Secure Beginnings Offers Air-Permeable Crib Mattress to Combat SIDS

My first, adorable-beyond-words niece was born November 30, and since then I’ve gotten a crash course on the modern rules of safe sleeping for infants. These days, they tell you to take all pillows and blankets out of the crib, lay newborns on their backs, and avoid letting them get too warm. It’s understandable why new parents never sleep—I imagine the urge to constantly check on your offspring can really interfere with your ability to rest.

But a startup based in Detroit called Secure Beginnings aims to give newborns the safest sleep experience possible with its patented line of air-permeable crib mattresses that allow babies to breathe normally even if they wiggle in the night.

Two sisters, Julie and Margie Andreae, founded the company—Julie is a mom and Margie is a pediatrician—along with Kelly Obriot, a former designer at Ford. The Andreaes lost a niece to SIDS many years ago, and Julie Andreae says the experience “ripped our family apart.” Obriot, too, has been affected by SIDS. He first began designing the mattresses after a friend lost a baby to the mysterious condition. (More on SIDS later.)

“We’ve made it user-friendly and adorable in the crib,” Andreae says. “We’ve addressed every single safety issue with crib mattresses. Our mattress uses no sheets or pads; instead, the whole sleep surface can be removed and put into the washer and dryer.”

The breathable mattress is made out of the same kind of 3D knitted fabric used in tennis shoes and seating in cars. Andreae says it naturally wicks away moisture and has passed testing by the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission. Secure Beginnings is also working with the Academy of Pediatrics, which is the entity that issues official policies regarding safe sleep.

Though doctors aren’t sure what exactly causes SIDS, Andreae says research increasingly shows a link between the disease, which typically strikes babies between the ages of one and 24 months, and the amount of carbon dioxide trapped in a baby’s bedding.

Researchers theorize that some babies are born with deficiencies in their brain stems, which can result in lower levels of serotonin. If babies with these brain abnormalities are in a situation where their breathing is compromised, it’s possible the mechanism to turn their heads won’t be triggered. “They literally sleep through it,” Andreae adds.

Babies placed on their backs for sleep is safest, Andreae stresses, but instead of betting on a baby not to roll over, an air-permeable mattress like those made by Secure Beginnings will allow them to breathe safely even if they end up face down. “Now, the Academy of Pediatrics is looking at the data and we hope for a policy change [to include air-permeable mattresses] soon,” she says.

Secure Beginnings, which was established in 2010, has been mentored by Walsh College’s Blackstone LaunchPad program for the past few months as the company looks to increase its market share. The mattresses come in three varieties, including a cheaper version and one that fits the smaller cribs used at daycare centers. Secure Beginnings mattresses are assembled in Detroit—80 percent of their suppliers are in Michigan—from U.S.-made components and are currently available on the web at places like Amazon and WalMart.com. (The standard version retails for $399.)

So far, the company has gotten by financially through bootstrapping and sales, though it is considering pursuing angel investment during the next year. Andreae estimates the value of the market to be $500 million annually in the U.S. alone.“I expect 2015 to be a breakout year,” Andreae says. “We want to be in all of the big box stores and go into full production with other products, like a hospital bassinet version, by the end of the year. We hope to one day see all crib mattresses made air-permeable.”

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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