Parenthood is quite the ride, isn’t it? From choosing where to give birth to which stroller to buy, every decision feels like it could shape their future. No less important is the design and décor in your nursery.

As you prepare to welcome your bundle of joy, creating a space that’s cosy, secure, and eco-friendly is important. That’s where we come in – showing you what design choices to consider with their wellbeing in mind (as well as the planet).

 

1. Creating a soothing atmosphere through the power of nature

Fostering a connection to nature seems like an outdoor activity – not something you’d do inside a baby’s bedroom. But incorporating nature is a valuable boost to wellbeing.

The term for this benefit is “biophilia”. It refers to humans’ inbuilt attraction to nature and how it supports our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

No need to build a whole indoor garden. According to a recent review of 37 articles, simply viewing pictures of natural scenery can help you feel more relaxed and less stressed. And goodness knows there are times when you’re settling bub when you can both use all the relaxation you can get.

Your biophilic nursery design could be as simple as a few indoor plants, a rainforest mural on one wall and landscape photography on another. It’s a great start to fostering their appreciation for the natural world.

 

2. Let there be light…but also darkness

From the first night you bring bub home, you’ll be looking for a dimmable lamp at 2am nappy changes. No one wants a blazingly bright overhead light waking you both up.

However, during the day, natural light is ideal for regulating your body clocks. Window coverings that open all the way are the obvious choice. Then, you can make the most of the light you have with mirrors and light-coloured paint to bounce sunlight around the room.

If your nursery is still dim, maybe you need a skylight. But a word to the wise – look for one that can close at night to avoid the early Summer sun waking your sleeping beauty. The need for blockout curtains goes without saying.

 

3. Keeping a comfortable temperature, for free

Little ones can struggle to regulate their body warmth. Getting the room temperature just right is something all new parents grapple with. With smart shading, ventilation and optimal insulation a stable temperature is more achievable.

Depending on your climate, you might need an awning or a vertical screen outside West and East-facing-windows to keep out Summer heat. Ceiling fans are effective and cheap to run, with or without air conditioning.

On the other hand, on a chilly Winter’s day, an uncovered North-facing window is fabulous for allowing warmth in. And you can reverse your ceiling fans to move warm air down away from the ceiling.

Whether your little one arrives in Winter or Summer, have you ever looked in your ceiling? Older standalone houses may no longer have adequate ceiling insulation by today’s standards.

As well as reducing your power bills and your impact on the environment, a passive house is much more comfortable for little bodies.

 

4. Breathing easy – without VOCs from the new bassinette

Before you bring home a rocker or curtains, look into volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are chemicals that can evaporate into the air from paints, glues, carpets or furniture finishes. Some VOCs cause short-term health effects like headaches and eye irritation, as well as long-term health risks.

Babies are more vulnerable because they’re still developing, and they spend a lot of time sleeping in their room.

Firstly, reduce the VOCs you bring into your home:

  • Furniture – solid wood has less VOCs than plywood or particle board. Gently-used second-hand furniture has already off-gassed some of the VOCs
  • Floor coverings – choose wool or cotton over synthetics
  • Paint – look for no or low VOC paint
  • Scented products – unscented wipes are in; essential oil diffusers are out (yes, even the natural fragrances)
  • Nursery décor – choose natural materials (bamboo, linen, wool, timber, leather, cotton). Back away from anything with a strong chemical smell.
  • Finish early – plan to have any renovations and decoration of the nursery completed at least 2 weeks before bub might arrive. (By week 35 or 36 of your pregnancy.)

Secondly, provide plenty of ventilation to let these airborne nasties escape through open windows and doors. Don’t rely on using indoor plants to filter the air, as it turns out this is a myth. A recent research review  calculated you’d need an impossible 10 to 1000 plants per square metre to get the same benefits as opening a window.

Bonus of reducing VOCs – second-hand furniture and keeping your existing carpet is better for the planet because you avoid the manufacture of more new “stuff”. As with all products you purchase for baby, make sure any second-hand furniture meets Australian Safety Standards.

Although there’s plenty to think about, the process of creating a beautiful and healthy sanctuary for your little one should be a fun one. By considering these elements of the nursery environment, you’re laying the foundation for your baby’s lifelong wellbeing.

 

By Louise Wedgwood, freelance health and sustainability writer