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BEWARE OF FALSE MATTRESS-SAFETY CLAIMS

by Dr Ron Somers, Former Director of Epidemiology, SA Health

If you really want to protect your baby from suffocation, you need to be aware of false

mattress-safety claims. The most important precaution is to always place your baby face up

to sleep. But babies can roll face down, and that’s when you want the safest possible

mattress for them. Some manufacturers claim that their mattress is safer because air can

easily pass through their product. This seems logical, but air permeability is not a guarantee

of safety. In fact, a standard, firm, foam mattress with a tight sheet cover is actually safer

than some of the so-called safety products.


HOW CAN THIS BE? Well, it works like this. On a standard, firm, foam mattress the baby’s

expelled carbon dioxide dissipates, i.e. it drifts away, preventing the baby from rebreathing

it. Rebreathing of carbon dioxide causes suffocation. With many of the so-called air-

permeable mattresses, the carbon dioxide (being heavier than air) sinks into the mattress,

and it is then sucked up by the baby for rebreathing. In other words, the carbon dioxide

does not dissipate. This has been determined by a special test using a mechanical baby that

breaths in and out like a real baby. If a manufacturer will not show you their results on this

kind of test, don’t fall for their safety hype. Other types of testing, which simply confirm

air permeability, are not a substitute for the mechanical baby test.

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