Preparing the nursery is an exciting part of getting ready for your new baby. In the anticipation of bringing our baby home, we pass the time, sniffing all the sweet smelling baby laundry, arranging the adorable stuffed toys and choosing pleasing decor. However, we may unwittingly expose our babies to multiple toxic chemicals in their most vulnerable stage of life if we are not careful. Here are some ways to ready your home for a new baby without endangering health. Budgets are now a little tigher, so one asks themselves if they can really afford to go “greener”. You may be surprised at the cost of setting up a safer and greener nursery.
Choose No VOC paints
Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are solvents that helps give paint the right consistency. Some VOCs are known carcinogens and have cause liver or kidney damage, headaches, breathing difficulties, dizziness, and other symptoms. Thankfully you can find nontoxic and no VOC paints nowadays. Try a Google search for manufacturers. MilkPaint.com is one such company.
COST: paint is minimal
Minimize New Furnishings
New furniture typically offgasses formaldehyde, a neurotoxin. Look for furniture at local consignment stores. You can also save a lot of money this way. Be sure to research whatever furniture items you do decide to purchase to make sure items haven’t been recalled for safety reasons. If you are buying new, try to purchase it well ahead of your baby’s birth and let the items air out for for a few weeks/months to the minimize offgassing effect on your baby. Car seats should always be purchased new. Be sure to wash the car seat cover following the manufacturer’s instructions, to remove chemical residues from the fabric.
COST: used furnishings or hand me downs will be a cost savings!
A Safer Sleeping Space
If your baby is sleeping with you, be sure to follow recommendations for safe co-sleeping practices. If you choose to use a bassinet or a crib, be aware that most mattresses use polyurethane foams and polyester, and are possibly even made with toulene and formaldehyde, and offgas fumes that can be toxic to your young infant. Flame retardants are also placed into foam used in conventional mattresses, and these have been linked to brain and nervous system damage.
You can find non-toxic mattresses and bedding for your baby’s bassinet and crib. Search online retailers for “natural bedding”. You might find that some of these are made of natural rubber, organic cotton and other untreated natural materials. New babies spend a lot of time sleeping and in contact with the mattress so this is especially important.
COST: this can be your splurge item
New research has found that so-called “educational toys” for babies, including videos, aren’t worth all the hype and are certainly not a substitute for the ordinary contact that baby has with his loved ones. Talk to your baby a lot, sing to him, hold him for much of the day, consider using a sling or other carrier and breastfeed him, and he’ll live up to his genetic capacity for intelligence. I was recently looking at my little guy and thought he really doesn’t need anything toys.. he’s happy playing with me the most and for props; a few cups and kitchen utensils.
When your baby is old enough for toys, choose wooden toys that are solid wood, not particleboard that is held together with toxic glues. Cloth toys, especially those made from organic cotton and silk, are also recommended. Plastic toys not only lack aesthetic appeal, but they may contain PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which has been linked in some research to cancer and other health issues. Of course we will always end up with plastic toys as they are everywhere and very affordable. That’s ok but buying quality toys that last will be money well spent. In doing Montessori training, one thing I took away is that buying many cheap toys that are designed to handle being tossed and thrown around does not help your child learn to value and respect their belongings. The Montessori approach uses items that are natural and need to be treated with care, eg. wooden blocks, which if thrown around may get knicks and dents hence the children learn to treat them with care.
COST: don’t bother buying too many toys before your baby turns 1, then use the money you saved to buy quality toys instead