From: Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)  | Date: May 8, 2006

Byline: Diana McKeon Charkalis Lifestyle Editor

When Laura Forbes Carlin was pregnant, she bought a crib mattress covered in vinyl. She immediately stashed it in a closet until it was time to assemble the nursery.

She was taken aback when she opened the door a few weeks later and discovered an unpleasant, chemical smell emanating from the object on which her newborn would soon rest his head.

``If something smells toxic, chances are it's not good for your baby to breathe,'' says Carlin, who ultimately opted for more organic options in her baby's room and also went on to write ``The Peaceful Nursery: Preparing a Home for Your Baby with Feng Shui'' (Delta; $15).

In the book, she and co-author Alison Forbes, who is also her sister, discuss not only design and decorating tips in accordance with feng shui, but also more eco-friendly, healthier options for babies' rooms.

Although the Los Angeles authors say it's best to plan ahead before a baby is born, they say it's possible to take simple steps, even afterward, to make a baby's (and new mom's) space a healthier place to be and to breathe.

``One of the first things people think about is how the room should look. But it's silly to have a beautiful room that doesn't support your health,'' says Alison Forbes. ``We don't want to overwhelm people. Everybody needs to find a balance that's right for them.

Here's a ``timeline'' look at ways to create a more healthy nursery:

Before conception

Planning to have a baby? This is a great time to think about floors and walls in the room where the infant may sleep. The authors suggest identifying any materials that could contain toxins, such as synthetic carpets, pressed wood and -- in houses built before 1978 -- lead-based paint.

If possible, opt for wood floors over wall-to-wall carpet. ``(Carpet) can emit chemicals and also trap dust and dust mites,'' Carlin says.

When painting walls, the safest options are low-VOC (volatile organic compound) or no-VOC paint, which contain fewer toxins. Or, try milk-based paints, which are well-tolerated by people with chemical sensitivities. Companies including Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams now offer these low-chemical lines.

During pregnancy

If you're pregnant and haven't painted the room yet, don't do it yourself, the authors advise. They suggest hiring or convincing someone else to do the job at least a month in advance of the birth. Keep the windows open for ventilation as much as possible.

When it comes to outfitting the room, they acknowledge that going green can come with a higher price tag.

``The healthy alternatives can get quite expensive,'' says Carlin. ``One great thing to invest in, if you can't afford it all, is organic bedding.''

This could include a wool mattress and organic sheets and bumpers. A more affordable second choice would be all-cotton linen that isn't pretreated. ``It shouldn't say permanent press, wrinkle-free or stain-repellent,'' Forbes says.

If you plan to buy, or have already bought, a traditional vinyl-covered crib mattress, place it in a well-ventilated area for as long as possible before use to air it out, they suggest.

When it comes to furniture, solid wood is the best option -- particle board and plywood contain chemicals and glue that can give off fumes. The authors say one great option is to go to an unfinished furniture store and purchase items that you can then paint yourself with low-VOC or no-VOC paints.

Baby's here

Baby's already in the crib? Here are some simple, low-maintenance suggestions to make your abode healthier overall. First, try a ``shoeless home,'' suggest the authors. ``That way you're not tracking pesticides inside,'' says Carlin. Second, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which can remove 99.97 percent of airborne pollutants. And last, opt for all-natural cleaning products. ``These can be really easy to make. It all boils down to a combination of vinegar, water and soap,'' says Forbes, who adds, ``But new moms may find it easier to just buy these products at places like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.''


4 photos


(1) no caption (crib)

(2) no caption (sperm)

(3) no caption (pregnant woman)

(4) no caption (baby)