Which nursery decorations does your baby like best? He may not care whether you choose cars or a zoo theme for his crib sheets, but he does have an opinion about the fabrics and furniture you put in his environment. Even though he can't communicate with words, his body will tell you what he really thinks -- if you're willing to listen. From soft newborn skin to long-term health, here are ten reasons your baby will be glad you chose an organic nursery.
1. Healthier skin. As many as 20% of young babies suffer from eczema, which is a dry, itchy rash on the skin. Eczema is aggravated by environmental irritants, so switching to gentle, organic lotion may help treat symptoms and reduce eczema flare-ups.
2. Bright colors that are good enough to eat. Organic products come in hundreds of cute colors and designs. Your baby will love the contrasts of colors and prints on organic toys and blankets, and you'll feel good knowing that the dyes in his organic toys are toxin-free and safe to chew.
3. Optimal growth and development. Your baby is more likely to develop normally when you keep him away from endocrine disruptors, which are linked to a variety of developmental delays. "Children have critical development windows," says Alicia Voorhies, cofounder of The Soft Landing, which is a consulting service that helps families create safe, toxin-free environments. "Endocrine disruptors go in and flip switches where they shouldn't be flipped." Many conventional materials contain endocrine disruptors; plastics, fabrics, and paints are some of the most common.
4. Variety of natural textures to touch. The many textures of natural materials make organic toys and fabrics fun. From the softest of plush cotton to the fuzzy warmth of fleece, your baby will love exploring his sense of touch with organic toys.
5. Improved respiratory health. Chemicals are a big culprit in poor indoor air quality, especially the VOCs in wall paint. Choose low-VOC, chemical-free paint for your organic nursery, and you and your baby will both breathe easier.
6. Better long-term health. Chemicals commonly found in nurseries are associated with many diseases that won't show up until long after your baby has outgrown the nursery. Nursery furniture that's not made from real wood is a big offender. "Get a sustainable wood crib," says Voorhies. "Wood made from particle board is pieced together with glue that off-gasses formaldehyde" -- a chemical that increases your baby's risk of cancer.
7. Germ-free toys and surfaces. You don't need bleach or other dangerous chemicals to get germs off your baby's toys; plain old vinegar works just as well. A spray of vinegar kills 99% of bacteria. Your baby will enjoy the benefits of fewer colds without the danger of poisonous cleaning products. You'll also reduce his risk of asthma when you stop spraying chemicals in the air.
8. Less risk of allergies. Allergies are triggered by irritants, so the fewer irritants in your baby's environment, the less likely he is to suffer from allergic reactions.
9. Possible reduced risk of SIDS. Although the cause of SIDS is not certain, an organic mattress could reduce the risk. In a conventional mattress, "the water-proofing layer is PVC, and the mattress is polyurethane foam, which has a lot of toxic chemicals," says Voorhies. "These are all potential health hazards. Making the investment in an organic crib is worth it."
10. A more sustainable future. From toys to mattresses to furniture, conventional nurseries use a lot of resources -- many of them nonrenewable petrochemicals. Organic companies strive to follow sustainable manufacturing practices, which means they're not using up natural resources without regard to the future. Your baby may not care right now, but when he's grown, he'll be grateful for the effort you made to give him a more sustainable world.