Week 37: Greening Up My Baby Act

Here is one woman's mission to create a nursery that's good for baby and the planet.


I'm the furthest thing from Betty homemaker (I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never even ironed before!). Yet as my baby bump continues to grow (and grow!) I’m finding that so do those notorious nesting instincts. Rather than making homemade meals and freezing so I won’t have to cook once baby is born, my nesting instincts sent me into research mode to figure out which nursery essentials are eco-friendly to help reduce my baby’s toxic load.

With the overwhelming amount of information out there I could really drive myself crazy trying to buy everything green certified and organic. Instead I tried to narrow it down to only the things my baby would use or be exposed to most in his daily life, and then make those things as healthy as possible for both him and the planet. So while he may not wear an organic, fair-trade onesie every day (and would it really make a big impact to his health even if he did?), I figured things like which type of paint we used in his nursery would have a bigger effect. So here are a few ways I’m trying to green up his home environment to give him a healthy start.

VOC-free paint

Since paint covers every wall in my apartment and has a big impact on indoor air quality, I decided to give it all a fresh coat. After doing some digging, I learned that brands labeled ‘low VOC’ is just marketing hype because every paint brand in the store is required by law to have low volatile organic compounds (solvents that get released into the air and can cause headaches and dizziness). Instead, I looked for paint labeled VOC-free, and opted for Benjamin Moore’s Natural No-VOC Paint. Since I’m having a boy, I chose to paint his room Wythe Blue, which is a more elegant version of a powdery baby blue.

Cloth diapers

I vowed to use cloth diapers should I ever have a baby after going on a dive trip a few years back and seeing a dirty disposable diaper on a coral reef 60 feet below the ocean’s surface. Sure, disposables sound way more convenient (and I’m planning on using the newborn kind for his first week or two as I get into the mommy groove), but opting for the cloth kind may be the biggest thing I can do to minimize my baby’s impact on the environment. (A disposable diaper may take up to 500 years to decompose, and one baby in disposable diapers could contribute at least one ton of landfill waste.)

As for personal benefits, reusable cloth diapers could save me money in the long run if I purchase 20 that last for two to three years rather than buying disposables every week. I registered for bumGenius 4.0 One-Size Cloth Diapers because they’ll grow with my baby so I don’t have to order different sizes, are made organic material, and have a built-in waterproof outer cover with easy-to-snap closures.

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Greener laundry detergent

Since I’ll be doing a whole lot more laundry with cloth diapers and soiled onesies, I’m switching to a fragrance-free, biodegradable and non-toxic detergent to protect my little one’s skin from irritation, such as GreenShield Organic Free & Clear laundry detergent. And instead of using dryer sheets, I’m going for LooHoo wool dryer balls to nix his exposure to icky fabric-softener chemicals. Basically you just toss these balls into the dryer to soften clothes and save on drying time.

Opting for breastfeeding over formula

Trying to breastfeed my little guy is another important step for going green. Not only do studies show that breastfeeding will boost his immune system and help ward off allergies and asthma, but it means less waste since I won’t have to buy a lot of bottles and packaged formula. Plus, it means less gear that I have to worry about packing in his diaper bag! My goal is to try it for six months. I heard breastfeeding can be really challenging at first: My doula advised me to leave those formula samples they give you at the hospital because it will make it too easy to succumb to the temptation of just feeding him a bottle when he’s not latching on and I’m exhausted at 2 a.m. if I have it in my kitchen. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed and seeing how it goes.

Recycled baby gear

Rather than buy everything brand new for his nursery, I’ve been hitting up all my mom friends for clothing and baby gear items that their children have outgrown. My friends totally hooked me up: I’ve now got a stock pile of newborn onesies (some that have never even been worn!), a baby bath tub, a motorized swing, a pack-and-play, an infant car seat, and more. However, I did splurge on registering for a brand-new crib, mattress, and dresser. (I'm going to put a changing pad on top of the dresser instead of buying a separate changing table). Sticking with my earthy nursery theme, I registered for the Baby Cache Montana Panel Crib in natural-looking Driftwood, as well as the Baby Cache Montana Double Dresser.

Chemical-free sun protection

Since I’m having a summer baby and want to be an active mom, I looked into the best baby sunscreen products to have on hand. The Mayo Clinic says babies younger than six months shouldn’t wear sunscreen, so I went for a UV-ray blocking shade that goes over your stroller or car seat so my baby can nap without getting burned. The SnoozeShade blocks 97 percent of harmful rays and fits over most strollers.

When he’s old enough for sunscreen, I’m skipping brands containing chemical ultraviolet light absorbers, such as octinoxate and oxybenzone, because studies show that those toxins may mess with hormones by mimicking estrogen. Instead, I’m going for baby-friendly sunscreens made with physical rather than chemical UV blockers, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. So far I like Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen and, even though it’s for babies and kids, have been using it myself.

Read more: Here's what's happening in Week 37 of your pregnancy >>