Very few things in life are more exciting than putting together your baby’s nursery. You have so many dreams, hopes, and plans for the new life you’re bringing into the world, and want to create a perfect welcome home for your little one.
For many, that includes making the nursery as eco-friendly as possible, knowing that what is good for the planet will likely be good for your baby. These tips will help you put together a nursery that is baby and planet friendly.
Picking the Perfect Room for a Nursery
There are a few things the perfect nursery needs. Most of them involve windows. It’s a good idea to choose a room with lots of windows as they allow baby exposure to natural light during the day and because they provide easy access to ventilation. Windows can be used to create cooling breezes during afternoon naps, and allow you to air out the room once baby is eating solid foods like plums and spinach.
Another thing the nursery needs is easy access to parents throughout the day and night. Monitors make it easier than ever to hear baby’s cries when they come, but proximity allows you to respond to those cries quickly – so location is the key.
While you might not think that easy access to the bathroom is critical for a baby who isn’t even potty training yet, it’s more important than you realize. There will be times when you need to go straight from the crib to the tub. There will also be times when you’ll want to be able to rinse and return something to baby quickly in order to prevent full-on meltdown mode in the middle of the night.
Painting Your Nursery
One of the first things many people do when transforming a room in a home into a nursery is paint the walls. While the traditional concerns have been over lead paint, which you’ll want to check that your home was not painted with lead based paint (if it was built before 1979) before you begin sanding, scraping, or painting.
Unfortunately, lead is not the only risk when it comes to paint. If you use traditional paint, painting your nursery can be one of the worst things to do. Paint is typically filled with volatile organic compounds. According to the National Institutes of Health, short term exposure to VOCs can result in dizziness, headaches, allergic skin reactions, nausea, eye irritation, respiratory tract irritation, loss of coordination, and even memory impairment. Long term exposure can have even more devastating results leading to damaged kidneys, livers, or central nervous systems.
The problem with paint is that so many carry VOCs, and there isn’t enough time to paint the nursery with traditional paint and have the VOCs dissipate before bringing baby home. According to Boise Health, the new paint smell that so many people love is actually the combination of VOCs in the paint. While the smell may linger only a few days, some paint products do not release even half their VOCs within one year of application, and will continue emitting VOCs for their entire life cycles.
So, what are your options? Consider painting with products that have zero VOCs on their labels. You particularly want to find paint products that do not contain formaldehyde, turpentine, or animal products in the paint. Choosing lighter colors is also beneficial as some of the tints used to create bold colors contain VOCs that aren’t in the paint.
Keep these things in mind not only for painting walls, but also if you plan to paint furniture that’s going into the nursery or art work on the walls.
Other things to keep in mind while painting walls in the nursery include things like:
- Leave the windows open while painting to allow the scent to escape.
- Invest in an air purifier and use that for a week after the painting is complete to eliminate any potential odors from lingering.
- Paint furniture and other items outside or in another, well-ventilated room.
- Take frequent breaks while painting and leave the room for fresher air. This will help you stay healthy while painting.
One other option to consider is eco-friendly wallpaper for the room. Just mind the adhesive as many of these also contain VOCs.
Furniture for Baby
Choosing the right furniture is important when choosing a greener nursery. It means you will need to avoid the compressed wood furniture that is widely available on the market in favor of real hardwood products. In fact, you’ll want to go one step further and choose sustainable wood that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Counsel (FSO).
If you can’t find wood furniture at an affordable price that has FSO certification, look for solid hardwood that is unfinished, and finish it yourself with stain or paint that has no VOCs.
If you’re reusing furniture, be careful of cribs as the modern safety requirements have made many heirloom cribs obsolete. Be particularly mindful of cribs that offer drop-down sides as they have been determined to pose specific risks to babies.
Reusing rocking chairs, drawers, and changing tables, though, can save a great deal of money, and the planet, by keeping them out of landfills. You’ll probably want to clean them thoroughly. Use natural products like baking soda and vinegar for this task to prevent off-gassing and VOCs that are so common with chemical cleaning products.
Bedding and Window Dressings
Fabric has a lot to offer when it comes to creating cleaner, greener nurseries. When it comes to bedding, it’s best to begin with the mattress. Look for mattresses that are made with certified organic materials such as organic cotton, organic wool, and other natural ingredients.
It’s important to avoid mattresses that are made with standard fireproofing materials as they produce abundant VOCs that can be harmful to your baby. Instead, look for mattresses that have natural fireproofing. The good news is that they are available much more widely today than in the past, and you no longer have to have a doctor’s prescription to obtain them. They do cost more than traditional crib mattresses, though.
For eco-friendly bedding, you have two excellent options. One, you can buy organic cotton crib bedding that has been dyed with natural products. Look for Oeko-Tex certification when going this route. Your other option is to use heirloom bedding passed down within your family. While purchasing hand-me-down bedding for babies was once an earth and wallet-friendly choice, concerns over bed bugs may have some families hesitant to make that choice.
Organic cotton is an excellent choice for window treatments – as is linen, silk, and wool. Consider washing, then drying curtains and baby bedding in the sun before bringing them into the nursery as it will help to remove potential allergens.
Floors for Your Nursery
The first thought many new parents have is that carpet will help cushion any falls that are likely to occur along the way. That may be, but carpet poses a much greater risk than a few bumps and bruises along the way. For that reason, it may not be the best flooring choice for your nursery.
The risks of carpet are many. First, most carpet is made with materials that contain VOCs. If the carpet isn’t, the glue that is used to adhere it to the floor certainly is. Beyond that, people bring in dust, allergens, and mold on their shoes. It becomes trapped in the carpet fibers, and ground deep down into the pile, making it impossible to get out even with professional cleaning (which introduces a whole host of other toxins and chemicals into the air).
The best choice is to skip carpet if possible. If it is necessary to have carpet, look for carpets that contain no VOCs and are made with natural fibers. Beyond that, look for carpet glue that contains no or low VOCs, and use an air purifier. You may want to consider asking guests and family to remove shoes before entering the nursery to prevent things from being tracked in.
So, what are good flooring choices for nurseries?
Hardwood floors are natural and easy to clean. Despite your best efforts to go green, though, many wood floor options are stained and/or protected with chemicals that can cause off-gassing. Plan to allow plenty of time for the room to properly air out before bringing baby home. In fact, consider using fans, open windows, and an air purifier to help speed the process along. Older wood floors are actually best, and can be softened with area rugs made with natural fibers. Keep the wood floors clean with vinegar and water. If you want to make it a room for soothing baby, consider adding a couple of drops of lavender essential oil into the mix.
Building the perfect nursery doesn’t mean you can’t make it an eco-friendly nursery. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, either. Use this as a guide to make your nursery, then your home, a much greener place for everyone to enjoy. It will make your home, and the planet, a much healthier place to live for baby and everyone else involved.
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