Be a Baby Hugger- Green Your Nursery
The phrase “going green” has often been thought of, and often is, about using environmentally sustainable products and having a low carbon footprint. It’s a hippy-dippy thing right? Wrong. Being green is more than that. For me it is about my family, specifically my toddler. I do NOT hug trees. I hug babies. I also love my husband, myself and even my dogs enough to give them a safe home. To me, green is synonymous with safe. When you look at it that way….
Cancer, nervous system disorders and birth defects are on the rise. It is reasonable to assume that the toxins our babies are born with coupled with ones they are exposed to postpartum are partially to blame. Our bodies are affected by the scads of new chemicals produced each year as well as the ones already being used. According to studies done by the Environmental Working Group, babies are born toxic. The toxins found in their cord blood are alarming: Dioxin is a hormone disruptor. PCBs can impair fetal development lowing IQ permanently. Methylmercury impairs brain function. Babies’ bodies are to a disadvantage at conception having to combat all the pollutants already in the mother’s womb. This makes it crucial for mom to take care of her body by avoiding as many harmful chemicals as possible. Once baby is born, it is important to continue this trend in the home environment especially her sleeping space.
Babies spend at least 10 hours asleep. Whether they sleep in your room or their own room, there are several places toxins can be found.
Let’s start with the mattress as that is where they are actually laying (hopefully). Infant and adult mattresses are not manufactured in a very responsible way. Whether your little sweetheart is sleeping in a bassinet, your bed or in his crib, the mattress needs to be SAFE. It should be made with organic cotton or wool and void of toxins. This means, no flame retardants, no synthetic fabrics, no boric acid or antimony and no vinyl. 100% cotton, bamboo and wool are best, ideally if they are grown and manufactured responsibly. Cotton should definitely be organic being it is heavily doused with pesticides. Follow suit with the mattress pad and sheets. That new jungle-themed bedding set you’ve been eyeing up can have the above mentioned chemicals as well. The packaging on the mattress and bedding you buy should boast its virtues as being certified organic, nontoxic, Green Guard certified, etc. A great choice is Naturepedic as they offer many sizes and styles of their nontoxic mattresses, sheets and mattress covers. There are many other good companies out there too. Do your research though.
The crib and changing table need to be put together at least 3 months before baby arrives and allowed to air out. Ideally, this should be done outside as to keep the chemicals out of your home, but if that is not possible, let them off-gas in another room with a lot of open windows. This process takes between 2 to 3 months. The gas here is in the wood treatments and the wood itself if it is particle board or any other type of compressed wood. Formaldehyde and other VOCs are emitted from nursery furniture and other wood furniture in your home unless it is otherwise specified. If you can, it is really best to invest in a crib made from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood or reclaimed wood. Other safe materials are wicker and rattan. The finish on nursery furniture should be VOC-free! Often it is not. Again, research! Green Guard has a great database of cribs and mattresses that are tested to have low to no off-gassing.
Flooring is an important thing to consider as well. Whether the room rests on hardwoods, vinyl or wall to wall carpeting, there are some things to be aware of. Any flooring that involves adhesives is suspect when it comes to infant safety or your own for that matter. The adhesives used are often full of toxic chemicals. In addition, carpet can harbor a host of tiny particles including dust mites and pet dander. It is often treated with stain resistant chemicals that off-gas. If you already have wall-to-wall carpeting in the nursery steam-clean it rather than using carpet shampoo. It gives a deep clean and can be done with just plain old water! The most family-friendly flooring is FSC hardwood flooring with nontoxic treatment. Other good options are slate, ceramic tile, cork and bamboo. Cork is more forgiving for newly crawling or walking babies.
The drawback to avoiding wall-to-wall is that you are sacrificing comfort. Who doesn’t enjoy the feel of high pile carpeting under their feet? To remedy this, buy some safe area rugs with no backing that are made with natural fibers. Place organic rug pads underneath to keep them in place. Bamboo, organic cotton, hemp, wool and jute are good options. Make sure the dies are low-impact and nontoxic. Ideally they should be machine washable or easy to steam clean. DwellSmart offers some great options. This is a great way to warm up a cool slate or ceramic floor!
There should be no chipping paint, especially if your home is old. It is a good idea to have your home checked for lead paint before conception. Once pregnant, it is best not to remove the lead paint because it can release into the air. Paint over any exposed areas instead. If you’d like to repaint, this is not a job for pregnant women. It makes for cute pictures, but that’s about it. It is a disservice to your baby to be breathing in paint fumes. Have someone else do the dirty work. Your paint should be VOC free or low-voc after the coloring is added. Milk paint is another good option as it is naturally VOC free and free of many other chemicals. Wallpaper and borders should contain no vinyl and be applied with a nontoxic glue.
When cleaning the nursery, be mindful of chemicals! Use safe products like Seventh Generation, Method, Meyers or better yet, make your own! Recipes involve baking soda, vinegar, washing soda, lemon juice and essential oils for the most part. Then all you need are some spray bottles. Once you have all your ingredients you can make years worth of product. Eco-nomical right?
Loving the cute curtains at Babies R Us? Fabrics used in your new non-toxic nursery should be free of any treatments like water or stain-proofing and flame retardants. Avoid synthetic fabrics and stick with natural ones like organic cotton, wool, bamboo, silk, linen and hemp. Organic cotton is recommended because it will not emit chemicals found in pesticides. Not only that, but natural fabrics will not emit any type of smell and will look beautiful in any nursery. There are many adorable organic choices available. Check out www.babyearth.com.
The air quality in our homes is far worse than what we breathe outside, even in a heavily industrialized area. Air quality has been associated with SIDS, so make sure your nursery has excellent air flow. Fans are great. A window fan or air conditioner will work too. Open the windows and air your baby’s nursery a few times a day to release any toxic chemicals that have accumulated from furniture stains and paint. Keep your shoes off in your baby’s sleep space. Shoes track in pesticides, dirt and other harmful substances. Ideally, we shouldn’t be wearing our shoes in the house at all. Eastern cultures set good examples as they find it completely disgusting to wear shoes indoors. They are right.
Use incandescent light bulbs to sidestep the mercury found in compact fluorescent ones. When broken, the mercury is released into the air of your home. Yikes. Incandescent also cast a more pleasant light. There is a reason babies scream at Wal-Mart.
The designers from Inspired Everyday Living recommend light or neutral colors in a nursery because bright ones can be over-stimulating for babies. That is the last thing parents want when putting baby to bed for the evening! This is a place for sleep so design it as such. Keep clutter as low as possible using furniture that multitasks, shelves and hidden storage areas. Clutter causes stress, which is something we have enough. And as you probably know, our babies can sense our stress and will respond accordingly.
If you can’t afford to buy the nontoxic crib or install cork flooring, make small changes. Opening windows and starting a “no shoes” rule will be a great start. So will cleaning with nontoxic products which can be made for pennies on the dollar. You can also purchase a Babe-safe mattress wrap which will block any off-gassing from your little one’s mattress. Find them on Amazon.com.
It may be frightening to hear all the things in your home that could potentially harm your baby. The only thing more frightening is the ignorance we as parents have about these dangers. We certainly aren’t warned about them like we are about placing baby to sleep on his back. So empower yourself with information on these topics by doing research on your own. Use what you learn to make changes in your environment and feel good because you are truly taking care of your family. Love is an amazing motivator.
www.inspiredeverdayliving.com Healthy Decorating, www.ewg.org
Ecologist- How to Reduce Toxins and Green your Baby’s Nursery by Laura Sevier, 2009
www.healthychild.com Carcinogenic Cribs and Changing Tables? Jennifer Taggart, 2008
www.healthychild.com Trimester Calender Laura Forbes Carlin and Alison Forbes, 2008