Guide To Planning An Organic Baby Nursery
Deciding on the decoration of a nursery - or any new room - is exciting. What color should it be? What kind of floor should it have? How much light should come in through the curtains? These decisions undoubtedly take on new weight when the room is for a baby. After all, we want our children to feel comforted by their surroundings, and since a tiny baby can't choose her nursery or know yet how to keep herself safe in the world, her parents must make these decisions for her. This means paying attention to the air quality, what she sleeps in, and what touches her skin. Choosing ecologically doesn't mean that the nursery can't be beautiful; in fact, the beauty of natural products might be surprisingly inspiring.
The Room Itself
Two major decisions for a nursery are the color of the walls and the type of floor. Our instincts are not only to make the room peaceful, but also soft and comfortable. For this reason, carpeting on the floor initially seems like a great option; it is soft on little hands and knees and muffles sound. But carpet can retain all kinds of bacteria that aren't removed when vacuumed. For this reason, natural flooring - wood floors, cork floors, or all-natural carpet and carpet backing - are healthier. Safe and beautiful area rugs can be spread over them, made from materials like jute, cotton, or silk that are untreated, non-dyed, and unbleached. Wall-to-wall carpets made of wool with hemp backing are also available.
Choosing the color of the nursery is up to you, but care should be taken in deciding what kind of paint to use. Conventional paints can release chemical vapors for up to three years, and this won't give your baby (or you!) good air quality. But the choices within the healthy paint market aren't as limited as you might think. When examining your paint choices, compare levels of Volatile Organic Compounds, and aim for the lowest levels (zero is best) you can find. If the paint you need does contain VOC's, try to choose one no higher than 250 grams per liter for latex and no higher than 380 grams per liter for oil-based paint. Milk paints are another healthy option, and can be used to create special decorative effects as well as be used like traditional paint. In a similar vein, using safe paint thinners and brush cleaners will help keep the house (and the earth) safer. These can be found, along with other eco-paints, at most hardware stores.
Organic Swaddling Clothes and Bassinet Blankets
A swaddled and sleeping baby is a wonderful sight, and keeping your baby from sleeping with chemicals next to her skin seems like the most desirable choice. Organic cotton is soft and no pesticides are used to grow it, which means that none will be in the sheets or blankets a baby spends so much time bundled up in. Organic, cotton, and wool bassinet and organic crib mattresses, blankets, and comforters can be purchased from companies like Coyuchi (which has a great line of organic baby products) and Eco-baby.
Likewise, organic cotton baby clothing will keep any chemicals and pesticides away from your child's skin. According to the Organic Trade Association, the sale of organic products increases each year, which means that the selection is growing all the time. Ask at your local health food stores and check on the web.
What Surrounds Baby
In addition to the color of the room your baby will sleep and play in, the toys and plants, wall hangings, mobiles, and curtains are also important. These, too, should be safe; organic toys should be made for the appropriate age of the child, plants should not be harmful if ingested, and curtain and shade strings should be tied high up and out of reach of children.
Toys are important throughout a child's life (and often through adulthood as well). What the baby touches, hears, smells, tastes, and sees each day gives life to his senses and helps his motor skills develop. This is the work that babies do: they play. Each day a baby should have all of his senses stimulated, but many toys and learning devices are made with toxic finishes and other unsafe materials. Remember that babies don't know not to put things in their mouths, and will likely chew on anything they can get their hands on when they are teething. For this reason, natural and organic toys are a great idea, and since the nostalgia of your first pull-toy might not ever go away, buying long-lasting toys makes a lot of sense. If you decide not to keep them, they can always be made new again by passing them on as hand-me-downs.
Bringing plants into a nursery will improve air quality, but some plants can be harmful, and even fatal, when ingested. When baby-proofing your house, don't forget to check on what you have growing - not just in pots in the windows, but also outside in the yard. In some climates, plants like deadly nightshade, a strong poison, grow wild. Local nurseries should have this kind of information, or you can check online. A chart of common poisonous plants is available on the web that identifies many poisonous plants as well as the symptoms of poisoning. There are many other such sites specific to certain areas of the United States, maintained by Universities and scientists.
Finally, curtain and shade strings can be a choking hazard. Make sure that sashes and blinds are kept out of reach and at safe heights from a child's head.
Cleaning Up After Baby
For the same reasons that organic materials are best to sleep in and on, and because air quality is so important, home cleaning products that you use around your child should be safe and non-toxic. There are many homemade alternative cleaning recipes that are very effective, as well as store-bought products like Simple Green (available in most supermarkets), and similar solutions from other companies.