Affordable Natural Mattress solution: Japanese futon

When we found out we were pregnant with Little Lady we were also in need of a new mattress for our bed. Believe it or not, all 5 years of our marriage we’ve been sleeping on a full size mattress. We bought a queen size bed frame a few years back but still had our old full size mattress on it. Every time I’m pregnant it seemed soooo small with my huge belly and all the pillows I had to sleep with! Not to mention, we co-slept with Little Sir and we knew we’d definitely be co-sleeping with Little Lady since she doesn’t have a room of her own.

You might not be aware that mattresses are made with a variety of toxic chemicals, from the plastics in the filling to the flame-retardant sprayed on the cover. Over the life of the mattress, the components of the mattress degrade, releasing the chemicals slowly. Our mattress was 10 years old, before I knew the dangers of conventional mattresses. What we wanted to avoid was buying another mattress that would seep chemical fumes our new baby would breathe overnight.

Of course when you Google “organic mattress” or “natural mattress”, you find a lot of companies who have removed these chemicals from their mattresses, like Spaldin. As you might expect, the organic certification and alternative methods of manufacturing the mattresses come at a price. Usually around $2,000 for a queen, at the minimum.

Needless to say, that price tag wasn’t currently an option for us. I spent a lot of time researching alternative solutions and finally found some articles recommending that we use a traditional Japanese futon* instead of a conventional American mattress.
Homeikan Daimachi Bekkan
Futons are typically put on the floor on tatami mats and rolled up when not in use. However, there is also the option to put a futon mattress on a slotted platform bed – which, coincidentally, is what we have.

We found a company online that makes a 6-inch futon out of completely natural cotton and wool. I spoke with their customer service representatives about how it would compare to a traditional American mattress, since there was no way to try out the mattress in person – they only have a few brick-and-mortar stores and neither of the ones in Texas carried the futons. She told me that the futon would feel just like the ones we slept on in Japan during our visit(s).

We deliberated for quite a while and finally decided to go for it. We’ve had it now for almost 3 months.

What do we think?

  • Since futon are without springs, when you “plop down” onto a futon mattress, there is NO bounce at all. It’s solid, like plopping down onto a bench, only padded. That took a little getting used to.
  • 6 inches is thin compared to a traditional American mattress, but it is thick when you try to fold up a queen size mattress!
  • We found that the batting does shift around our bodies, making indentions where each of us lie. This can be fixed by folding the mattress during the day, as the Japanese do.
  • The mattress is so heavy at 6 inches that we haven’t been able to drag it outside to air in the sun, as the Japanese do. I think this will need to be done at some point, I’m just not sure how right now.

We are really enjoy the mattress right now and I feel great that we aren’t breathing in toxic fumes anymore. I would not recommend this solution for anyone who has not slept on a traditional Japanese futon, because you really need to know if you are comfortable on futon first before you make the purchase. I am thankful we were able to sleep on futon at the ryokan when we visited Japan a few years ago!

What I really need to do now is find a traditional kakebuton comforter for the mattress so that it’s easier to fold during the day and unfold at night.

* Traditional Japanese futons are not the fold-out wooden bed frames with thin mattresses that you slept on in college.

2 thoughts on “Affordable Natural Mattress solution: Japanese futon”

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