Decorating the nursery can be exciting, emotional, and eco-friendly.
Keep in mind that as babies’ immune systems are developing in the early months of their life, they are more susceptible to their environment and could have a harder time handling toxins.
This is not just about living green—it’s about creating the safest, healthiest, most non-toxic environment possible for your children.
Your baby is going to be spending a lot of time in his crib during the first few years of his life (between 11–12 hours at night, plus naps!). Consider making it as comfortable and eco-conscious as possible.
- Choose a crib made of solid, sustainable wood, treated with non-toxic paint, finishes or stains. See Choosing the Safest Crib for Your Newborn.
- Pick a natural mattress made without petrochemicals, such as those made of wool, organic cotton or 100 percent natural latex. If you decide to go with a conventional mattress (the natural ones can be a bit more expensive), try to use an organic mattress pad protector as a barrier between baby and the bed. Also, air it out a couple of months before placing it in the crib (for off-gassing).
- Use natural fabrics for the bumper and sheets.
- Wash all bedding with a gentle, natural baby detergent, such as those made by Method or Seventh Generation.
Choosing which color paint for the walls is a matter of taste; choosing paint with low VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) is a matter of health.
As paint dries, VOC’s are emitted into the air, giving off gases and chemicals, and creating that strong paint smell. These fumes can be dangerous to a little person’s health.
- Choose paints and primers made with low VOCs, such as those by Yolo Colorhouse.
- Try to paint the nursery far in advance, before the baby is born, and open windows to air it out.
- If you live in a house built before 1978, check for lead in the paint (you can test this with a do-it-yourself kit). If lead is found, hire professionals who are qualified to correct, and get rid of, lead problems—sanding or scraping it yourself could hazardously spread lead dust throughout the house.
Babies breathe more rapidly than adults do, so they get more pollutants into their little lungs (making them more vulnerable to indoor air pollution).
- Invest in an air purifier to free the space of chemicals, gases, and household allergens.
- Open the windows every day to bring in fresh air and circulate out stale air.
Think of all the time your child will be on the floor — crawling, playing, or working on tummy time. And think of all the things that might be living on your floor — dirt, allergens and toxins—oh my!
- A wood floor, treated with a non-toxic sealer, is the best choice
- If choosing an area rug, pick one made of natural fibers (organic cotton or wool) with no synthetic dyes
- Try to steer clear of carpets—they can harbor dust mites, pollutants, and mold (which often triggers allergies or asthma). Also, many carpets, pads, and adhesives can out-gas, releasing harmful fumes and chemicals. If you have your heart set on using carpet, look for a Green Label Plus Certified Carpet.
- A good alternative is to use cork flooring (cork is sustainable and comfortable) or FLOR (carpet tiles made entirely or partially from recycled or renewable resources)
- Two or three times a week, clean floors and rugs with a high-quality HEPA filter-equipped vacuum cleaner (HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air)
The Changing Table
You’ll be changing your newborn’s diaper every two to three hours. Help keep her sensitive skin feeling pampered and protected.
- As with the crib, choose a changing table made of solid, sustainable wood
- Use an organic cover over the changing pad
- Invest in either cloth diapers or chlorine free diapers (chorine free won’t contribute to dioxin pollution)
- Choose lotions and ointments made with natural ingredients, such as those by California Baby
Children are naturally curious about their toys and games, so why not choose natural toys for them to play with?
- Invest in toys made with natural fibers, or wood toys created with nontoxic paints (check out the HABA toys).
- Try to steer clear of plastic toys made with PVC (polyvinyl chloride). This material releases toxins into the environment throughout its lifecycle and contributes to pollution by dispersing carcinogens (dioxins) into our air and water.
- If you want to go plastic, look for toys and teethers made without PVC (check the label —Brio, Early Start, Sassy, and Tiny Love make some PVC-free products).
If you’re not quite ready to invest in an eco-friendly nursery, at the very least clean your baby’s room with non-toxic, gentle cleaners. There are many to choose from, such as Caldrea’s Sweet Pea, Method, or Seventh Generation.
Making a few changes here and there will help create a happy and healthy environment in which your baby will grow and thrive.