How to Set Your Newborn Up For Lifelong Health – A Toxin-Free Nursery (Part Three)
You’ve got big plans for your baby’s nursery, and you’re ready to paint the walls and bring in the new furniture. I know you’re super excited to create a space that’s not only beautiful but safe and healthy. Don’t worry, I’ll show you that there is no need to compromise style for safety! Follow these tips to get the hip, stylish, safe, and toxin-free nursery you’ve always wanted.
1. Use no-VOC paint.
Painting is most likely number one on your nursery to-do list. It’s ok to paint! I recommend doing it safely by using no-VOC paint.
Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are chemicals that evaporate at room temperature and are released, or “off-gassed,” into the air. “Organic” in this context means carbon-based. Conventional paints contain a lot of VOCs, including ethylene glycol and formaldehyde. On average, levels of indoor VOCs are 5 times higher than outdoors. Babies, who are growing and developing, are especially vulnerable to the longterm effects of VOCs.
You can still get the color you’ve always wanted at a low price without all the harmful chemicals. Most hardware stores and paint companies are aware of VOCs and offer no-VOC alternatives, such as Home Depot and Sherwin-Williams. Mythic Paint is one brand I recommend for toxin-free, gorgeous colors. Most companies will color match if they don’t already offer the specific color you have in mind.
If you are dead set on a particular color that isn’t made in a no-VOC formula, go ahead and get started as soon as you can so that the room has time to air out. It’s not too late, and it’s never too early, to start prepping your nursery! While pregnant, you shouldn’t be the one painting–hire a painter or enlist some family members to get the job done. To ventilate the room, use a HEPA filter to remove lingering odors and VOCs from the air.
2. Use hand-me-down furniture.
Next on the list is your baby’s crib. Your newborn has to have a place to sleep! You may have just begun thinking about cribs, or perhaps you’ve already got the perfect one picked out. Whatever the situation, or whichever month you are in pregnancy, you can start creating a safe and comfortable space for your newborn to rest.
Many household items such as furniture, cleaning products, and carpeting also off-gas VOCs. Particle board contains formaldehyde, which can affect a vulnerable newborn. Before you rush out and buy new furniture, see if you can get hand-me-downs. Maybe one of your friends has that same crib you want, or maybe your mom has one in the attic that you can refurbish. There are also upscale baby retail stores that sell affordable, gently used items. If you’ve decided to buy new, cribs made from 100% wood or other natural materials are preferable. Go ahead and get one now, and let the crib off-gas VOCs and odors in a well-ventilated room with a HEPA filter.
3. Use an organic mattress and bedding free of flame-retardants.
An organic mattress and organic bedding are the ideal. If you need to prioritize, I recommend getting an organic mattress because your baby is going to be sleeping more than half of the day!
Non-organic mattresses and bedding manufactured for newborns contain flame-retardant chemicals that are known carcinogens. Keep in mind the number of hours your newborn is going to spend on her bedding, and that she is a small, growing baby that is more affected by toxins than you are. Organic cotton crib mattresses and organic cotton sheets do not contain flame-retardants. Cotton is less flammable than synthetic bedding and therefore doesn’t need to be treated with chemicals.
If you decide to go the conventional route, go ahead and buy your mattress and sheets now. Be sure to remove them from the packaging right away and allow them to air out. You can also try finding hand-me-down or gently used bedding. There are lots of affordable options for organic bedding, like these from BuyBuyBaby and Target. Once again, a HEPA filter will help to take away any fumes emitted by your baby’s new bedding. The longer you can allow things to off-gas before your baby is born the better.
4. Purify your air.
I’ve mentioned this a few times already. HEPA filters are an excellent way to remove VOCs and purify the air that you and your newborn will be breathing. Because indoor air is estimated to be 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outside, adding a HEPA filter to your home will benefit your entire household. I recommend purifying your air with a HEPA filter even if you follow all of these tips.
Get started right away. Once you have all your baby’s new belongings in the nursery and the walls are freshly painted, you can let the room air out. The longer you can allow the room and its contents to breathe, the better. Open the windows, use a fan to move the air around, and use a HEPA filter. This will create a comfortable, toxin-free space for your newborn.
5. Purify your water.
This last tip doesn’t involve the nursery exclusively, but it’s so important I wanted to include it!
Although your baby won’t be drinking water for a while, she will encounter water every time you bathe her. Toxins in water can easily pass through an infant’s delicate skin, so I recommend purifying your water with a filter. There are lots of different options, whether you’re looking for a whole-house filter system or a filter that attaches to a single faucet. You and your entire family will benefit from bathing in and drinking purified water, and I recommend doing so whether or not you’re expecting.
You have an exciting time ahead of you as you prepare for your baby’s arrival! No matter how far in the future that day is, you can start right now. You might choose to take these steps all at once, or to make them one at a time. A baby shower is the perfect opportunity to register for some of these items. Follow these tips so that you and your newborn can spend time together in a safe, happy, and healthy room that will set her up for lifelong health.
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I had the pleasure of chatting with Aviva Romm, a Yale-trained, board-certified family physician with a specialty in women’s health and obstetrics, about how chronic overwhelm – whether it be from environmental toxins, diet, even prescribed medications – can affect thyroid, hormone, fertility and pregnancy health.
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