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Prepare Your Baby’s Nursery

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This is the third in the series of excerpts we’re running from the highly recommended, up-to-date, interactive guide to pregnancy and infancy, “Ready, Set, Baby!”  This one covers the essentials for setting up a safe nursery.

Many parents wonder when they should  transition their baby from their room to a nursery. Keeping your baby close is convenient for nighttime feedings and can be reassuring, so you may prefer to sleep in the same room as your baby during the first month or longer. On the other hand, you may find that sleeping in the same room as your infant can be too close for comfort because you may feel hyperalert to every little sound or movement coming from your baby. (If you choose to go the nursery route, you’ll likely want to use an audio or audio/video monitor to track your baby’s sleep.) There is no right or wrong choice here—it’s about what works for you as a family unit. But, in either case, it’s helpful to have the nursery as close to finished as possible before the baby is born. Here are some crucial points you’ll want to keep in mind.

Safe Nursery Furniture

Try to choose natural furniture whenever you can. Look for nursery furniture that is made from solid wood with a natural finish.

Avoid pressed wood products, such as composite wood, raw medium-density fiberboard, and particleboard.

WHY? Pressed wood products contain formaldehyde.  Infant exposure to indoor airborne formaldehyde has been linked to increased respiratory problems, including asthma and allergies, and a long-term increased cancer risk.

HOW TO ADDRESS?  If you already own furniture made with these materials:

  • Reduce your baby’s exposure by keeping these pieces out of the nursery.

  • Make sure your home is properly ventilated.

  • Add pollution-absorbing plants (out of your baby’s reach), such as spider plants and Boston ferns.

Avoid furniture that has been stripped and shellacked.

WHY? Certain types of paint and shellac contain lead, which is highly toxic to infants. Your baby may be exposed to lead by inhaling or ingesting small flakes of paint or shellac.

HOW TO ADDRESS? It’s best not to have the substance anywhere in the house, because you never know when your baby might use a favorite toy to start hammering away at a lead-coated table or gnaw on an edge of a shellacked chair to relieve teething pain.

Safe Walls

Older homes often contain lead-based paint, which can be problematic if the paint begins to flake. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains in detail who should consider having their homes tested for lead and how to do so.

Visit the EPA: Testing Your Home For Lead

Safe Renovations

If you’re doing a major renovation for your baby’s nursery …

Build in extra time for typical construction delays.

WHY? Rushing to finish the room when you’re close to delivering your baby will only create additional stress.

If you give birth before you have finalized the nursery …

Hold off on any major work for at least a few weeks.

WHY? These early days are a time for bonding with your baby, getting the hang of breastfeeding, and resting when you can. Your newborn doesn’t care where his diaper is changed or where he sleeps, as long as he is near you.

Once you’re able to get out and about with your baby, you can then bring back the contractors and carpenters to finish the job.

If you’re in the midst of construction while pregnant or shortly after giving birth …

  • Use paint made without or with a low amount of volatile organic compounds.

  • If possible, arrange to stay somewhere else during the most intense periods of renovation.

  • If that’s not possible, seal off the room as best you can while construction is happening.

WHY? Certain types of paint, wood dust, stripping agents, and floor sealants contain chemical compounds that are harmful for your baby.

This valuable pregnancy advice post is an excerpt from Ready, Set, Baby! The Watch and Learn Guide to Your Baby’s First Year.

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