Creating a cozy nursery for your baby – and for you, since you’ll be spending a lot of time there – has always meant finding the perfect crib, changing table and dresser, as well as those essentials such as a diaper pail, wipes warmer and mobile. But the newest trend in making your baby’s space not only fun and cozy, but also healthy and safe, is considering your nursery environment.
Think air quality, sound and light. Building a good nursery environment is all about helping your baby sleep well and stay well. In fact, in a survey of parents, 80% felt that optimizing the nursery for healthy sleep is crucial. And we’re telling you: if the baby sleeps well, the parents sleep well. Read on for our best 10 nursery environment tips:
1. Get the right stuff There’s a new way of thinking when it comes to building a healthy and safe nursery, and today’s mothers get it. In a recent NUK® survey, moms showed a clear sense of what “nursery environment” means, and what products are important for a healthy one. Five products that the mothers polled considered most essential are 1) a sound machine, 2) a nightlight, 3) a humidifier, 4) an air purifier, and 5) a vaporizer. Most of NUK’s® line of nursery environment products are from Bionaire, the premium Jarden appliance brand and a recognized leading brand for all five of these products, and Jarden is the US leader in air treatment appliances.
2. Clean up your act Indoor air is often more toxic than outdoor air, because inside space confines pollutants and air can get stagnant. The first step to purifying your baby’s room is to take a look at the materials you’re using to paint the walls and cover the floors. Look for a paint that’s VOC- (volatile organic compound) free. You can find inexpensive brands such as Valspar+, the first paint to be certified asthma- and allergy-friendly by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Open windows often, and choose finishes and cleaners that are approved by the Environmental Working group (ewg.org).
To keep the air in your baby’s room free of dust, dust mites, pet dander and other pollutants, try an air purifier. NUK’s® HEPA-Type Air Purifier ($99.99) is designed by the leading air purifier company Bionaire, and in addition to a world class purifying system that removes 99% of airborne particles, it comes with a patented child-resistant plug lock, so that your purifier stays put until you are ready to unplug it. It’s equipped with amber utility lights and a soothing white noise, both of which are better for your baby’s sleep. And the sleek egg design will please your sense of style.
3. Light the way with amber For your safety, you need a night light in your baby’s nursery. But did you know that some light – even soft white or blue – can disrupt your baby’s sleep? Research has found that amber light is significantly more conducive to sleep than blue light, and even has been shown to improve mood. In fact, research shows that blue light and white light can suppress the hormone melatonin, which is essential to restful sleep. The four core products in the NUK® Nursery Environment System all are equipped with soft amber utility and nightlights, which encourage sleep. You also can get a program for your electronics, such as your phone and computers, called f.lux; it adjusts the display light to the time of day, so your melatonin levels in turn react to actual daylight and darkness.
4. Soothe your baby to sleep The rocking chair or glider is a wonderful place to breastfeed (or bottle feed) your baby, and to get him drowsy and ready for sleep. If you’re trying to teach him how to put himself to sleep, place him in his crib (on his back, of course) while he’s drowsy but not yet snoozing. But until he’s about four months old, rocking him to sleep, then putting him down is just fine, too. He might wake up a little just to check things out, cry a tiny bit and then settle. It’s all good, but we’re not advocates of letting an infant “cry it out”.
5. Get down with white noise Extensive research has shown that white noise can put babies to sleep 300% more effectively than silence or even lullabies. We’ve all heard the stories about newborns only falling asleep in the car or in an infant seat on top of the dryer. Here’s a much more realistic method: The NUK® Natural Sleep System ($49.99). This system not only gives the option of four sounds – car ride, rain, white noise and womb sounds – it also includes a programmable sleep cycle and is equipped with that important amber light. And, it uses light (gradually brightening “sunlight”) and sound (classical music) to gently wake your baby up in the morning – which is handy when you’re headed to daycare and work, and helps to teach your child when it’s OK to get up in the morning.
6. Control the humidity One of the most confusing aspects of creating a nursery environment is how, when and where to use humidifiers and vaporizers. The NUK® Powered by Bionaire® Warm & Cool Mist Humidifier ($129.99) takes the guess work out of choosing the perfect level of humidity, with five custom settings designed for everything from colds, flu and allergies, to a general comfort level that can prevent static electricity, brittle and cracking furniture and dry skin. The NUK® Powered by Bionaire® Cool Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier, a great value at just $69.99, combines amber light with the largest capacity tank in its category, and comes with the exclusive NUK child-resistant plug lock.
7. Design around a favorite color or object Nursery designer Serena Dugan, co-founder of Serena & Lily, built on her love of vivid color to create her son’s nursery. She found a mid-century dresser – low enough to double as a changing table – on eBay and painted it a rich coral color. It makes her happy every time she walks into the room. If you have a favorite photograph or painting, use it as a focal point; there’s no need to decorate with pansies or dump trucks, unless you like them. A lot.
8. Clean with green in mind When choosing cleaning products for your baby’s room, learn to read labels. Look for the USDA Certified Organic seal and read the ingredients label. Avoid products made from hard-to-pronounce chemicals with names that end in “eth” or that include PEG, polyethylene, polyoxyethelene or oxynol. And don’t despair; there are plenty of great products that leave out the toxins, made by Seventh Generation, Method, Mrs. Meyer’s Green Day and Ecvoer, among others. Or, you can make your own using baking soda, vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.
9. Apply these tips to your entire house When my babies were born, I didn’t have a nursery — we lived in a studio loft apartment in NYC. So humidifiers, bassinet, sleep soothers – they went wherever they fit and we all were exposed to the benefits. Not a bad thing – my skin loved the extra moisture, no one minded the soothing sleep sounds and the humidity helped us all avoid the dryness that can lead to wintertime colds.
10. Make the nursery a haven for you, too In addition to setting up your baby feeding station, with a cozy chair or rocker, a breastfeeding pillow, a side table for a book, cell phone and water bottle, pay attention to the room’s light – soft indirect or track lighting is more soothing than bright overhead light – and ambience. Dock your iPod or run speakers into the nursery. Play what makes you feel good and don’t worry if you can’t stand lullabies. Try classical or folk pieces instead, and look to please your and your partner’s musical tastes; you will be immersed in your child’s music soon enough.