May 22nd 2018
It’s been 4 years since I posted the first version of the article about Lou’s ‘green nursery’. It talked about how we created an organic, toxin-free, planet-friendly and sustainable haven for our baby girl. The piece was posted over at my former website but, although many of you requested it’s reappearance through personal messages, somehow never made it onto my new online journal. That’s going to change, as of today.
I decided to do a brand new version of the article and include past experiences and some new choices we made the second time around.
We are due ever so soon so this might well be the last journal post before our daughter, and baby sister, makes her entrance into this world.
Wishing you a lovely inspired read,
‘Our body is our first home, our house is our second, our planet is our third. To be truly healthy we need to take care of all of our homes. Yes, our (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) body but also our planet (global environment) and our house (immediate environment). Your surroundings matter. They influence you in tangible and obscure ways. I choose what I wish to surround myself with because when things become part of my life they becomes part of me. It’s all connected.’
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HOW TO CREATE A SUSTAINABLE NURSERY
This is a list of items I found vital and essential when taking care of baby.
It’s only the bare necessities that made it onto this list, since baby doesn’t really need that much.
Many of these items are versatile and can be used in more than one way, which simplifies life and care and gives you more time to focus on what’s really important.
Craddle or co-sleeper
These items are not vital but definitely make life easier. It’s perfectly possible to change your babies diaper whilst sitting on (the side of) your bed but, as you can imagine, your back and posture might benefit from standing straight and grounded in front of a suitable changing table.
Baby sling or carrier
These items are trivial but fun. They add some beauty and personality to the nursery.
Postpartum essentials for mama and bub
I found these items essential during the first few weeks after giving birth. They supported the healing process, worked soothing and added a firm dose of care.
Maternity care kit
HOW TO CHOOSE THE ‘GREENEST’ ITEMS?
Now that I’ve shared which items I found essential, handy and trivial it is time to let you in on my decision making process. There are so many brands and types of craddles, mattresses, changing pads and strollers on the market. How to decide which one is for you? And how to decide which version is the greenest or most sustainable? Here are some general guidelines and reminders I used when deciding.
-Investigate before you buy. What’s the product made of?
-Choose natural biodegradable materials like untreated wood, bamboo, rattan, rvs, glass, eco wool, eco silk, organic cotton, linen.
-If it’s your first: start prepping your nursery early on. Investigation takes time.
-Your baby doesn’t need a whole lot. Buy the bare necessities only. Once she’s born you’ll have a better idea of the things that are really handy, well used and perhaps you need more of.
-What we learned from Lou: we needed more (swaddle) cloths. Wipies. Cloth anything.
-When you use cloth diapers buy larger sized clothing, one size up in general.
-Buy bigger sized clothes anyway. Newborns grow like crazy and look just as cute in clothes that are one size up.
-Choose second-hand whenever you can.
-Wool clothes are amazing: they don’t have to be washed as much. If not stained just air and wear again!
-For babies with sensative skin: consider silk rompers. They act as a protective layer.
-In general: pure, organic edibles are harmless substances. Buy (or make!) items that contain edible ingredients.
-Skip all things plastic.
-Make sure to air your nursery daily.
-Find one or a few great (online) shops where you can buy all or most sustainable baby items.
WHY THESE ESSENTIALS? AND WHICH ‘GREEN’ BRANDS DID I CHOSE?
I will share why I found these items essential, how I used them and which brands or varieties I chose and why.
We chose a second-hand moses basket and stand for the first few months. Traditional moses baskets are made from untreated and woven palm leaf, an excellent natural and organic choice. Furthermore, moses baskets are quite petite. Newborns are so tiny and seem a bit ‘lost’ in a standard sized crib. A smaller bed will give them the boundaries and enclosed environment they are used to in the womb. This adds a sense of calm and security. For those who, like us, like to co-sleep or room-in there are other great options too. I love the look and sound of the Bednest. It’s made from beechwood and can be purchased with an organic mattress. And because your babe will only use the craddle for a little while, Bednest offers the option to rent.
After considering many options we decided on Ikea’s untreated crib for Lou. She outgrew it around the age of three and a half and we kept it, and the mattress she used, for our second daughter. Re-using the goodness you have is such a great way to make life sustainable. Anyways, this crib is very affordable, incredibly practical and totally toxin-free. When choosing cribs or craddles make sure to go for untreated, non painted, natural materials such as a local wood, bamboo or palm. A vintage wooden crib is also a great option as harmful substances have long left the crib because of its age. Second-hand or vintage purchases are naturally sustainable since you’re choosing what already exists instead of adding more stuff to this world.
For the moses basket we use a thick short-haired medicinal sheepskin as a mattress. There’s no real need to buy an expensive organic mattress for a craddle that will only be used for a few months. Medicinal sheepskins can be used as playmats, as padding in strollers and for many other purposes, after those first few months of life. Lou still uses her sheepskin as a rug to sit on whilst playing. When used as a mattress, they will help to keep your newborns temperature constant. We chose a medicinal sheepskin from a local organic farmer who’s raised every single one of his sheep. When the sheep dies of natural causes he makes sure every single part of the animal is used. If the idea of using an animal hide sounds appaling to you, you might consider purchasing a sheepskin made only from the sheered wool of a living sheep, sewn onto a piece of fabric.
For the crib we will re-use the Prolana mattress Lou has happily used for the past 3.5 years. It’s made from coconut, organic cotton, natural rubber and eco wool, all certified, sustainably sourced and biodegradable materials. The average lifespan of an (eco) mattress is approximately 10 years, a bit shorter for a small child who (generally) spends more of its time asleep than us adults do. If you take well care of the mattress when your first child uses it, you will be able to use it again for your second. This makes it a smart investment.
A few words on sleep.
This tiny human who just entered your life sleeps about 20 hours per day. Lying on its back on a mattress covered by bedding and dressed in sheltering clothes. Her skin is an absorbing organ. This means it will take in that which it is covered with. Your babies detoxing system, including the liver, is not yet properly developed. Hence her slightly yellow ‘look’ during the first week of life. It cannot deal with toxins, cannot properly disarm them and send them out of her body yet. Unfortunately conventional matresses, clothes, skincare products, diapers and bedding contain a wide variety of toxins. Toxins that will cause all sorts of damage and will interfere with babies development. The foundation of a house is most important for its lasting enjoyment, success, stability and strength. Same goes for people: if you give your child a strong base and firm foundation it will grow up leading a more healthy, happy, vibrant and vital life. This is why we chose a green nursery. To take well care of our children, their futures, their planet.
We bought organic cotton sheets for Lou’s crib and they have kept really well. We will use them again for our second daughter. We also kept her woolen baby blanket, which will be used during the ‘craddle stage’. When we bought new organic pillows, duvets and sheets for the family, a few years back, they came packaged in handy organic cotton bags. I kept these, since they were made from such wonderful high quality materials. I recently dyed some of them using red onion skins (peachy pink) and turmeric (yellow) and will use them as sheets. They are sized perfectly to act as sheets for the craddle. I also use these organic cotton packaging bags as laundry bags or to organize Lou’s toys. So when you buy new organic sleepgear and the items come in organic cotton packaging, hold onto them! They can be used in so many great ways. When our baby outgrows her craddle, we will buy some fresh new linens for her crib. Like these, from my favourite brand By Mölle. I personally have found duvets to be a total waste of money, and quite inappropriate, for babies and toddlers. Our daughter Lou slept in organic sheets and a wool blanket for the first months and after that, when she started to move around in her sleep, slept in a sleeping bag. This kept her warm and covered, also during the cold Dutch winters. It wasn’t until she turned 4 that we bought her a ‘big girls bed’, pillow and duvet.
Newborn clothes must be the cutest thing one has ever seen. And because of its mind altering cuteness it is very easy to go a bit mad and overbuy. Tiny humans grow so fast, which makes buying smart a very smart thing indeed. And because they outgrow their clothing so very quickly quality items can be easily purchased second-hand, which often means close to new. In fact most of what we bought was bought second-hand of Marktplaats, the Dutch version of Craigslist. I chose 4 wool-silk rompers by IOBIO in the larger of the newborn sizes (56) and 3 wool-silk rompers even a bit larger, size 62. The newborn rompers by IOBIO are so heavenly functional. They wrap around like a kimono, have build-in mittens and two rows of buttons. The two rows of buttons are there to make them suitable for two sizes instead of just one. Wool-silk rompers function as a protective layer for baby, keeping her warm and secure.
On top of the rompers I bought (second-hand) clothes by some of my favourite sustainable brands, like Poudre, Imps & Elfs, tocoto, moumout, minimalisma, gray label, Selana, FUB, waddler and Briar. I love these brands, and basically all the brands on offer by Mama Owl. Our baby only owns about six sets of clothing in the smaller newborn size: a handful of bottoms, some of which are dungaree type suits, some are bloomers, two pairs of wool tights, a handful of tops, two cardigans and three wool beanies. We also received some incredibly beautiful knitted pieces by Dutch makers, Villaava*. I have been a fan of these ladies for a while now, ever since I bought Lou some of their linen harem pants. Their knits are made from the best quality naturally dyed wool. In fact it is Icelandic wool, which seems sooooo appropriate since the little girl we’re expecting was conceived in Iceland! And Villaava creates some of the cutest upcycled baby dungarees you’ll ever find.
With Lou we used organic cotton cloth diapers and popowraps by Popolini. You may read about our experiences cloth diapering here. We owned 20 one size organic cotton diapers which Lou used right up until she was properly potty trained at age 2.5. We prefered the organic cotton ones over the bamboo ones because they dry quicker. We chose the ‘one size’ ones over buying two different sizes because it’s 1.less stuff owned 2.less expensive 3.we weren’t sure we were going to go for a second child. Owning 20 meant we had to wash (and machine dry) once every 2,5 days or so. This way we never ran out. On top of that we owned 2 waterproof popowraps per size, which we alternated and washed every 3 to 4 days. One cloth diaper plus one popowrap cover meant: ultimate dryness.
With our second child we have chosen something different. We will still be cloth diapering, as it was a pleasant and positive experience for the reasons discussed here. Yet using Lou’s old diapers wasn’t really an option as many had holes in them, too big to repair. So, after hearing great reviews from friends, we decided on these by Disana. They are called ‘wrap around tie nappies’ and have the advantage of air drying much faster than the diapers we used with Lou. They need an extra layer as an insert, like these moltons. Because these nappies come in different layers we won’t have to use the machine dryer to get them to dry quickly, which is even more sustainable. For air drying clothes and cloth diapers we purchased this old fashioned drying rack a while ago. It’s made from untreated wood and folds away easily. The wrap around diapers need an extra cover to keep baby dry, just like the Popolini diapers did. The popowraps we used with Lou were made from a synthetic material. We chose a more natural material this time around and went for these wool covers by Disana. We bought 10 wrap around nappies, 10 moltons and 2 of the smallest sized covers. If we enjoy using this type we will buy 10 more nappies and 10 more moltons and have 20 in total. This type of cloth diapering turns out to be not only more sustainable but also cheaper than using the Popolini ones.
Why did we choose cloth diapers?
-It reduces waste. About 800 kg in total. Disposable diapers take a couple of hundred years to break down.
-It’s healthier. Conventional diapers contain all sorts of chemicals such as cancer causing dioxin and a substance named sodium polyacrylate, which was banned from tampons because it caused a serious disease called toxic shock syndrome in women.
-It’s planet-friendly. Even if you machine wash and dry cloth diapers they are more sustainable than disposables.
-It saves money. More than 1000 euros in total, which I’d rather spend on our daughters education. Or really good organic chocolate ; )
I held onto the re-useable organic cotton bottom wipes by Imse Vimse we so happily used with Lou. They are still in tip top shape and will surely last a few years longer. We still own 36, which we will place in the diaper bin along with the dirty nappies and machine wash together, every couple of days. This way we will never run out. To use the bottom wipes they need to be wet. With Lou we used a glass jar of water, in which we put essential oils. This jar needed replacing every day and ended up being too much of a hassle. This time around we will use a different, less time consuming, technique. All one needs now is a reusable sandwich bag, like this one. And a reusable spray bottle, filled with cleaning liquid. Simply wetten the wipes, squeeze out excess water. Place the wipes in the bag and close. When you need to use the wipes, take one out, spray with liquid and use. These wipes can be pre-sprayed and taken along on road trips as well. Much more practical and versatile, much less time consuming.
Recipe for bottom wipes liquid
1 tablespoon almond oil
1 tablespoon aloe vera gel * (optional)
8 drops rose (or calendula) essential oil
1 cup boiled water, still lukewarm when combining
*Some organic stores sell unpackaged aloe vera leaves, straight from the plant! These are your best option as they do not come in plastic containers and are the purest and freshest form of Aloe around. You will be able to find plenty of youtube videos how to cut and ready the gel from the leaf for use. If you buy Aloe leafand don’t use all of it immediately, which is a good possibility, it can be easily frozen and used later.
To make: Place aloe en warm water in a spray bottle. Leave a bit of room for shaking. Place lid on and shake well. Add the other ingredients. Place lid back on and shake again. To use: spray a wet cloth with about 5 sprays of liquid and use. I use the same recipe to make a spray, which functions as a face cleansing liquid.
We will use a simple, one-ingredient, locally made, organic almond oil as baby oil. Coconut is great too, but a little cooling in nature. Newborns and babies tend to thrive when you add warmth and soothing, which makes almond an excellent choice.
I made this super simple baby balm which functions as diaper rash cream for baby, a winter balm to preotect Lou’s cheeks in winter and a lip balm for mama. It’s made from a few simple ingredients that I keep stocked permanently for different purposes, such as the face cleansing liquid doubling as bottom wipes liquid. You will find the recipe for the balm below.
With Lou I also made baby powder, which we ended up not using at all. But in case you do want to make and use baby powder: buy buckwheat or rice flour and add a few drops of organic calendula essential oil, mix, store and apply when needed.
1 cup organic almond oil
1 ounce beeswax granules
30 drops calendula essential oil
Melt the beeswax in a double boiler over low heat. Stir slowly until it has all melted. Turn heat off. Add almond oil and essential oil. Stir. Pour into small glass jars. Let cool, place lids on and store until needed.
One thing I’ve learned: you can never have to many pieces of (burp) cloth. They are so versatile and will stay with you and baby until the end of days, functioning as face wipes and bibs later on. I even used them as nursing pads. We chose to buy large muslin cloth by Disana and cut some up to have larger and smaller sized pieces of cloth. I naturally dyed babies burp cloths using walnut as a ways to differentiate between babies cloth and similar fabric we use for other purposes. I bought 10 large pieces of muslin cloth and cut 3 up in four pieces each. We now have 7 large ones and 12 smaller ones. The small ones will act as burp cloths, the larger one will also function as baby towel, changing pad cover and so on.
On top of all of the cloth items mentioned above I bought one 120 x 120 cm organic muslin swaddle by Fabelab. This will function as a swaddle, a sheet and a summer blanket, all at once.
Since baby will sleep in our room (probably for the first half year of her life) the nursery will be used mostly for changing diapers and getting dressed. The nursery used to be our home studio which we divided into one part desk and one part nursery. Instead of buying a new changing table we chose to use what we already had available in the studio. A simple chest of drawers my husband has had for years will now act as changing table and storage unit for diapers, cloth and clothing. For those who need and want to buy something new, there are some beautiful sustainable options out there. I like this sustainable wooden changing table by a local Dutch design company and in case you feel like splurging: Kalon makes the most amazing sustainable, ‘these items will last my whole life’, type furniture, amongst which some gorgeous dressers. Buying vintage (and customizing where need be) is also a wonderful and sustainable option. The product is already in excistence, which reduces the amount of waste. And -like I mentioned with the crib- potential toxic fumes have long left ‘the building’ because of its accomplished age.
Most changing pads are made fro synthetic materials, usually a foam with a plastic coating. We chose to invest a bit more money and buy a the most sustainable and smart version I could find. Our changing pad is handmade by a small local business called Mijn Hemeltje. It functions both as a changing pad as well as a mobile take-along ‘craddle’ for your newborn and a safety mattress for those wishing to co-sleep. It’s made from wool and organic cotton. The additional wool top layer functions as a natural protective coating against fluid and keeps baby warm. For those living in the US: Fawn & Forest has a similar changing pad on offer.
BABY SLING OR CARRIER
With Lou we ended up using our baby carrier by Manduca A LOT. It was especially handy during travels. We love to travel light and bringing a stroller on a 3 month roadtrip along the westcoast of the US was NOT an option. We still have Lou’s Manduca carrier, which we bought second-hand on Marktplaats, the Dutch Craigslist, and will use it again with our second. Manduca offers ergonomic carriers made from organic canvas and hemp. I did find the Manduca carrier a bit harsh and robust for a newborn though. For this reason I bought a ‘softer and kinder’ baby wrap, for the first few months. I purchased it second-hand and it’s by sustainable brand Solly Baby.
One of our best buys of all time: an organic nursing pillow. In fact we own two, soon to be three. Yes, they are THAT handy. These long, shape-able pillows can be used in so many different ways. I have one that I use as a side sleep aid / pregnancy pillow during both pregnancies. It then functions as a french pillow, which hubs and I place at the top of our bed for some extra padding. When Lou was a baby she had one which functioned as a nursing pillow and a baby nest. A baby nest can be an expensive and unnecessary purchase, simply because the nursing pillow you own and already use for other reasons can be shaped in a similar way to a nest and thus act as such. When Lou changed into a big girls bed, just before the age of 4, we started using her nursing pillow as a ways to prevent her from falling out of bed during the night. The type of nursing pillows we own are organic canvas filled with organic spelt. They all have soft washable organic cotton covers.
Living in a Dutch city means our main source of transportation is cycling and walking. And because we have limited space and no garden we spend a lot of our time outdoors: in parks, on terraces and in the nearby forrest. Before Lou was born I would have never guessed we would be using the stroller so much, but we did. It was used daily, for almost four years. I used to put Lou to sleep in her stroller and go for a walk to our local organic supermarket to do groceries. She would sleep her way through it all and I would (on top of doing something ‘useful’) get some fresh air, movement, sunlight and ‘outside time’. The stroller we had with Lou was a hand me down from friends. It was by an expensive and super trendy brand, but by no means sustainable. It was made from synthetic materials ONLY.
Knowing how much we used it with Lou I did not feel comfortable choosing the same brand again. I did some research and found the most sustainable stroller in the world. The beauty we own now is by Austrian brand Naturkind*. A company with distinct ideals and a clear vision and determination to be the first to develop a stroller with an equipment that is made ENTIRELY of natural substances as well as lining materials. Our Naturkind has been carefully made to order from the most natural and toxin-free materials around, like organic cotton, coconut, organic sheep’s wool, metal and cork. We chose the Naturkind LUX, with the babykorb and sportwagen, in a color named siebenschläfer. As soon as I’d assembled the stroller, I just had to take it out for a spin. And first impressions couldn’t be better. Naturkind LUX is easy to assemble, looks divine, oozes high quality, the materials feel -and even smell- amazing and the stroller can be easily handled using one hand only, which is particularly great when you also have a four year old skipping around. I will do a formal review of this stunner in a few months time, when we’ve had the chance to really put it to use.
Since we live in a city apartment with limited bathroom space we chose to purchase a foldable bath by Norwegian brand Stokke for Lou. We still own and use that hyper practical, high quality (and free from harmful substances!) bath with her and decided to simply buy a matching newborn insert for our second. The insert was bought second-hand through… You guessed right: Marktplaats!
TOYS, ART & MOBILE
Okay, life isn’t just about the practicalities and necessities. It is also about frivolous beauty. Although a newborn does not need any sort of toys, I still think it’s nice to add a few selected items. Just for fun. I have bought some second-hand wooden toys, like that adorable tractor, by Finnish brand Jukka and I recently fell head over heels in love with upcoming Dutch maker Atelier Heute. I’m sure this little bub is going to be the proud owner of a few of their natural dyed soft toys. Art wise, I’ve added a floral print by Esther Clark to the nursery, the one that previously adorned our kitchen. I also love the nursery appropriate prints by Saar Manche. Or the idea of using prints from artsy childrens books and framing them. And what about simply framing a beautiful aquarel by our daughter Lou?
Mobiles are also such lovely additions to nurseries. We have found that our beautiful star guirlande made from thin rope and ceramics, by my talented friend Annemieke Boots, functions as thé perfect mobile. Ceramics are beautiful and sustainable, but I also love these brass ones by fellow mama Electric Sun Creatives. And how about adding a canopy over babies bed? A beautiful piece of organic fabric that will make your baby feel extra safe and sheltered? And how about placing a (non-poisonous) plant or some fragrant, foraged and seasonal wildflowers in your child’s nursery?
If you know me, you know I have raved about these cooling pads ever since I gave birth to Lou. They were such a great help postpartum and they truly helped me feel comfortable, fresh and painfree ‘down under’. Cooling pads are basically maternity pads which I spray with a healing liquid of Witch Hazel and Aloe and then freeze until use. Vaginal birth can leave you feeling a bit bruised and these pads add comfort and healing to an area that could definitely do with a bit of loving care. You can read more about these cooling pads, and how to make them, here. If you decide to give yourself just one single gift, be it these. You will be thanking yourself BIG TIME.
MATERNITY CARE KIT
Approximately one third of all deliveries in The Netherlands occur at home, with the assistance of a midwife. In fact, it is considered completely obvious and standard to -when there’s no medical indication and the pregnancy has been without complications- to give birth at home. Every woman receives a maternity care kit, free of charge. This kit holds items needed to deliver at home and take care of mama and baby during the week(s) after birth. The standard kit is in fact pretty standard. It contains conventional brands and lots of items made from plastic materials. That’s why I decided to buy my own kit and choose a sustainable version by Nalini. The ladies behind Nalini decided to create the very first organic maternity care kit (called ‘kraampakket’ in Dutch) available in The Netherlands and it is so so welcomed. The kit contains everything a regular ‘kraampakket’ contains, but there’s one huge difference: all varieties included are organic and sustainable. Think maternity pads, a natural rubber cordring, a cotton cord tie, a recyclable protective sheet for the mattress, organic cotton wool, healing wool, organic alcohol, organic soap, oxygen-bleached sterile gauze made from cotton and so on.
If there’s one thing I learned from the postpartum period with Lou it is to take full advantage of the rest and care that’s offered by the postpartum nurse provided by the Dutch government, to let others take care of you as a newborn mama and to indulge in a whole bunch of self-care. I will be surrounding myself only with (a select amount of) my favourite people and my absolute favourite things. I will be lighting my favourite fragrant candles by natural and local candle maker Brandt, I will be spraying my favourite aura spray by Rock Your World, I will be eating lots of nourishing organic and homecooked (by others!) meals and have gifted myself a postpartum massage by my favourite local Ayurvedic therapist. She will stop by once during that first week after birth and do a traditional Vedic oil massage in the sanctuary of our my home. I have had her balancing treatment also whilst on maternity leave and already look forward to more. And, lastly and frankly, during childbed, there will be plenty of raw chocolate, sleep and sourdough bread.
*These products were carefully and consciously selected by Kyra as part of a collaboration between Villaava and Kyra’s Kitchen and Naturkind and Kyra’s Kitchen. The products were gifted in exchange for photos and exposure. All of the opinions regarding these products are Kyra’s own: uncensored, personal and truthful.
All images, except those featuring Kyra, by Kyra. at Kyra’s Kitchen. Copyright. Photos of Kyra by Eveline Vroonland at Stof en Ruis.