If you’re expecting a baby, then planning the nursery is an exciting part of the preparations. Of course your baby won’t be spending nights alone in their nursery straight away (the recommendation is to wait at least six months until your baby is left to sleep alone at night); but you’ll be spending time there on a daily basis. I always recommend that parents hang out with their baby in their nursery every day, so that they can build a positive and confident bond with the room in which they will ultimately be sleeping through the night in.
So, how can you make your child’s bedroom as healthy (or what we call ‘green’) as possible? Well, there’s actually lots you can do. I’m going to give you several ideas, but don’t feel overwhelmed if they’re not all achievable for you. Just pick those that you can manage, and see how you get on.
1. Decorating the nursery
Use low VOC (volatile organic compounds) water-based paints on the walls (if you are pregnant, ask someone else to paint the walls), and paint at least one month before your baby arrives. Look on the paint can to check VOC levels. If wallpapering, choose natural fibre and low pollutant papers, and hang with low VOC glue. Clean the carpet rather than replacing to avoid pilling, and avoid synthetic carpet and backing. Wool carpet is an option but may cause issues with allergies, and also plush carpeting may harbour dust mites and animal dander as well as mould and mildew.
2. The crib/cot
Choose real wood and natural finishes for the crib. Remember, toddlers can stand in their crib and use the top as a teether!
3. The mattress
Never use a second-hand mattress, even from a sibling. Although it is still not clear exactly what causes SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), we do know that babies placed on their tummy are at greater risk of SIDS than those on their back. Factors that contribute to this increased risk of tummy-sleeping include rebreathing of carbon dioxide; potential for overheating; airway obstruction; and inhalation of chemicals or mould spores in the mattress.
By choosing an organic mattress you can help to create a healthier sleep space for your little one. Organic mattresses are made with natural products that are not treated with chemicals and are also nice and breathable, and good at regulating temperature. My little one sleeps on a quilted latex mattress from Naturalmat
. She had some minor breathing issues as a baby, so this seemed a good choice. I love the feel of this mattress – the core is naturally supportive so it gives a more similar experience to being held than a regular mattress. I think this is why she started settling better at night when we changed to this mattress.
Organic bedding can also help with temperature regulation, and it’s kind on skin. If you find your little one has a skin complaint such as eczema, then I often recommend bamboo bedding. ‘Little Bamboo’ do lovely bamboo bedding, and ‘Bamboo Bubby’ offer bamboo sleeping bags. Beware of fabrics that have embellishments and patterned finishes, as these may contain formaldehyde or plastic resins even after washing. Avoid feather products that may trigger breathing problems.
Whilst being mindful of draughts, it is a good idea to keep the nursery well-ventilated with fresh air. Try to air the nursery each day; you can of course close the windows back up for sleep time when the weather is cooler.
6. EMF (potentially harmful electromagnetic fields) exposure
Whilst we can’t avoid EMF exposure in today’s modern society, there are ways to reduce the impact within the nursery. Move the monitor and white noise machine as far away from the crib as possible; don’t use a dimmer switch for the light; use a battery powered night light. If your baby is sleeping in your bedroom, then additional removal of the TV, phones, radio, alarm clock and other electrical equipment would help to reduce exposure to EMF.
It is not expected that you can manage to do all of these things (of course, you can if you want to!). But just by following a couple of the suggestions above, you can make your child’s nursery a healthier environment for sleep and play.