Six years ago hubby and I trawled through baby stores looking at furniture and furnishings for our baby nursery…. and yet, I can remember the excitement and overwhelm like it was only yesterday.
Excitement because we were about to welcome our much longed-for baby into the world, and overwhelm because…. well, because there’s just so much “stuff” that baby magazines, blogs and stores try and convince you that your baby will “need”.
Well, luckily I hadn’t yet fallen victim to “baby brain” so could see through much of the hype and marketing tactics. In fact, I was intent on creating as natural baby nursery as possible, so my main task at hand (apart from keeping hubby in the stores) was to find the products that would help achieve this vision.
Given that newborn babies can typically sleep around 16-17 hours a day, it’s worth putting some thought into creating a natural baby nursery to ensure your baby’s sleep environment is as safe and toxin-free as possible.
If creating a natural nursery is high on your nesting agenda, the following five steps will have you well on your way to a safe, toxin-free space for baby.
- Re-consider the paint job
Many expectant parents choose the weeks immediately prior to baby’s birth as a good time to paint and decorate the nursery. In actual fact, there couldn’t be a worse time to do this job!
Most paints contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and are linked to several adverse health effects including nasal or airway irritation, headache, and in some cases, vomiting, and feelings of drowsiness.
If you or your partner is painting your baby’s nursery close to baby’s due date, opt for a zero-VOC paint and ventilate the room as much as possible by keeping windows and doors open. Also consider placing some living plants in the nursery; plants such as the Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) and Golden pothos (Scindapsus aures) are effective in absorbing benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene from your air.
- Choose your cot wisely
In addition to ensuring your preferred baby cot meets current safety regulations, it’s also important to consider the materials used in its manufacture. Opt for cots made from solid wood and water-based stains and paints, rather than fibreboards and oil-based paints.
If you’re inheriting an heirloom cot, this is even more important, since many older paints contain heavy metals such as lead and cadmium.
To protect the coating of your cot and prevent your cherub ingesting the paintwork once they start standing up and chewing on the rail (and believe me… this happens, fast!), invest in a BPA-free, phthalate-free and halogen–free teething rail such as those by Munch.
- Prioritise bedding and sleepwear over cute daytime outfits
I know those cute baby outfits are oh-so-hard to resist but believe me, it’s much better to save your splurge for sleepwear and bedding.
Opting for sleepwear, sheets, swaddles, sleeping bags and blankets made from natural fibres is an investment in your baby’s health. Natural fibres such as merino wool, organic cotton and bamboo “breathe”, help your baby rest more comfortably and reduce exposure to toxins during sleep.
The higher price tag of merino wool pyjamas (like those by Merino Kids) is easily justified when you take into account that wool naturally repels fire and merino wool has been proven to be one of the safest fabrics for babies. The fact that it hasn’t been doused in toxic flame retardants (unlike baby sleepwear made from synthetic fibres) is an added bonus!
Most cot mattresses are filled with polyurethane foam, covered with polyester, and treated with flameproof chemicals. The good news is there are several natural options available including mattresses made from organic cotton, wool, natural latex and even organic tea tree flakes.
- Remember that YOU are you child’s favourite toy
The prevalence of plastics in modern children’s toys is nothing short of overwhelming (just walk through the toy section of a department store and you’ll see what I mean!).
Many components of plastics, including PVC, phthalates and bisphenyls, have been linked to significant health risks including liver, kidney and testicular damage and hormone disruption. To reduce risk to your baby, minimise the amount of plastic toys you buy and favour those made from natural materials such as sustainable wood, organic cotton and wool instead.
Your child’s favourite soft toy is also the perfect breeding ground for dust mites, which can trigger allergies. To keep populations in check, freeze soft toys inside two freezer bags overnight, thaw and wash in hot water and line dry. Repeat every two months.
- Turn off your wireless and forgo the baby monitor
Many mums love the reassurance and peace-of-mind that accompanies the purchase of a baby monitor, but sadly, this reassurance may come at a cost,
Modern digital technology uses a pulsed radio frequency, which many scientists believe may contribute to a wide array of health effects from headaches through to Motor Neuron Disease.
Digital (DECT) baby monitors are of particular concern because of their close proximity to the baby and the fact that they use the same frequency as mobile and cordless phones. Talk back models are specifically not recommended as they continuously emit pulsing radiation, even when noise is not being made.
In recent years wireless technology has invaded our workplaces, shopping centres, schools and even our homes. There are increasing concerns about the health implications of wireless technology and several schools in Europe have removed their WiFi systems as a result of these concerns. Without valid scientific studies on the medium and long term implications of WiFi technology, err on the side of caution and turn your household’s WiFi off when not in use, particularly overnight.
Whether your baby sleeps in your bedroom or their own nursery, following these five steps will help you create a safe and natural sleeping environment free of toxins. Of course your baby will venture into many other rooms in your home, so once you have your nursery nailed you may wish to shift your focus to the remainder of your home.
About the author: Laura Trotta is one of Australia’s leading home sustainability experts.
Fusing her professional expertise as an environmental engineer with the down-to-earth pragmatism that comes from being a busy mum, Laura is an eco thought leader who’s not afraid to challenge the status quo. She loves bushwalking and scuba diving and lives with her husband and young sons in Outback South Australia (she obviously scuba dives on holidays only!)..
Download Laura’s FREE eguide ’11 Steps to Ecofy Your Home”