

Its safety profile contains mostly positive reviews from experts, so you can breathe easier.

The best part? Latex foam is easy to maintain since it’s durable and dust resistant.

Other Buying Tips

If you’re shopping for cribs, try to double-check the safety of everything else you’re buying along with it.

As parents, it’s natural to worry about your baby’s health. Extra diligence when choosing the material of your products means better health for EVERYONE in your family.

#1: Beware of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Mats and Covers

PVC mats

You’ll find PVC material in plenty of playmats and bed covers. While this material can repel water and make bedwetting easier to clean, it’s DANGEROUS for children.

If you really need a cover-up for your child’s spills and accidents, try polyethylene foam instead.

Polyethylene foam products are waterproof and non-toxic, and other manufacturers even make them washable!

Be careful of the design, though! Polyethylene foam products usually don’t stand up to frequent washing.

One thing’s for sure, though: it’s WAY BETTER for your child’s health!

The best Naturepedic crib mattresses are actually known for the use of polyethylene, so you might want to check them out if you’re looking for options.

#2: Buy Firm

Baby lying down

A firm bed material is best for babies because it reduces Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). According to this study, softer beds increase risk of SIDS by 20 times!

Choose firmer materials like latex or other organic fibers to reduce the risk of SIDS in your child.

#3: Do Your Research


Finally, it pays to spend just a little extra time reading up on product research and reviews.

We gave you some of our own research into buying beds for your kids. But there are always new baby products on the market, so here’s a checklist of things you can ask:

  • What kind of material is the product made of?
  • Does the chemical in the product have any harmful effects?/Is the product non-toxic?
  • Is there an alternative to these products?

The Bottom Line

As parents, you want to protect your child from risks. If you’re buying foam for your child, invest in safe materials, even if they’re more expensive.

After all, whatever you splurge on this purchase will be WAY CHEAPER than your child’s hospital bill. It’s an investment for a good night’s sleep.


August 3, 2022 – minor content updates

July 22, 2021 – reviewed and updated article links

About the author

Angelica Graham

A few years ago, Angelica found out about all the plastic and toxic ingredients that got into most children’s products. And this worried her to no end. Because of this, she began to research what the best ingredients and materials were for children and made it her mission to share this information with other mothers.