Bringing a little human into the world is a big and mighty responsibility. I have written at length about what I recommend for preconception planning, managing pregnancy symptoms, what to read, and of course, healthy nursery essentials for mom and baby. In this post, I am outlining essentials to consider when creating a healthy nursery for your little one. Below I have outlined big picture things to consider, as well as listed some of the things I got and love as my healthy nursery essentials.
Healthy Nursery Essentials
I am a little superstitious. Let's just put that out there. It's been handed down to me by my mom, and her mom before. And part of that, is the idea that you're not supposed to get anything for the baby until your baby is home safe and sound. With that in mind, most of what I ended up getting for Finn was saved to a pinterest board until after he was born, and I then went about collecting and ordering it. This was what Finn's room looked like on June 16th. He was about a week past due and didn't arrive until June 22nd, 2+ weeks 'late'.
In my sleep deprived state postpartum, I was grateful that the big decisions (where would he sleep, how would I bathe him?) were taken care of.
What your baby sleeps on is perhaps the most important decision when it comes to planning the nursery. Now whether you choose to share your bed or have your baby is in his own space, the surface he sleeps on best not be leaching chemicals into his little body. A study done in 2005 found that the average crib mattress released 30 types of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phthalates and fragrance into the air. In the first few years of life, your baby spends more of his time sleeping than awake. So whether the baby is in your bed or his own, ensure that the mattress is non-toxic.
The majority of mattresses you'll find are made of polyurethane foam, a plastic that is loaded with flame retardants that will off-gas for upwards of 5 years - at which point you're still not in the clear. This is simply when it starts to decompose.
It's incredibly awesome that most cribs now are made from sustainable materials, and will proclaim their toxin-free status right on the tags and labels. Most baby furniture makers are very cognizant of this. I am a big fan of vintage as you know, and fully support second-hand furniture as long as you know for certain it's in great condition. When it comes to cribs, it is strongly advised that you do not get a second-hand crib. Though I love the look of vintage cribs, cribs built before a certain period had wider gaps between the bars which no longer meet safety standards. As well, you just never know what it's been through.
- What Did I Get: I opted for a new, vintage-looking crib that met the low toxicity standards we were going for. (And no, we don't do bed sharing.) After week 11, Finn moved into his own crib and I felt perfectly okay about it. This was the crib we got. Mostly I liked that it wasn't boxy, white, or toxic. It is green and VOC-free. The crib is Greenguard Gold Certified, which means it was screened for 360 VOCs and over 10,000 chemicals. The finish is non-toxic, lead-free, phthalate-free, and made of sustainable pine.
Choose a Latex, Wool or Cotton Mattress
There are many brands to choose from. Just ensure the mattress you are choosing has the appropriate verifications. Eco mattresses can commonly be blends of soy, latex and polyurethane. You want to ensure what you are getting is 100% latex, wool or cotton (or a mix).
- What Did I Get: I chose a 100% latex mattress from Dormio here in Toronto (they ship across Canada. Mention my name and get 5% off your purchase)
Wool Mattress Protector
If you are sticking with a less expensive, polyurethane mattress (which I do not recommend), then at the very least you must get a wool mattress protector. This won't prevent the airborne pollutants, but at least then your baby is not directly on the mattress. And if you choose a natural mattress as recommended above, you can get a thin wool covering that is machine washable and highly absorbent.
- What Did I Get: I got a thin wool mattress protector also from Dormio. But often times, I just put an organic cotton towel down over the mattress, and put the sheet overtop and all was well.
Organic 100% Cotton Crib Sheet
It's a little thing, but it matters. Cotton farming accounts for 24% of the world's global insecticide sales and 11% the world's pesticide sales. You can choose to trust me that it's worth getting chemical-free bedding, or you can read this extensive post I wrote on natural bedding and linens.
Wool Mattress for Moses Basket
Moses baskets are so cute and natural as well as portable. So for all the reasons I mentioned above, take the time and make the investment to get a wool mattress if you choose to use one of these as your bassinet. Keep in mind, these are used for a very short time and the wool pillows for these are machine washable. I ended up selling mine when we were done to someone who follows me on Instagram. So perhaps you can find one used.
- What Did I Get: I purchased this wool mattress for my moses basket and just used one of my pillow cases in place of buying separate sheets for us.
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Changing Table and Dresser
It can be easy to get caught up in the baby furniture frenzy and want a whole set, but consider the longevity of what you're getting. To me it didn't make sense to get a piece of furniture specific to changing diapers, nor did I want something that was too babyish. I don't know why baby furniture always has these big chunky handles. And just like the mattress and the crib, I wanted items that were non-toxic.
Change pad + Change pad cover
There isn't a lot to choose from when it comes to safe change pads, but then again, that's a great thing - one less decision to make. I know you may be thinking that a baby isn't actually on a change pad for that long, so why does it matter? If you're not concerned about what your change pad is made of, I'd recommend getting something used. Most are made of polyurethane foam so keep those out of the landfill by buying used and passing yours along.
- What Did I Get: Naturepedic Organic Cotton Change Pad
Let's talk the rest of the room. We need carpets, walls, a rocking chair and all that jazz. Let's zip through these! I should note, most of what you see in the photo below are things that were gifted to us, or that I bought at local craft markets.
There's a very, very good chance that some unsightly bodily fluids are going to land on this carpet. That's the first thing to remember. The other is that your babe will be crawling all over it in no time. Opt for carpets that hide stains, but that are also made of natural fibres. Many carpets are made of polypropylene (plastic!) and are then coated in flame-retardants and other stain resistant chemicals. Back away. Opt for carpets that are 100% wool or cotton, and even better if they are machine washable.
- What Did I Get: I opted for a woven rag rug of recycled cotton, and after a little barf episode, also invested in an upholstery cleaner that I use with just water and a little soap. This is the rug and upholstery cleaner I got.
You'll be spending many a late night and long afternoon in this chair. You want it to be comfortable. Nurseries are also often not the largest room in the home, so a compact style can also be helpful. Finally, and this likely comes as no surprise at this point, you want to make sure it's not filled with polyurethane foam, or coated in chemically-treated fabrics. This is where vintage can come in handy-- source out a great vintage rocker and get it re-covered. Even better is if it can later be used in another room in your house.
- What Did I Get: I opted to invest in a Monte rocker. This was one of my bigger splurges as these are an investment. They are also made here in Canada with sustainable materials, and I was able to get a natural fabric for the cover. Were I to do it again, I wouldn't get the ottoman and would instead get one of these Moroccan poufs from Baba Souk.
I have never been a fan of babyish stuff. Pastels and white just aren't my jam. I also wanted blankets that I didn't need to be too careful with and that would actually keep me warm when I was up nursing at 3:30am on a cold December morning. You might be sensing a theme here, but look for natural wool, or cotton blankets that are easy to clean.
- What Did I Get: I opted for vintage wool Mexican blankets. Warm, colourful enough to camouflage stains and machine washable.
Walls + Wall Paper
When choosing your decorations, keep in mind that this is a place of rest. You still want it to be a calm space, so be mindful of super bright colours or loudly patterned wallpaper. There are a few different brands of low or no-VOC paint. Some argue there's no such thing, but we went with the Benjamin Moore Natura paint and painted it several months before the baby was due. We also sealed off the room after it was painted to keep any potential VOCs away from me while I was pregnant. When it comes to wallpaper, companies that offer VOC-free and BPA-free wallpaper will usually highlight this on their website. Glues are another story. For more on non-toxic wallpaper tips, check out this post from Apartment Therapy.
Once again, we're looking for low-VOC options. Optimally you want blackout blinds which will help your baby to sleep longer stretches both overnight and for naps. You can also buy fabric and sew up your own (or find a friend who can sew). I had already installed low-VOC window coverings, and so to make them blackout enough, I took a Mexican blanket, attached some curtain clips to it, and bought a $10 curtain rod. Done and done!
Lighting is vitally important. As I have often said, bright lights have the ability to disrupt sleep cycles. In the early days, (and months) you may find yourself doing a lot of middle of the night changing and feedings. Ensure that your overhead light is on a dimmer switch or that you have free standing light that is just bright enough for changing. For middle of the night feedings where all I really need to see is where the baby is, I use a small salt lamp. If at all possible, we try to keep lights very low during the pre-bath, bathing, dressing and story time. For middle of the night feedings, I try not to turn any lights on at all.
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Non-Essential, Nice To Haves
We didn't intend on having an air purifier in Finn's room but it actually ended serving a dual purpose. The first, obviously, was to clean the air in his room. But the second, is that it also serves as a mild white noise machine. I didn't want to get a white noise machine and didn't want Finn to become reliant on any sleep crutches. But the air purifier works like a charm!
- This Is What I Chose: This actually isn't what we got. I just used the one we already had. But if I were to get a new one, I would get the Rabbit.
Essential Oil Diffuser
This is another non-essential but I love it so much. One day I hope we live in the forest, but until then, I will bring all the forest bathing benefits to the baby's nursery. We use an essential oil diffuser every night and add drops of White Pine, Balsam Fir and sometimes plain old, reliable lavender.
I've slept with a humidifier every winter. When the heat is up, the home gets dry. What I wanted to ensure with my humidifier was that it was easy to clean. It should be cleaned weekly, and so you want small, manageable parts. It may also go without saying that you want to be using clean water in your humidifier and you can read amore about that here.
- This Is What I Chose: I have two of these, one in the baby's room and one in our room. I don't use the essential oil function so I can't speak to that. I love that it's silent, keeps going all night long, and the floor is never left covered in puddles.
As I wrote before on my post about essentials for mom and baby, there are a whole lot of decisions to make with a little one. Don't overthink any of them. Love is the most important thing and the greatest essential of all. Up there is caring for yourself and your own wellbeing. Motherhood is hard and the first few months, excruciatingly so. I have made plenty of decisions on things I might have done differently, but it's all part of the journey of learning how to be a parent to the little one who has chosen you.
Family photos by Catherine Farquharson, as always!