Oh Baby! 7 Steps to Design a Healthy Nursery

I can count on one hand the number of baby showers I’ve attended where the gifts received were intended to heal and nurture a newborn baby. In 2005, actress Demi Moore attended a Green Power Baby Shower, which I thought was ingenious and hoped would become the new trend for expecting moms.

It just makes sense when you consider that studies reveal the average baby in the U.S. is born with 287 chemicals already in their body (180 of which cause cancer in humans or animals and 217 which are toxic to the brain and nervous system). Creating a nontoxic nursery is no longer a luxury — it’s a necessity; especially since your delicate little one will spend up to 17 hours a day there.

Image courtesy of David J Laporte.

While it’s easy to have your head turned by cute toys, convenient devices, and contemporary furnishings, consider everything your baby comes in contact with and choose products with natural, organic, and nontoxic materials in mind. Here’s how.

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1. Clean & Sanitize Toxin-Free

For generations we’ve been led to believe a clean home is a healthy home, but check under your kitchen sink and you’ll likely find a host of dangerous chemicals. If you think you’re doing your newborn a favor by using anti-bacterial wipes and disinfectant sprays, think again. Did you know those products contain pesticides like triclosan? And, by nature, little ones put everything in their mouths and crawl on the ground, making them especially vulnerable to toxic chemicals.

  • Read labels on cleaning products and choose brands with full disclosure. If they don’t list ingredients, they may have something to hide.
  • Make your own diaper wipes with a spray bottle of water, essential oil, and washcloths. You’ll avoid alcohol and fragrance contained in the disposable brands and save money.
  • And, for sanitizing baby bottles, pacifiers, and toys, try the Wabi Baby UV Sterilizer, which uses UV light to eliminate 99.9 percent of harmful bacteria.
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2. Choose Organic Bedding

Choose certified organic cotton that’s been untreated, unbleached, and unprocessed for your delicate baby’s bed sheets. If you want colored fabrics, look for those that use all-natural dyes derived from nature’s plants and minerals.

Be sure baby sleeps safely and soundly on an organic mattress that is free of dangerous flame retardant chemicals. We recommend mattresses made from certified wool (as a natural flame retardant alternative), natural rubber, and certified organic cotton. Look for 100 percent wool puddle pads as well.

3. Ban Plastic and Play Naturally

Be aware of toys (especially imported) that may contain lead, a neurotoxin. But that’s not the only toy hazard. Most toys sold by major retailers are made from plastics and include dangerous PVC, or polyvinyl chloride. PVC is a health hazard and major contributor to indoor air pollution. Look instead for organic teethers, rattles, and toys from MiYim. Or, try Green Toys‘ nontoxic and food-safe toys and tableware, which are made in the U.S.

4. Air on the Side of Caution

The EPA lists indoor air quality as one of the top 5 environmental health risks in the U.S. today. Since children breathe in more air pound for pound than adults, it’s vital to maintain clean and healthy air — in baby’s room in particular.  The simplest way to improve the air quality is to open windows and let the fresh air in! Unfortunately, this isn’t always an option.

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Make sure to use a quality, portable air purifier for removal of biological and chemical contaminants like dust, pollen, dander, odors, chemical vapors, and more. The Air Angel is perfect for nurseries and cleans 250 square feet using NASA technology.

Image courtesy of Emily May.

5. Use Nontoxic Paints and Finishes

Before baby comes home from the hospital you can start painting the nursery walls green. Don’t panic mamas. You can use any color, just make sure it’s low-VOC or zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) to avoid residual toxic chemicals found in typical paints and finishes. Babies are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of chemicals found in common commercial paints. Painting should be done at least a month before baby arrives. And, ideally, it should be painted by someone other than pregnant mama.

Also, remember that the crib is your baby’s “home” and needs to be as pure as possible in every way. Avoid particleboard, which may off-gas formaldehyde, and choose real wood and natural finishes for furniture.

6. Choose Safe Flooring

You can bet your (baby’s) bottom dollar he or she will spend a lot of time on the floor, so avoid new carpeting. While it may be cozy underfoot, carpet harbors a plethora of nasty germs, bacteria, and chemicals. VOCs can off-gas from the carpet backing, adhesives, and fibers — as well as from topical stain or water-resistant treatments.

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If you can’t live without carpet in the nursery, look for untreated, natural-fiber area rugs. Or have a piece of carpet cut to the size of the room, air it out, and wash and rinse it with water before having it fitted. Ideally, hard surfaces are your best bet as they are much easier to keep clean, and less likely to trap potential contaminants. Look for hard surfaced flooring like FSC certified wood, natural linoleum, or cork.

7. De-stress With Less EMFs

Radio frequency (RF) signals from portable devices have been shown to interfere with the body’s immune system. Traditional DECT baby monitors emit significant amounts of microwave radiation over extended periods of infant exposure.

  • Be sure and research the latest low-emission baby monitors. Look for models with low radiation and zero pulsing radiation. 
  • And, for expecting mothers, you’ll love Belly Armor’s line of RadiaShield fabric products including belly blankets, belly bands, maternity tops, and more!

Finally, when rocking your precious cargo to sleep, read their way to health with my children’s book, My Body My House. It’s a colorful picture book that teaches children (oh, and parents, too) about the importance of a healthy home environment!

Feature image courtesy of Jorge Cruz

Editor’s note: Originally published on August 26, 2015, this article was updated in February 2019.

 
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