If you are setting up a new sleep space for your child or you’re expecting and setting up prior to their arrival here are some basic tips to creating a green sleep space that is low-tox.
Why is this important?
Your baby will be spending upwards of 16 hours a day as a newborn sleeping in that very space, then around 12 hours as a young person, so it’s worthwhile investing in a ‘green’ sleep environment. Some children are much more sensitive than others to smells and pollutants in their environment and suffer from allergies or disrupted sleep as a result. Whether you have a sensitive baby or not, there are also the potential long term effects of ongoing exposure to harmful chemicals that makes having a green low-tox sleep space imperative for the whole family, not just our little peeps.
What kind of pollutants am I talking about?
VOCs = Volatile Organic Compounds… think chemicals that are emitted by paints, paint strippers, cleaning products, pesticides, air fresheners and building materials. Then think that the majority of our flooring, underlays, paints, wallpaper, glues, rugs, furniture and mattresses (yes, mattresses) contains VOCs that emit these gasses initially, that’s the ‘new’ smell you can actually smell, but that also continue to release VOCs over time.
Tips for going green
- If you are renovating, do it as early as possible to allow the fumes from paint, glue or floor coverings to ‘off-gas’ and then air out the room for as long as possible before baby arrives. If you are pregnant, have someone else do the painting and renovating so your unborn baby isn’t exposed to the fumes.
- If painting, use a low or zero VOC water based paint. Taubmans and Dulux both have a version and there is a complete list here of Australia’s top 8 low or zero VOC paints: Top 8 Low or no Voc Paint
- If laying new carpet, choose as natural a fibre and dye like wool or hemp blends. You can request an Emission Test Certificate that proves whether the carpet is low-VOC under the Institute of Australia Environmental Certification Scheme and/or ask the manufacturer whether they will lay the carpet out in the warehouse for a time to allow some of the chemicals to outgas there (a week if possible). Be aware of the type of underlay being used as these can contain several chemicals so opt for natural over synthetic if possible. If you can’t do this, allow time for the carpet to be laid and aired in your home before moving your baby or child into it.
- Rugs: these can be the worst offenders so go for natural fibres like hemp, cotton, jute or wool.
- Mattresses: this is what your baby will be sleeping on, potentially for years if you have a cot that transforms into a toddler bed so it’s worthwhile investing in a high quality mattress made of natural, organic fibres. The Natural Bedding Company is Australian and makes mattresses to order using materials like cotton, wool, hemp, organic latex and coir. I purchased two of these for my children as they moved into single beds, they were on sale but still weren’t cheap but will last for their entire single bed life… we still needed to air them but only because they smelled like sheep!
- Bedding: for little bubs just a tight fitted sheet is safe for their sleeping environment (no toys or blankets) but as they grow older and use a pillow, mattress protector, sheets, doonas and blankets consider using ones made of cotton, wool, linen, latex or tencil.
- Cots: you already know what I’m going to say here… new cots can be all paint, gloss and plastic so if purchasing, buy wood finished with a no-voc paint or non-toxic/natural sealer. Ikea have a good and cheap cot frame called the Sniglar Cot made of 100% solid beech wood that isnt’ varnished Link here Second hand cots can be sanded back and finished with a non-toxic paint or sealer. If using second hand, check the link below from the ACCC which lists the safety standards for cots in Australia so you can check if the one you are planning to use meets safety standards. ACCC Cot Safety Standards
Finally, as a general sleep tip, keep the sleep space uncluttered, neutral, natural and think about evoking a calm and not overly stimulating zone to keep it conducive to sleep.
Written by Carla Morgan, Birth & Baby Hub, 2018.