How To Create a Modern, Eco-Friendly Nursery For Baby

Finding cute, eco-friendly baby items is getting easier and easier. If you want to go green with your decor, you no longer have to choose from the standard muted tones that sustainable design is known for. Now there are plenty of environmentally friendly nursery items that incorporate cheerful color into your baby’s room, so it’s possible to move beyond the beige!

Bonus! Eco-friendly items have less of an impact on the environment. Things made with sustainable and organic materials, and non-toxic chemicals are healthier for your family and planet earth.

Here, we’ve compiled a selection of nursery furniture, must-haves, cute toys, and decorating tips to help you get started. When creating your registry for your nursery or making inspiration boards, remember babies’ brains are like sponges soaking up the environment around them. Consider how stimulating, comforting, and imaginative you want the design to be. Mix these fun items with your functional must-haves to create a nurturing, eco-friendly space:

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  1. This handmade felt garland in bright, vivid colors makes a great gift for a baby shower.
  2. Fly high with this nostalgic wooden airplane. Handmade from cherry, red oak, granadillo, and hardwood, plus non-toxic finish, this heirloom-quality toy will be a keepsake for many years.
  3. A sweet and creative design, this sleepy lion pillow cover is made from natural linen. It’s machine washable (on gentle cycle)—great for busy moms!
  4. Add some color and imagination to nursery walls with these non-toxic hot air balloon wall stickers
  5. Get your little one appreciating nature from an early age. This watercolor fox print measures 8×10 inches and is printed on 100% cotton paper.
  6. This hand painted light switch cover can be customized with your baby’s name. Made of ceramic and kiln-fired, the light switch is 100% lead-free.
  7. Made from premium organic cotton, this flag banner features seven flags in soft blues, gray, orange, and white.
  8. This rustic bookcase is a great piece for fashionably storing baby’s books, toys, and other items. Made from recycled cedar, you can choose the color and cut-outs of this bookcase. 
  9. Soft and safe, this organic frog rattle is handcrafted from a seller on Etsy.

 

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  1. This “a day in the park” eco-friendly, non-toxic wallpaper from Etsy comes in a variety of designs but we love this nature-inspired print.
  2. New parents will appreciate this cute and practical sheep wall clock. Made from 3-ply bamboo (a sustainable material), this clock has more than 2,000 positive reviews on Etsy.
  3. This organic made-to-order pillow cover has an envelope closure that makes washing a breeze. 
  4. Here’s a clever and affordable idea from The Honest LifeSimply up-cycle old scraps of fabric in pretty frames, or paint existing frames with no-VOC paint.
  5. This modern playhouse is sure to stoke curiosity as your little one grows. And the bold color and modern design adds some interest to a nursery room.
  6. Store baby’s first books in this woodland creatures bookshelf is made from wood and non-toxic paint.
  7. Repurposed from the Tale of Peter Rabbit, this banner comes with 12 flags and can be hung around windows, a crib, or hang on nursery walls. 
  8. How cute and girly is this handmade rag doll? “Flora” is made from all organic materials and would make the perfect decor item for a bookshelf or dresser. Once your baby girl is old enough to play with her, Flora’s braided hair can be undone and played with. She also comes with two scraps of organic cotton/soy/spandex jersey to use as hair ties, belts, or a head wrap.
  9. Eco-friendly and organic, these two stuffed mom-and-baby penguins would be great for decor and as toys.
  10. Your baby will love the color, texture, and sounds of this 5-inch organic crochet ball rattle. Twelve African flower motifs are sewn together to make this mauve, purple, powder pink, light green, and turquoise rattle.

 

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  1. Our new crib is Honestly amazing—functional, stylish, and of course, completely safe for your baby. The 4-in-1 design lets you transform it from a baby’s crib to a daybed to a toddler bed to a full size bed for big kids.
  2. You’ll want to get a non-toxic, organic crib mattress since baby will spend so much time in his crib and his little body is extra sensitive to chemicals that might be in typical mattresses. This one from Naturepedic is also waterproof.
  3. It’s a good idea to have a few washable changing pad covers handy. This changing pad cover is available on Etsy and made from organic flannel. It can be customized to fit the size of your changing pad.
  4. Our swaddle blankets come in packs of 3 and are made in collaboration with aden + anais. Lightweight, generously sized blankets are made from 100% GOTS certified organic cotton muslin.
  5. A colorful rug will brighten-up a room, keep your feet warm if you have hardwood floors, and provide a soft surface for baby to play. This hand-braided rug is made from new USA organic cotton and some recycled T-shirts, and is machine washable.
  6. The Nuna LEAF organic baby rocker takes inspiration from the movement of a leaf in the breeze. The rocker is noise-free and motor-free, and will gently move for 2 minutes. Made from aluminum alloy, steel, and organic cotton.
  7. Paint is the easiest and cheapest way to liven-up a room. Mythic Paint creates non-toxic paints free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
  8. Somewhere to sit while nursing is essential in any nursery. This rocker and ottoman are made from mostly recycled materials.
  9. Ensure the air baby breathes is pure and clean with this BioGS air purifier from Rabbit Air.
  10. You’ll need somewhere to store all of baby’s toys. We love this safari-themed toy box because it’s made from solid eco-friendly rubberwood, crafted with formaldehyde-free glue, and painted with non-toxic paint.

 

Decorating Tips

  • Decorating doesn’t have to be expensive. In The Honest Life, Jessica recommends shopping yard sales and Craigslist for used wooden items. You can refinish and re-paint these finds with no-VOC paint. This way, you get new furniture that’s eco-friendly, non-toxic, affordable, and original. In a nursery the wooden items you’ll need are a dresser (with room for a changing table on top), a side table, a crib, and a rocking chair with an ottoman.
  • On a similar thread, if you buy basic nursery furniture you can personalize it by adding non-toxic wallpaper or fabric to the front side of the drawers, or change the knobs out with fun, colorful ones.
  • Paint is one of the easiest (and most affordable!) ways to add color and personality to a room. Be sure it doesn’t contain any VOCs, which have some pretty nasty possible long-term effects.
  • We love Etsy for its variety of organic and non-toxic baby items. You can get one-of-a-kind and customizable nursery decor that’s often a fair price for the amazing handcrafted quality.
  • Here is an affordable and beautiful DIY for baby’s room, especially in the summer months: a blooming monogram. The blog Urbanic Paper shows us how to make this using basic crafting supplies you can find at your local craft store such as paper mache letters, a glue gun, floral foam and silk flowers.

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  • Make your own nursery chandelier using a lamp shade and some felt. Follow our amazing (yet simple) DIY instructions here.

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  • If you’re fairly handy, you can make your own toy box from a wooden crate, plywood, casters and a few other supplies. Just follow this DIY from the blog ThisLittleStreet.com. You can also purchase some adorable eco-friendly toy boxes online (like the one above!).

 

Tell us about the eco-friendly nursery items you like!

What Is Polyvinyl Alcohol?

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This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!

Ingredient: Polyvinyl Alcohol (also known as PVA, PVOH, or PVAI)

What it is: Polyvinyl alcohol is a synthetic polymer, which is a substance made up of many, many molecules all strung together. It starts its life as ethylene, a natural gaseous hormone given off by plants that causes the fruit to ripen. In this case, the ethylene is synthetically produced (but nature identical), then turned into vinyl acetate through a chemical reaction with oxygen and acetic acid (in diluted form known as vinegar), then polymerized (bonded to form repeating molecules), and then dissolved in alcohol to become a water-soluble polymer.

What it does: PVA has oodles of uses from strengthening textile yarns and making paper more grease and oil resistant to creating children’s play slime and contact lens lubricant (yes, it’s safe enough to go in your eyes!). We use it to create the water-soluble, single-size pod packages that hold our dishwasher, oxy-boost, and laundry formulas.

Why we use it: People love cleaning pods—what’s not to love?! These pods (aka “packs”) streamline cleaning, which is always a good thing! But, in this case, all it takes to make doing laundry and dishes a little easier is a convenient pack of pre-measured detergent. We chose to encase our detergent in PVA because it’s strong, colorless, odorless, biodegradable, and non-toxic!

Why we’re featuring it today: PVA is sometimes confused with polyvinyl acetate (aka PVA or PVAc—a wood glue), an easy enough mistake to make given they sometimes go by the same acronym. PVA is also sometimes thought to be related to polyvinyl chloride (aka PVC – the poison plastic). We wanted to make it clear that even though they all contain the word “polyvinyl” and are all types of polymers, they are all indeed very different substances.

  • Polyvinyl alcohol = non-toxic, biodegradable polymer
  • Polyvinyl acetate = rubbery polymer commonly used as glue
  • Polyvinyl chloride = toxic plastic polymer that often contains phthalates and heavy metals

 

Still have any lingering questions about polyvinyl alcohol? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to respond!

 

 

Newborn Care: Tips & Tricks from Nurses

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One of my biggest life-altering events was the birth of my two boys. If you feel anxiety about being a new parent, you’re not alone. Many new parents feel overwhelmed when it’s time to bring their new babies home from the hospital. As a nurse in the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Newborn and Infant Critical Care Unit (NICCU), I am positioned to help give you the confidence in caring for your newborn. Continue reading for helpful newborn care tips!

 

Getting Started Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a team effort between you and your baby. One of the keys to successful breastfeeding is simply sitting up while you breastfeed—sit up in bed, in a comfortable armchair or in a rocking chair. Use pillows behind your back, under your elbow and on your lap to support the baby. Use a footstool to bring your knees up or use pillows under your knees if you are sitting up in bed. You should be relaxed with none of your muscles straining. Your baby should be lying on his side with his whole body facing you and his knees pulled in close to your body. There are a number of breastfeeding pillows to help, but you don’t necessarily need one of those to succeed.

Overcoming a Poor Latch During Breastfeeding

Getting your baby to latch onto your nipple properly helps promote successful breastfeeding. A poor latch (nipple is too shallow in your baby’s mouth) at the breast will cause discomfort and can make your nipples sore or cause them to crack and bleed. Here are some suggestions to help overcome poor latching:

  • Get as much help as you can when you are in the hospital after giving birth. Ask for a nurse or lactation consultant.
  • Before each feeding, make sure you are comfortable—empty your bladder, get some water for sipping, and take your time getting into position.
  • Your baby should be awake and ready to nurse. It helps to unswaddling them and change their diaper.
  • Your baby’s mouth needs to be open wide for a proper latch. You can tickle their upper lip with your nipple to get her mouth to open. Once her mouth is open, bring her into your breast.

Mary, my fellow RN Remedies blogger, talks about how to properly handle, store, and thaw your breast milk.

 

Curing a Stuffy Nose

Babies are born nose breathers, probably because that how they breathe during breastfeeding—mouth breathing begins later. If your newborn has a stuffy nose, not only does it interfere with breastfeeding but it can cause other respiratory issues. If your baby shows signs of a stuffy nose (e.g. nasal secretion around their nostrils, sneezing) here are some ways to help clear their nasal passage to promote better breathing. One of the most effective ways to remove blockage in their nose is to use a bulb syringe:

  1. Press on the bulb syringe to remove air. Do not release the bulb yet.
  2. Place the tip of the bulb syringe into your baby’s nostril.
  3. Gently release the bulb pressure and allow it to suck up the mucus from your baby’s nose.
  4. Clean the bulb syringe with hot water and soap. (Make sure the syringe is empty of water for the next time you use it, and that you are not shooting water into your baby’s nose.)

 

Clipping Nails

Your newborn’s nails grow quickly and will require a trim at least once per week. If you forget, you’ll be reminded by a small scratch on your arm or hand, or they may accidentally scratch themselves.

  • Trim your baby’s nails when they are sleeping.
  • Before you use nail clipper, try filing your baby’s nails.
  • If filing does not work, press down on your baby’s fingertip so you can get the clippers around both sides of the nail.
  • If there are sharp edges after clipping, use a nail file to soften and trim them down.

 

Safe Sleep for Your Newborn

Since 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby under 1 year of age. Even though there is no way to know which babies might die of SIDS, there are some things that you can do to make your baby safer:

  • Always place your baby on their back to sleep, even for naps.
  • Place your baby on a firm mattress.
  • Remove soft, fluffy and loose bedding, including blankets, crib bumpers, and stuffed toys from your baby’s sleep area.
  • Do not use a sleep positioner to hold your baby on their back or side.
  • Use a sleep sack rather than blankets while your baby is sleeping.
  • Your baby’s room should be at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult. Too many layers of clothing or blankets can overheat your baby.

It helps to educate anyone who cares for your baby about safe sleep for your baby. This RN Remedies blog post can help.

 

By Robert Giesler, BSN, RN, CPST, Pediatric Nurse, Newborn and Infant Critical Care Unit (NICCU) at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

To read more of Robert’s pediatric health care tips, visit WeTreatKidsBetter.org!

One Mom Shares How She Set Family Goals

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When I decided that our family should set some goals my two boys were immediately excited. “Yay soccer!” said my six year old. “I’m really good at scoring goals,” said my four year old. Those aren’t exactly the kind of goals I meant.

There are areas in our daily routine where we all need some improvement. One of my friends mentioned she created a chore chart for her older son to help him learn the connection between work and money. I love this concept but I don’t want to give my kids an allowance yet for housework. However we could work on changing some bad habits.

We could also use more family time. My husband and I split most of the parenting duties. For example, he hangs with the boys on Saturday mornings while I go to the gym, then he gets some free time while I take the kids on a play date. Sundays we each split-up and take a child to their various sports activity. While this allows each of us to get some personal time, it also means we aren’t creating a lot of family togetherness for our boys or each other.

So, I created six attainable family goals that will hopefully change some bad habits and bring us closer together.

 

Family Goal #1: Eat a sit-down dinner together without electronics at least one night a week. Although my kids are young and have minimal to no homework, we still have after-school activities, play dates, and other appointments that sometimes make it hard to get home and have downtime before the dinner-bath-book-bedtime crunch. This year, instead of committing my kids to a different activity every single day of the week, I’ve dedicated one day for having dinner as a family. This has been a big adjustment for my boys and I can’t say they’re too thrilled so far with no TV, iPads, and us trying to find out about their day. Definitely a work in progress.

 

Family Goal #2: Do at least one activity together on the weekends. Instead of divide and conquer, I’d like to do at least one thing together, even if it’s just a walk around the block with the dogs, a board game, or riding bikes in the neighborhood. I think this is going to be an easy one.

 

Family Goal #3: Create and follow chore charts for the kids with room for mom & dad to help. My six year old loved the idea of a chore chart so of course his little brother wanted one too. Now that we’ve started using the chore chart, I realize I have to rethink what’s appropriate for each kid. “Get self dressed” isn’t doable for my four year old without a little help.

 

Family Goal #4: Less Yelling. When you hear other people yelling at their kids it just sounds awful. Yet it doesn’t stop me from losing my cool with my kids much more than I’d like to. Everyone does it but that doesn’t mean it’s effective. My husband and I need to practice counting to three before we turn-up the volume.

 

Family Goal #5: Encourage Creativity. I want to encourage my kids to use their imaginations to build towers and invent superheroes rather than follow the directions on the box of some creative-type activity. I’d much rather see them make something on their own that can be built and rebuilt a thousand different ways. One of their favorite toys is a set of brightly colored interlocking plastic tubes. They’ve made creations as diverse as a super powered laser blaster to the world’s largest fork. I could use some work on tapping into my own creative side too.

 

Family Goal #6: Kids’ Choice. Once a month, have a kids’ choice day where they get to pick what we do, within reason of course. I’m hoping the possibility of a trip to the local arcade will be an effective incentive to encourage them to follow the chore chart!

 

How do you set family goals? What are your family goals for 2014?

By Robin Saks Frankel

Safe Skincare Tips For Before, During & After Pregnancy

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If you’re pregnant, or planning to get pregnant, there are a lot of things to consider as you prepare to bring a baby into the world. Skincare, as in what you put on your face and body, is one important consideration for moms-to-be in part because all those extra hormones may cause skin problems. While some women get a glow, others get acne, which is the most common pregnancy skin problem. Or, maybe you have both.

In the course of about a year, your hormones will fluctuate drastically, so considering your skin’s changing needs will help you take better care of yourself. But, more importantly, your skin is your body’s largest organ and it’s porous—meaning what you put on your skin can be absorbed into your bloodstream and even travel to the placenta. When you’re pregnant, it’s especially important to read labels and avoid putting anything on your skin containing questionable ingredients. Follow these simple and safe skincare tips:

Before Getting Pregnant 

  • This is the time to start doing general research about which skincare ingredients to avoid. In Christopher Gavigan’s book, Healthy Child, Healthy World, he says pregnant women should steer clear of products containing phthalates. In body care products, these chemicals are typically used as stabilizers to help maintain scent and consistency and can be found in things like nail polish and fragrances. Among other things, “phthalates have been shown to alter male reproductive development in rodent studies, and preliminary research has suggested a link between high exposure to these chemicals in utero and male reproductive birth defects.”
  • Avoid products containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or any of the retinoids when you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant. If necessary, try sulfur-based products to treat acne. Skincare products containing glycolic acid or alpha hydroxy acids are also safer options.
  • In general, start simplifying your beauty routine, using fewer products and smaller amounts will reduce unnecessary exposure to chemicals.

 

During Pregnancy

  • If you must use nail polish, look for brands that are “three-free.” This “toxic trio” are dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, and formaldehyde, which are collectively linked to everything from reproductive and developmental toxicity to cancer. A number of popular nail polish companies committed to removing these chemicals from their products but a study by the EPA in April 2012 showed that 5 out of 7 nail polishes still contained these chemicals, and others claiming to not contain one of the “toxic trio” likely did. So, if you do want to keep painting your nails, do so in a well-ventilated space or try a non-toxic option. Priti NYC, Scotch Naturals, and Zoya are brands we honestly love.
  • Skip lipstick with lead and mascara with mercury. Both lead and mercury are potent neurotoxicants and miniscule amounts can cause irreversible damage. For a naturally tinted lip, try mixing Honest Healing Balm with a non-toxic food coloring (look to your local co-op or grocery store for something like red dye made from beet juice). It’s an easy DIY and your lips will love the amazing moisturizing effects of the botanicals and oils.
  • Learn to love your roots. Some hair dyes contain harmful chemicals such as lead acetate and coal tar dyes, according to Healthy Child, Healthy World. And while there’s no solid proof that these chemicals are unsafe during pregnancy, it’s best not to take chances since these ingredients have been shown to cause cancer in lab animals. Highlights that don’t touch your scalp are a good option if you need some color in your locks. Try EcoColors and other more natural lines to avoid exposure to the harsh VOCs in traditional hair color.
  • Slather on Honest’s Organic Belly Balm to prevent stretch marks and strengthen connective tissue. This balm is made with organic shea butter, olive oil, tamanu oil to help encourage healthy skin regeneration, and calendula to encourage natural healing and reduce scarring.
  • Instead of spritzing on perfume, which might contain phthalates, in The Honest Life Jessica Alba recommends mixing Honest Body Oil with an organic essential oil in a scent you like. Use this like lotion after a shower. Not only will you smell fresh, but your skin will be silky smooth–a two-in-one solutions that also lets you avoid nasty phthalates. (Note: Use essential oils with caution. According to Modern Alternative Pregnancy, you should consult with your healthcare practitioner before using these oils: basil, cassia, cinnamon bark, clary sage, lemongrass, rosemary, thyme, vetiver, wintergreen, and white fir. They also recommend using peppermint essential oil sparingly near the end of your pregnancy and while breastfeeding since mint is known to decrease milk production.)

After Giving Birth

  • If you’re breastfeeding, continue with all the aforementioned steps. Chemicals mom is exposed to can wind up in breast milk. (If you can, continue with a more natural and non-toxic beauty routine because it’s better for your health, too!)
  • Soothe sore nursing nipples with Honest’s Organic Nipple Balm. This high-quality food-grade salve is naturally non-toxic and safe for ingestion.
  • Regardless of how you feed your baby, continue going perfume and fragrance-free. Baby’s going to spend tons of time nestled into you and inhaling those chemicals can still pose a health risk to her little, developing body.

One final tip: Check out the Environmental Working Group’s database, Skin Deep, to see which body care ingredients and products to avoid.

 

What are your pregnancy skin care tips? Share them with us in the comments!