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When creating a nursery, I like to think of it as a calm, soothing little cocoon. Our nursery is made of varying shades of white and cream with natural fibers (seagrass, wicker, cane) added for texture. Both our son and daughter used the same room and if we have any more children, I don’t anticipate it will change very much for them. We keep the room comfortable yet spare—limited furniture, decorations, and toys. Like many parents, I also strive for it to be as non-toxic as possible (easier said than done!). If you are looking for ideas for your nursery, here are some suggestions:
Crib. We are not co-sleepers, so a crib is center stage in the nursery for our children. Ideally this would be made from non-toxic materials. (Here and here are some good posts about non-toxic cribs). Ours is from Ikea, but if I was doing it all over again, I’d get this one from Land of Nod. It is made by El Greco and seems to be wonderful.
Crib mattress and mattress pad. The mattress is the one serious, no-compromise-must-be-organic item in the nursery. Ours is from Naturepedic. If I was doing it over again, I’d get this one from Naturepedic without the waterproof cover (the waterproof layer is supposedly safe, but I’d still rather be more cautious. We have a waterproof mattress pad anyway, so there is no reason for the mattress itself to be waterproof.) This is our organic mattress pad. Natural Baby Mama has a great post about all of this.
Crib sheet. Preferably GOTS certified organic cotton (companies can say the cotton is organic and then still treat it with chemicals). We like these from Naturepedic.
Chair. A comfortable place to sit, feed the baby, read books, etc is paramount. Unfortunately nearly all conventionally upholstered gliders/rockers contain excessive amounts of flame retardants. We had a very comfortable but very toxic glider. I’ve replaced it with a vintage, solid wood rocker with a cane seat and back. The caning makes it surprisingly comfortable (it has more give than solid wood).
Dresser. I don’t need to tell you that dressers are the perfect multipurpose piece of furniture. We use ours as a changing table, as well as a place to store diapers, creams and supplies, clothing, bedding and blankets. Ours is an old family dresser that will grow with our children and hopefully one day live in their homes.
Changing pad. This is another item that really needs to be organic. Conventional changing pads are made of polyurethane foam and contain flame retardants. Naturepedic makes an organic version (which is what we have). Here is the changing pad cover we use.
Bookcase. The shelves can house books and toys, while the top is a surface for a lamp, white noise and a plant (plants help filter the air. Peace lilies are great). Avoid pressed woods and MDF—ideally it would be made from a solid, hardwood with a non-toxic stain or paint.
Window coverings. Whatever you choose, make sure it adequately blocks out the light if that is a goal. We have cotton black-out curtains that I open and close for nap time and bed time.
Rug. Toxins are incredibly sneaky and rugs are often an overlooked haven for these guys. The ideal solution is hardwood floors (with a non-toxic finish) with a natural fiber rug on top (wood floors without a rug could be very loud and echo-y). Wall-to-wall carpeting is nearly always chock-full of toxins, which is why I strongly suggest steering clear from it if at all possible. (Side note: Do not ever remove wall-to-wall carpeting yourself. Ripping it up releases tons of toxins into your house and lungs. Have it professionally removed by someone who specializes in non-toxic removal). I love these seagrass rugs from Curran. They come in any size, and they are made without any treatments, pesticides or finishes (some companies treat their seagrass with pesticides, such as Pottery Barn). The backing is natural latex without any adhesive. Seagrass also naturally repels stains due to its naturally-occurring waxy finish. We have these rugs throughout our house, and I am thrilled with them.
Minimal art and decorations. I prefer to keep things simple and clean in this department. No need to go crazy and feel pressure from Pinterest to bedazzle every aspect of the room.
Mirror and clock. I like having a mirror in the room so I can see if that sweet little baby has dozed off or not on my shoulder! A discreet yet illuminated clock is vital during those nighttime rendezvous. More on this here.
White noise. Indispensable in a creaky old house like ours. We use an old ipod on a dock.
Baby monitor. Brace yourselves: we’ve given up the monitor. Once I learned that video monitors actually run on wi-fi (What did I think they used? Magic??) I removed it from the room. It wasn’t close to our children (probably five feet away), but I still felt uncomfortable. If we have another baby, we will use an old-fashioned noise-only monitor. The pros of the video aspect are not worth the risks to us. (Talking about wi-fi being toxic definitely could make you think I’ve gone off the deep end. Unfortunately, it might not be as safe as we think. The CDC recently issued a warning about it, and I imagine it will become a much more mainstream concern in the coming years. On that note, we’ve never allowed our children anywhere near our iphones, ipads or laptops, and we keep our wireless turned off in our house most of the time. We—the adults—also only use our phones on speaker or with a headset—never against our heads. No doubt your eyes have glazed over by now!)
A small selection of books and toys. Preferably all non-toxic (no plastic, no batteries, etc.). Fewer is always better when it comes to toys. I promise your children will not be bored! More on this soon. Here are some of our favorite baby toys.
Paint. This must be VOC-free (primer, too!) We use Natura by Benjamin Moore for all of our paint. [EDIT: I used Natura MANY years ago. I would now suggest Ecos brand paint.]