One of the very best things you can do for your baby—aside from giving them lots of love and care—is provide him or her with a safe and healthy environment in which to grow. These days, this concept means more than simply scouring consumer reviews to find the safest car seats, strollers, baby carriers, high chairs, and toys. Creating a healthy nursery and maintaining a healthier space for your baby also involves taking a long, hard look at your indoor environment.
Fortunately, there are many ways you, as parents and caregivers, can make your baby's nursery and your home healthier and safer—from cleaning the air to choosing eco-friendly paint to installing pollutant-free flooring. To help you tackle this ever-so-important project, Sylvane developed this helpful guide for creating a healthier space for your baby—and entire family.
Why Babies Are More Vulnerable To Airborne Pollutants
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), babies and children may be more vulnerable to environmental exposures than adults for three reasons:
- Their body’s internal systems are still developing.
- They eat more, drink more, and breathe more in proportion to their body size.
- Their behavior can expose them to more chemicals and organisms.
Exposure to indoor pollutants—such as allergens, smoke, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pesticides, chemical cleaners, radon, carbon monoxide, and lead—at such a young age can trigger dangerous health conditions. These may include allergies, asthma, other respiratory disorders, lead poisoning, radon poisoning, and even cancer, to name a few.
A Healthier Environment for Baby—Step By Step
The EPA reports that the air indoors can be anywhere from two to five times more polluted than the air outside. This may be the case for a number of reasons. For instance, your home may lack adequate ventilation and fresh airflow, which means that airborne allergens can be trapped and re-circulated throughout the rooms of your home, including your baby's nursery. Alternatively, your indoor air may contain higher traces of VOCs resulting from those chemical spray cleaners or air fresheners you like to use. Whatever the cause, it's important to take steps to improve the air your baby breathes every day to encourage his or her safe development.
Step 1 — Clean the Air
Airborne pollutants can enter your home through a multitude of sources. These include:
- Off-gassed materials from new furniture and plastics, such as cribs, changing tables, gliders, and play yards
- New carpeting or flooring
- A mold outbreak
- Pollen from indoor and outdoor plants and trees
- Automobile exhaust from nearby traffic
- Dust mites and dust particles
To remove some of these pollutants from the air, run your air conditioning system or the fan-only mode of your air conditioner to filter some of the particulates out of the air. Change your air conditioning filters regularly and keep air ducts clean. In addition, consider using a HEPA air purifier in your nursery, such as the Austin Air Baby's Breath Air Purifier, to help remove tiny allergen particles and airborne chemicals from your baby's breathing space.
For help in identifying specific allergens in your environment so you can remove them more effectively, consider using a do-it-yourself allergen testing kit.
Step 2 — Control the Temperature
When your baby's nursery is either too hot or too cold, it will make it much more difficult for him or her to fall asleep—and stay asleep. Typically, newborns have a more difficult time staying warm, so it is imperative that your baby’s environment stays at a comfortable sleeping temperature. Consider using a dedicated air conditioner in your baby's nursery, such as a portable air conditioner or a window air conditioner, if you have trouble maintaining a cool temperature in the space. Alternatively, use a portable heater with child safety features if your nursery has a tendency to be too cold.
Step 3 — Maintain a Healthy Humidity Level
Many nurseries are too humid in the summertime, which can spawn musty odors and mold problems, encourage the spread of dust mites and other pests, and contribute to an overall clammy feeling. Conversely, winter air, which is often too dry, can lead to bloody noses, sore throats, dry skin, respiratory issues—and an overall uncomfortable feeling for your baby. Keep baby’s room comfortable year-round by maintaining the EPA's recommended indoor humidity level of 45 to 50 percent.
In the summertime, your central air conditioner automatically helps reduce moisture levels. However, you may find that to reduce your indoor humidity adequately, you'll need to supplement your AC with a dehumidifier. In the wintertime, add a humidifier to boost your nursery's moisture level and keep your baby happy and restful.
Step 4 —Use Eco-Friendly Paint
Lots of parents-to-be wait until the last minute to paint the nursery, especially if they want to coordinate the nursery color with their baby’s gender. Before you do this, remember that fresh paints are a source of VOCs, which are toxic gas emissions linked to a host of health problems. According to the EPA, short-term exposure to VOCs can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation as well as headaches, loss of coordination, and nausea. Long-term exposure to VOCs has been known to cause damage to the liver, kidney, and the central nervous system and even lead to cancer. Be sure paint your nursery well ahead of your baby's arrival to provide ample time for ventilating the room to remove noxious fumes and gases and prevent adverse health effects.
If you are pregnant and plan to paint your nursery yourself, use extreme caution when using conventional paints. It's best to cover your face and body, paint in a well-ventilated area, and take frequent breaks to reduce exposure to airborne toxins.
To relieve some of the stress surrounding painting the nursery as well as to protect yourself and your baby from toxic fumes, consider using one of the many low-VOC and no-VOC paints that have entered the market in recent years. Almost every popular paint supplier now produces lines of low-VOC /low-odor paint. Additionally, paint suppliers such as Ecos Organic Paints produce no-VOC paint that is 100 percent non-toxic. Eco-friendly paints are available in hundreds of colors, so you won't have to sacrifice choice or style when planning your nursery décor.
Step 5 — Clean Naturally
When you have a fast-moving toddler on your hands, it's critical to keep your floors clean and germ-free. Carpeted floors add another level of concern because they are often notorious traps for dirt and allergens. To clean carpets, be sure to use a HEPA vacuum with good suction, such as the Bissell Healthy Home Vacuum. Along with removing dirt, dust, and particles, HEPA vacuums contain High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) exhaust filters that prevent airborne allergens from being released back into your environment.
When cleaning hard flooring and other hard surfaces, resist the urge to reach for chemical disinfectants. Chemical cleaning solutions often do more harm than good because they leave behind toxic residues in the air and on your surfaces. Moreover, if not used according to exact manufacturer directions—which often explain that you must leave the chemical on the surface untouched for 10 minutes or longer to adequately disinfect—the chemical agents may not be doing the job you expect.
As a much more effective and green alternative to chemical disinfectants, consider using a steam cleaner. Steam cleaners such as Ladybug steam cleaners and the Vapamore MR-100 use only water and heat to create a dry disinfecting steam that kills germs in seconds and won't leave behind toxic residues. In addition, vapor steam cleaners come with lots of attachments designed to help you easily clean all the nooks and crannies in your baby's nursery.
Step 6 — Use Allergy Bedding
Dust mites, which are tiny, microscopic organisms that can trigger allergies in babies, children, and adults, thrive in moist, warm environments. That means your baby's nursery is often the perfect climate to grow a dust mite population. To create a dust mite-free environment for your baby, consider using allergy bedding. Hypoallergenic bedding promotes a healthier sleep environment because it naturally repels dust mites, airborne particles, moisture, and odors. This bedding is also made from fabrics that are less likely to cause allergic reactions. Kumi Kookoon produces a line of baby bedding that wraps your baby in softness and comfort—and keeps him or her allergy-free.
If you plan to use regular bedding for your baby, it's important to wash the bedding at least once a week in hot water to reduce the amount of dust mites and dust mite excretions on the fabric.
Step 7 — Keep Pets Out
It can be a heartwarming and interactive learning experience to introduce your baby to the family pet, under supervision of course. However, for health reasons, pets should be kept out of your baby's nursery and his or her crib. Pets are known carriers of many allergens, including their own dander and the allergens they pick up around the house. Pets that play outside also come into contact with pests, such as ticks and fleas. It's best to keep Fido or Fluffy out of the nursery, so your baby can enjoy an allergy-free, restful sleep.
Visit the sites below to find additional information about creating a healthy environment for your baby.
Still Have Questions?
For more information on specific products that can help improve indoor air in your baby's nursery and entire home, please review our extensive product listings and visit our Learning Center. Not sure what’s best for you? We can take the guesswork out of decision-making. Contact our product experts toll-free at 1 (800) 934-9194. We want to help make your indoor environment a healthy one.