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The Truth about Organic Crib Mattresses

by |  March 11th, 2014

A Question about Organic Crib Mattresses

Recently, a reader of the 411 book series I co-author emailed a question about organic crib mattresses and SIDS. I thought I’d share the question and response here in hopes that that the advice might help you, too!

I just bought your Baby Bargainsebook and started reading it in conjunction with other resources I have and veteran parents to ensure we’re making sound choices for our baby.  I have a question on crib mattresses.

I was reading an article by Dr. Jim Sprott, who is linking flame retardants found in standard baby mattresses to SIDS.  He asserts that the chemicals in our mattresses are dangerous for babies.  He strongly encourages organic mattresses for babies and I was wondering your take on that issue.

Thanks for your help. Please let me know what is the right way to clean it.  Many thanks!
Baby in cribThis claim got its life from the New Zealand doctor you mention below, who wrote a book about this topic back in 1998. Thanks to the internet, this myth is rearing its ugly head again.

So here are the facts:

There is no scientific evidence that links chemicals in crib mattresses to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This issue has been studied extensively.

In our book, BABY 411, we discuss limiting exposure to chemicals in the nursery. Obviously, it’s reasonable to take prudent steps to limit a child’s exposure to environmental hazards. And it’s reasonable to look at the entire nursery (including the crib mattress) to limit exposure, even if this exposure is not directly linked to SIDS or other possible harm.

Unfortunately, there is no standard for what is considered “organic” when it comes to crib mattresses. We do recommend mattresses in our BABY BARGAINS book that are GREENGUARDcertified to be low emission. This third-party testing service certifies products meet low emission criteria on a host of chemicals.

Bottom line: organic or natural crib mattresses are fine (but pricey). Stick to one that is GREENGUARD certified if you go this route.

Have a question for the expert? Ask us on Facebook or Twitter (@411Pediatrics).

March 20, 2014

Readers of my 411 book series often send me questions about parenting or children/baby health. We are regularly asked about these issues at 411 Pediatrics, so I wanted to share this here in hopes that the advice might help you, too!

My son is 10 months old. I bought the toddler 411 book to help with my issue, however he really didn’t fall into any of the tantrum categories. He is a perfect child, to a point where my mom recommends for us to not have a second child because he has spoiled us. He sleeps 10-12 hours a night and goes down easy. He also will go anywhere, go to anyone (handy at church nursery) and, for the most part (except when really tired) be pleasant.

Doesn’t sound much like I have a problem….. at least if I stay and play with him (or anyone for that matter). If I leave him in the living room or his bedroom and walk away from him he starts crying hard and tries to crawl after me. As soon as I return and start playing with his toys or pick him up, he’s back to normal. I would like to be able to do things without having to sit on the floor while he plays with his toys next to me. Yet if I say “I’m going to go to the kitchen” or “I’m going to go potty”  his response is usually. WAAAAAAAAA!.

I dont know how to teach him its ok to stay and play with your toys. How can I fix this?


Welcome to separation anxiety!

We do cover a little bit about separation anxiety in Toddler 411 (as it makes a come back around 15 months of age) but the first peak is around 9 months.

Rest assured, this is a normal developmental milestone. Prior to this time, your baby had no concept of “object permanence”—which means, prior to this if a toy fell to the floor or you hid it behind you, it no longer existed and kept your baby’s attention. The same held true for mom and dad—you came, you went, no big deal. But now, your baby knows that you continue to exist even when you disappear….and what the heck are you doing….and are you ever coming back?!! Add in the fact that your baby has no concept of time so even if you say, “I will be back in a minute” it will not relieve his fear that you might not be coming back. So, even if you leave the room to use the potty for 30 seconds, he is totally freaked out. (This is about the time most parents leave the bathroom door open to do their business….)

These behaviors are magnified when you leave your baby with someone else–if the teacher at the church nursery is experienced, she should know that this age is the most challenging for separation anxiety–and it will pass. And yes, it is okay for him to play independently and not be held the whole time.

So, although it does cause some stress, you should still use the bathroom when necessary and leave your child in the nursery in capable hands of a teacher. Letting him know that you are leaving (don’t sneak out), and that you will be back is the best way to manage things to survive this phase. And, don’t feel guilty. Just know that your baby loves you and loves spending time with you!
Ari Brown, MD

Have a question for the expert? Ask us on Facebook or Twitter (@411Pediatrics).

The National Health Information Resource Center recently honored Parents magazinefor Dr. Ari Brown’s article on drowning.  There’s still a chill in the air, but I know some kiddos are swimming this week, so it always better to get a head start on water safety. What you know now, can save a life later. We’ve made it easy, and reposted the article below.

The Sad Truth About Drowning
from Parents Magazine

Colin Holst was an adventurous, fun-loving little boy who had always been cautious around water. When the 4-year-old completed swimming lessons on June 12, 2008, his confidence soared. His father, Jeff, took a picture of his proud son wearing his swim goggles and beaming. Colin said it was “the best day ever!” The next day, his mom, Jana, took him and his 6-year-old sister to join two other families at a popular community pool.

Colin and the other children played and splashed in the fountains and sprinklers in the shallow end of the pool — under the supervision of several parents and lifeguards. Before his last trip into the water that day, Colin gave Jana a kiss and went to play under a mushroom waterfall. Then within a few minutes, he was out of sight. It’s difficult for his parents to describe the events of that day, but Jana remembers frantically scanning the pool, searching for him. Moments later he was pulled from the shallow water by another swimmer, lifeless. CPR performed at the poolside could not bring him back.

Colin’s story touched everyone in his hometown of Austin. But I had a particularly heavy heart because I was Colin’s pediatrician. I met Colin on the day he was born and knew his family well. Along with many others whose lives were touched by Colin, I attended his funeral.

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children 1 to 4 years old and the second- leading cause in kids ages 1 to 15. About 1,000 American children die every year from unintentional drowning. Even more are hospitalized after being pulled from the water and revived. The longer a child is underwater and the longer it takes to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), the worse the outcome. It only takes about four to six minutes for irreversible brain damage to occur; 5 to 10 percent of survivors suffer permanent brain damage. It takes just minutes for a child underwater to die.

About half of preschoolers who drown do so in a residential swimming pool. But among babies most deaths occur in smaller amounts of water: bathtubs, buckets, or even toilets.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is the fact that Colin’s death wasn’t so unusual: Some kids drown in public pools with a certified lifeguard on duty, or under an adult’s supervision. Drowning can occur in an instant, and a lifeguard is watching so many people at once that he can miss something that happens so fast. What’s more, drowning can be silent. Unlike what we’ve seen in movies, children do not always flail their arms around and scream for help.

Knowing Colin’s remarkable family, I was not surprised that they turned their grief and heartache into an effort to promote water-safety awareness and prevent childhood drowning. They founded Colin’s Hope, a nonprofit organization that envisions a world where children do not drown. Jeff Holst says, “Knowledge is power, and in raising awareness we can help save children’s lives.” In partnership with experts from the YMCA, Colin’s Hope provides swim lessons to children in central Texas who need but cannot afford them, and educates thousands more with its grassroots efforts. And it is working: Drowning deaths and drowning- related injuries of children in the target zip codes have been reduced and, in some cases, eliminated.

Colin’s parents want you to know that everyone is vulnerable in the water, no matter how well he swims. Take these simple steps to protect your kids

1. Be a water guardian. An adult should actively and visually supervise children who are near or around water. There’s no official ratio, but aim to have one adult on water-watching duty for every two or three children in the water. That person can’t have any distractions and must keep the children in sight at all times — even if there is a lifeguard on duty. No talking or texting on cell phones. No reading. No conversations with other adults. No browsing online. No grilling. No alcoholic beverages with little umbrellas in them. Just watching. A water guardian should know how to swim, use rescue equipment such as U.S. Coast Guard, approved portable flotation devices (PFDs) and a reach tool (which looks like a shepherd’s rod), have a phone nearby, and ideally know how to administer CPR. Water guardians of kids who cannot swim or swim well need to be in the water, within arm’s reach. They should always be able to see kids who are more experienced swimmers. Tell your child that he should never swim without an adult nearby. Explain why it’s important to have a “swim buddy” with him to get help if he needs it.

2. Teach your child to swim. Kids 1 to 4 who take formal swimming lessons can reduce their risk of drowning by as much as 88 percent, research has found. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children as young as 12 months old take formal swim lessons if they are physically and emotionally ready to do so. (Note: There’s no evidence that these classes are beneficial for infants under 1 year of age.) Unfortunately, though, knowing how to swim isn’t enough to prevent drowning, points out Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide.

3. Never leave your child unattended near water. You hear the phone while you are bathing your baby or toddler? Just let it ring, and advise other caregivers to do the same. Always check the pool or hot tub first if a child is missing. And don’t just look at the surface of the water — check the bottom of the pool, too.

4. Set up four-sided fencing for backyard pools and hot tubs. Isolate the water area from your house and the rest of the yard. The fence should surround the pool area on all four sides so a child can’t get to it (say, through a back door or a window) without an adult’s knowledge. The barrier should be at least 4 feet high and climb-resistant, with self-closing and self-latching gates where the latch is placed at least 54 inches above the bottom of the gate. The gate should open away from the pool and should be checked often to ensure that it works. To prevent small kids from squeezing through, the distance between vertical fence posts should be less than 4 inches. You need the same barriers for portable above-ground pools as you do for in-ground pools. Some parents also get sturdy pool covers (not thin solar covers), pool alarms, and door alarms. Always drain the water from an inflatable baby pool after using it.

5. Insist on life jackets.Make sure your children wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD when they’re on or near water. Kids who cannot swim should use a proper PFD, not “water wings,” “noodles,” or “inner tubes.” These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe.

6. Install anti-entrapment drain covers.The Virginia Graeme Baker (VGB) Pool & Spa Safety Act mandates that states install safer drain covers at public pools and hot tubs (spas). The law and the drain covers (“VGB-compliant”) are named after a 7-year-old girl who died after becoming trapped by the suction force of a hot-tub drain. If you own a pool or a hot tub, learn about VGB-compliant drain covers at or talk to a qualified pool consultant.

7. Have a phone within reach. Make sure it’s charged, and always call 911 in an emergency.

8. Learn CPR. In drownings, every second counts. When a child is pulled from the water and isn’t breathing, timely CPR can truly be lifesaving. So get certified, then take a refresher course every two years to prevent your skills from getting rusty. The faster a person on the scene begins resuscitation, the better chance a child has of surviving and not suffering serious brain damage

Originally published in the August 2012 issue of Parents magazine.

Ari Brown, MD

Have a question? Ask us on Facebook or Twitter (@411Pediatrics).

March 10, 2014
Category: Parenting
Tags: Infants   Babies   Parenting   Dr. Ari Brown   Toddlers

e all seen it. A quiet family seated in the corner of restaurant for a meal. Parents engaged with their devices rather than with their children. This troubling and emerging trend of ‘distracted parenting’ has experts asking – how does this mobile device use affect parent-child interactions?

The American Academy of Pediatrics already advises pediatricians to discuss screen time with their patients and families– but that is typically in the context of the child using the screen. The broader conversation should address the screen time of the parents or caregiver as well.

In a study, researchers sought to describe patterns of how caregivers and children use mobile devices around each other. In the study, “Patterns of Mobile Device Use by Caregivers and Children During Meals in Fast Food Restaurants,” published in the April 2014 Pediatrics (published online March 10), researchers observed 55 caregivers eating with 1 or more young children in fast food restaurants. Researchers described how “absorbed” the caregiver was in the device, how children responded when caregivers used a device and how caregivers managed this behavior. Caregivers who used devices ranged from having the device on the table to almost constant absorption with the device throughout the meal. Some children accepted the lack of engagement and entertained themselves; others acted out in a bid for attention.

The study raises several questions for future research, including what are the long-term effects on child development from caregivers who frequently become absorbed with a device while spending time with their children.

Bottom line – if you have your eyes on a screen of any kind, there is less talk time and interaction, and over time, it can take a toll on fostering your child’s development. While we all love our screens and lead busy lives, there is a time, place and purpose to use them. Plan ahead and power down when engaging with your kids.

Have a question for the expert? Ask us on Facebook or Twitter (@411Pediatrics).


411 Pediatrics


Dr. Ari Brown founded 411 Pediatrics and After Hours Care in Austin after two decades of education and experience in child development, behavioral pediatrics and pediatric healthcare. Our pediatric associates, consisting of pediatricians, pediatric nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and lactation consultants, share a common goal. We partner with parents to help children grow up healthy, happy, and resilient!

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