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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

Green Baby

by Heather Rothbauer Wanish

If you have a baby or small child, it is important to decorate and furnish the nursery in a way that is safe, comfortable and healthy. As you plan your child’s room, you may want to consider healthy, non-toxic and green options that support the environment. In fact, according to the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, 56% of the total gross shipment dollars in 2008 were estimated to be from the sale of eco-friendly or organic products. This startling statistic shows that the green movement in children’s bedrooms, toys, clothing, and accessories is still growing.

One of the first things considered when decorating a child’s room are the furnishings and bedding materials. While your child gets that much-needed restful sleep, he or she is breathing the air in the room and the materials that make up the bedding and mattresses. According to, regular cotton mattresses can be produced from cotton sprayed with pesticides. Cotton mattresses may also contain plastic, latex, or other synthetic materials; this can cause the mattresses to be more flammable.

Most mattresses are treated with polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and fire retardants that can have a permanent effect on the body. In fact, these fire retardants have been proven to slow brain development in rodents and can cause reproductive problems. Other chemicals used in mattress production, such as formaldehydes, pesticides, and herbicides, can be dangerous because they alter our DNA, thereby causing cancer. Overall, these types of treatments are considered a danger to the endocrine and nervous systems.

Unlike adults, babies spend much of the day in close contact with the mattress. According to, babies spend almost 1/3 of their lives in the crib. Parents should strive to find mattresses that are chemical free, filled with organic cotton, organic wool for the batting, filling, and outer fabric. Organic plants are free from pesticides, bug repellants, and hazardous materials.

After parents decide to purchase organic, natural bedding, the focus may turn to the bed or the crib. Pressed wood or laminated wood can contain adhesives and glues which contain formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Choosing paints low in VOCs and painting the nursery at least a month or two before baby’s arrival can ensure the smell of paint is long-gone upon baby’s homecoming.

Parents should seek cradles, cribs, and bassinets that are made from sustainable woods; these types of woods are much less likely to contain any harmful adhesives. These woods are also a way to ensure plastics are eliminated or reduced inside the baby’s room. Plastic is typically made from petroleum and will eventually end up in a landfill when disposed. In addition, new parents should be wary of older hand-me-down cribs because of safety concerns regarding lead-based paints.

As organic and health products may cost more, parents should focus on what they can do within their budgets. One alternative is to try to purchase organic sheets if parents are unable to afford an organic crib and mattress. Because organic sheets may be the approximate same price as conventional sheets, this is one cost-effective way to ensure your baby has a safe sleeping environment.

Flooring is another area to consider when preparing your child’s room. Carpets can also harbor VOCs, dust mites, and allergens. To eliminate these potential breathing hazards, keep baby’s room carpet-free. Adding an organic area rug for color and warmth can still give you the “home” feeling many parents seek for their child’s room. If, however, parents want wall-to-wall carpeting in their child’s room, they should be sure to choose a carpet made of natural fibers such as wool, cotton, hemp, or jute.

While the furniture, bedding, and flooring are all important in the baby’s room, no room is complete without toys. Toys should be carefully purchased; parents should avoid toys that contain PVC, which contains phthalates, an ingredient in plastic that can affect reproductive and overall developmental health. When seeking fun, educational, and durable toys, parents should search for wooden toys or those made of organic cotton.

Finally, be sure to clean the baby’s room with organic and natural cleaning solutions. Avoid harsh chemicals that can irritate both eyes and lungs. Only choose green cleaners that have clearly labeled natural ingredients.

The bottom line is this: a precious child deserves to have a room that is clear of chemicals, safety concerns, and harmful materials. Choosing a green nursery for your baby showcases your love for your child and his or her health. Selecting a natural environment is important to both you and your baby’s future. While it may require more initial investigation, a green room should pay off healthy dividends for many years.

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