Creating a Healthy Nursery

snuggle babyMost expectant parents make creating the perfect nursery for their brand new arrival a priority. The irony is that a fresh, ‘brand new’ aesthetic often results in a toxic cocoon. A baby room remodel or redesign generally includes fresh paints and finishes, new furniture, a new mattress, new carpets and rugs, and new bedding – with little thought to the impact the combination of these items may have on air quality and the health of a tiny inhabitant.  

Since one third of our lives are spent in a bedroom, we should place a premium on making it the single healthiest room in a home. Because children clock 10 – 16 sleep hours daily (nearly double the resting time of an adult), not to mention the body mass difference, natural fiber, organic mattresses and natural fiber, chemical-free bedding should be an absolute priority. The checklist for achieving any healthy bedroom include: clean, well ventilated air; sunlight during the day/darkness at night; nontoxic furniture; environmentally sound materials, and the absence of electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Meeting these criterion is more crucial when it comes to children who are, pound for pound, more susceptible to the toxins in carpets, finishes, furniture/mattresses and the EMF’s that monitors, clocks, stereos, TV’s and general electrical wiring emit.  

Screen Shot 2018-10-27 at 9.32.47 PMIndoor Air Quality

Ventilation is key to any healthy room. As a NASA clean air  study reports, indoor air can be anywhere from ten to one hundred percent more polluted than outside air. A baby will use up nearly all of the oxygen in the room over the course of a night. Optimal brain development requires proper air exchange – and please note that air conditioners are not air exchangers. Opening windows throughout the day to promote ventilation and opening shades to allow in the disinfecting properties of UV light at least once a day is recommended. Opening window coverings and windows also help to naturally regulate humidity. Improperly disinfected humidifiers and closed windows are a prescription for bacterial growth.

baby in cribCrib & Twin Mattresses

In addition to IAQ (Indoor Air Quality), a non-organic mattress can be the single most toxic item in a bedroom. If a child is sleeping on a commercial mattress, they may be breathing in any combination of toxic chemicals, including PBDEs (a fire retardant) that accumulates in humans under continued exposure. PBDE is known to cause irregular brain development in children. Natural fiber, organic material mattresses and chemical-free bedding are imperative. A 2011, multi-University study tested one hundred foam samples from baby products including nursing pillows, nap mats, and sleep positioners, and found that over 80% contained flame retardants at levels up to 12% of the weight of the foam.

Organic Crib & Twin Mattresses for your Consideration

Savvy Rest – Offering Natural Latex & Organic Wool/Cotton Mattresses & Baby Beds & Savvy Rest’s Organic topper. Certified: B Corporation, GOTS, GreenGuard, and Cradle to Cradle. (Savvy Rest participates in a recycling program for used mattresses & offers the Savvy Rest Safe Sleep Pillow program, donating new pillows to at risk women & children in emergency shelters)

Essentia – Offering Organic Latex mattresses manufactured in a certified organic facility. LaLa crib mattress $579. Be sure to check out Betterhood, Essentia’s local community initiative. Certified: GOTS, GOLS, EuroLatex ECO-Standard, Green America, and ISO.

PlushBeds – Natural & organic Latex twin mattress- $999 – in their Botanical Bliss & Natural Bliss collection(s). Certified: GOLS, GreenGuard, GOTS, USDA Organic. 100 day trial.

Cozy Pure – Offering natural latex & organic latex mattresses plus pillows and toppers using organic cotton, Wool, Kapok & Buckwheat hulls. Vegan options also available. Baby Natural Latex Organic Crib mattress, $528. Certified: GOLS, Oeko Tex, FSC, Green Power Partner, Green America, Organic Trade Association.

Coco-Mat – Offering natural latex mattresses that include coconut fiber & seaweed (which slowly releases iodine – offering a gentle boost to the respiratory system). Certified: Oeko Tex, GOTS, FSC, Sustainable Furnishings Council, Woolmark.

Healthy Choice – Offering natural latex, metal free, organic mattresses using US sourced Eco-Wool. $599. Certified: GOTS.

LifeKind & OMI – OMI is a subsidiary of LifeKind – a 20 year leader of the Organic Mattress trade. LifeKind organic latex crib mattress is metal free, starting at $799. OMI metal free, organic rubber crib mattress, $499. Certified: USDA Organic; GOLS; GOTS; GreenGuard; Oeko Tex.

Greenbuds – Greenbuds Primrose Deluxe 2-in-1 Organic Crib Mattress is available at multiple online stores. Made from coconut coir and natural latex. Organic, hypoallergenic and anti-microbial. $339.

*I’ve included non-metal selections ONLY for reasons related EMFs explained below.

OMI's moisture resistant wool mattress pad

OMI’s moisture resistant wool mattress pad


To protect a natural mattress, always use natural fiber padding and protectors. Wool toppers and mattress/pillow protectors are most effective, as wool wicks away moisture and is naturally fire retardant and anti-microbial. Organic cottons and natural linen provide a chemical-free fiber that can easily be washed frequently. 


In addition to reducing chemical exposure, avoiding coiled metal in crib and twin mattresses helps to reduce conductivity of EMFs (Electromagnetic Frequency) as well as avoiding the “super-charged” bacteria created from urine, throw up and drool when combined with the plastics and chemicals that are inherent to commercial mattresses. Underdeveloped immune and endocrine systems can be adversely effected by such bacteria and toxins. EMFs can be highly disruptive to the nervous system by throwing the body’s own magnetic field off. To avoid the negative effects of EMFs, one should limit electrical appliances in the room, including cellphones – opting for battery operated monitors and clocks instead. On demand electrical outlets can be installed in children’s rooms to reduce electrical flow further. If you are designing a smart home with smart technology, electrical wiring should be bundled and stored in wall areas far from any bedroom to avoid sleep disruption. (For more on EMFs, please read Wellness Mama’s post – as comprehensive and accessible an explanation available).

Baby roomCarpets & Rugs

The natural fiber rule holds for floor coverings as well. Wall-to-wall carpet is a bad idea in general, but particularly illogical in a bedroom as it is the least environmentally friendly flooring option available. Wall-to-wall carpet quickly becomes a mold and bacteria magnet, as well as a dust and allergen trap. Even “all-natural” fiber carpets can commonly have some kind of stain treatment and/or synthetic, toxic backing. Cleaning a wall-to-wall carpet thoroughly is tough, if not impossible. Once moisture is trapped between the carpet and flooring material, you’ve created a perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria. The most widely available, least expensive wall-to-wall carpets are made with toxic petrochemicals containing formaldehyde, toluene and xylene, which off-gas for years – if not the lifespan of the carpet. In addition, it is estimated that 3.5 billion tons of used, toxic wall-to-wall carpeting ends up in landfills every year. I get it though – a cozy carpet is something most of us desire in a bedroom. So why not choose a natural fiber area rug that can be removed periodically to be cleaned? In most cases, spot cleaning, vacuuming and a fresh air/sunbath will do the trick.

GreenPlanetPaints & Finishes

When it comes to finishes, no-VOC paints and water based finishes are a must. Compared to the selection a mere decade ago, low and no VOC paints have never been more widely available. Most paints claiming that they are no VOC (volatile organic compounds – the chemicals that make the air toxic) actually contain some VOCs, because the tints that add color can nearly double a paint’s VOC content. The good news is that the EPA has updated limitations and standards for VOCs in consumer goods which has resulted in more stringent guidelines. Some states, such as CA, have traditionally surpassed the EPA regulations in this area. The upshot: you can find high performing, no VOC paints in nearly every home improvement or paint store. See low and no VOC paint considerations below.

baby on chairCreating a peaceful, chemical-free haven will improve not only your child’s environment and well-being – but your home’s general health and your piece of mind as well.


Yolo Colorhouse paints exceed VOC certifications on every ingredient. Every aspect of Yolo’s product strives for sustainability: soy ink labels, recycled plastic containers, and even bio-diesel fueled shipping.

DuraSoy Primer and paint all in one, incorporates soy technology that replicates the thickness and smooth application of traditional oil based paints. DuraSoy is Solvent Free, 100% acrylic & VOC-free, Bio-Based, crystalline silica free, glycol ether free, and virtually odorless.

Sherwin Willams Harmony Interior Latex This zero VOC acrylic paint is GreenGuard and Indoor Air Quality Certified and GreenGuard Certified for Children and Schools. Harmony products contain agents which inhibit surface growth of mold and mildew. 

Ivy Coatings is a Brooklyn based company offering zero VOC (even when tinted), premium quality, non-toxic, fast-curing paints. Ivy paints provide great coverage, can handle a scrubbing and are highly durable. With almost no odor during application, they are odor-free once dry. Ivy Coating products are eligible for LEED credits as established by the US Green Building Council.

EcoTrend Collagen offers no VOC, odorless paint that uses collagen (eggshell lining recovered from commercial bakery waste eggshells) as the paint’s binder. EcoTrend makes the “best coverage” lists consistently.

Natura is a Benjamin Moore high performing no VOC paint. Ben Moore’s Aura line is also low VOC, but since Nutura performs equally as well, why not opt for their no VOC line. No need for a primer with this one!

C2 Lovo paints offer leading-edge technology with finely ground artist-grade pigments to create paint with exceptional vibrancy and coverage. C2 Lovo’s low-VOC formula is user-friendly and qualifies for LEED credits.

Devoe Wonder Pure offers a premium no VOC paint at a great price point ($30 per gal). Good coverage. Solid for the value. Carried in independent paint stores.

BioShield solvent -free, no VOC paints also offer stains, tints, clay paints as well as floor and furniture finishes.

Green Planet Paints, Zero-VOC, petroleum free paints made from plant resins and mineral pigments, make Green Planet Paints one of the most sustainable paints on the market. Available in three finishes (flat, eggshell, and semigloss) and 120 mineral and clay-based colors.

Real Milk Paint is a biobased product. Milk paints have a unique, old fashioned, chalky patina making this product a popular choice for both walls and furniture.  

Farrow & Ball is widely considered the supreme paint choice among designers and DIY-ers alike. The Estate Emulsion and Modern Emulsion water-based lines are F&B’s very low – to no Voc options.



About the Author

Here at Jenny Green Jeans, by sharing success stories and easy-to- implement tips, I hope to inspire and empower you to continue to make sustainable choices in your life and watch how far the impact goes. Please contact me with any questions or suggestions you may have. Also visit the Green Design Goods store for my favorite environmentally sustainable products.

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