The (Primarily Non-Toxic) Nursery Guide
Becoming a first-time parent is equal parts terrifying and thrilling. You want to do everything you can to protect and keep your baby safe, which, compounded with new mom hormones, can get a little crazy-making. It doesn’t help that there seem to be a million decisions to make (some with health consequences)–after all, there is no way around a steep learning curve to prepare you for a newborn (though it’s a fast one).
We’ve tried to take some of the guesswork out of it–and have called on renowned pediatrician, Dr. Harvey Karp, the creator of the bow-at-its-feet brilliant Happiest Baby on the Block empire to help us navigate some of these waters–as a huge and early days supporter of the Environmental Working Group, he’s well aware of what little ones face in terms of the toxins around, but he’s also highly reasonable, too. We asked him a bunch of questions about breastfeeding while we had him on the line. And then we turned to Christopher Gavigan, co-founder of The Honest Company, to take us through the intricacies of diapering and other non-toxic choices for little ones.
There aren’t health consequences to every decision, so we’ve marked those that require special care with a critical decal–the rest of the picks are predicated on what we’ve found to be the most effective (and stylish) way to take care of a baby (and in many cases, the most minimal). Herewith, goop’s ultimate nursery guide.
Long-time goop friend Christopher Gavigan has never made a secret of his concern for the health and welfare of all of our kids–or the earth that they will inherit–which is why he’s spent the last few decades fighting for safer products and more regulations. The co-founder of The Honest Company answers some of our questions about diapering and a non-toxic home.DR. HARVEY KARP
Quite honestly, new parents need little more than Dr. Karp’s brilliant book (and corresponding DVD), Happiest Baby on the Block, which is the ultimate tool-kit for baby calming. We turned to Dr. Karp for answers on key questions, like why breastfeeding is important, and what bottles and formula is best–while he’s well aware of the importance of keeping babies safe, he’s a voice of reason, too.
Diapering is a bummer all around–they’re not particularly fun to change, and they’re generally terrible for the earth (no disposable receives enough sunlight to biodegrade, while cloth diapers require a ton of water). These companies are making the whole process as palatable as possible.
Honest Inarguably the cutest diapers around, these are made with naturally-derived, sustainable, plant-based materials–making them a great choice. Honest, $13.95Shop now
Seventh Generation These are as crunchy and natural as they look, as they’re free from chlorine-processing. They also do an overnight diaper for bigger babies. Amazon, $10.99-$47.49Shop now
Naty Engineered by a Swedish mom, these surprisingly thin diapers are nice and absorbent–and they have no plastic, latex, or chlorine. Amazon, $11.99-$43.99Shop now
Keekaroo Peanut If you’re not interested in investing in a diapering-specific piece of furniture, this is a great, easy-to-wipe down solution. (Alternately, just throw a swaddle blanket on it.) Giggle, $99Shop now
UBBI Diaper Pail It looks so nice and clean considering the battle scene inside. This one takes normal trash bags, obviating the need for a system where you’re buying into a specific brand for eternity. Target, $79.99Shop now
Wipes can be loaded with chemicals (alternately, those that claim to be preservative-free are bunk, too, as preservatives are legally required when a product lists water as an ingredient). These are effective and clean.
A clean formulation is key, here, though preference is in the eye of the applier (and whatever makes butts less hurty).
Keep it simple: Besides a fitted crib sheet, your baby should be put down with nothing else, including blankets, baby pillows, and stuffed animals. (Here’s a good trick, though: You can prop a mattress up ever so slightly by putting folded towels or swaddles underneath, which works particularly well with a bassinet.)
An organic mattress isn’t cheap, but if you’re going to splurge on one thing for your baby, make it this: Free of flame retardants and other harmful VOCs, you can rest easy knowing your baby is sleeping on something that’s super safe.
Naturepedic OrganicShop now
Mattress This is the Cadillac of organic cotton mattresses. Amazon, $259
Lullaby EarthShop now
Lightweight Mattress This isn’t organic, per se, but it’s non-toxic. Amazon, $169
You can spend a lot on a crib–that said, you really don’t have to. There are a variety on the market that transform into toddler beds, although you can skip this step and go straight to a twin when your toddler is ready to break out.
- Ikea Gulliver CribIkea, $99Shop now
Mid-Century CribAmazon, $799Shop now
- Oeuf Sparrow CribFawn & Forest, $820Shop now
- Flynn CribRoom & Board, $799Shop now
Swaddles & Sleepsacks
If you learn one thing before you have a baby, learn how to swaddle (see Happiest Baby on the Block).
- Aden & Anais
These are the gold standard (and are great for throwing over a couch to protect it from spit-up, or over a stroller if you want to protect your babe from the sun). Make sure to get the ones that aren’t overly silky (they don’t have enough grab for swaddling). Nordstrom, $49.95Shop now
- Miracle Blanket
This might be too big for your newborn, but it’s a brilliant swaddling shortcut once they get a little bigger. Amazon, $31.99Shop now
- The Woombie
This isn’t as tight as a traditional swaddle, but some babies prefer it (and it’s really easy to use). Amazon, $28Shop now
- HaloThese are perfect for the time when your baby is ready to graduate from a tight swaddle, but still wants to feel held tight. Amazon, $19.96Shop now
At less than 12 pounds, this stylish travel crib can double as an old-fashioned pack ‘n play (i.e., set it up for an impromptu play pen anywhere), but it’s far easier to drag across the country.
It’s easy to go totally nuts on crib sheeting–but in all honesty, you really need only two, max three, sets. (It’s good to have a spare in case of a late-night full crib change.)
Organic cotton is great when it’s available, though don’t stress: While it’s a wonderful precedent and kinder to the earth, there’s no issue with putting traditional cotton on your child.
Serena & lily Preppy classics. Trellis Crib Sheet, $36Shop now
Aden & Anais Their open-weaves are really soft. Up, Up & Away Sheet, $29.95Shop now
Land of Nod Bright prints and patterns. Hop To It Sheet, $24Shop now
Babyletto Cute and whimsical. (They also make really nice cribs.) Galaxy Fitted Sheet, $17Shop now
Flink Living Bright organics. Organic Bird Stone Sheet, $36Shop now
DwellStudio Subtly mid-century modern, without being overly retro. Boheme Sheet, $35Shop now
Ollie & Lime Punchy graphics that are a little hipster, too. Triangle Crib Sheet, $55Shop now
According to Dr. Karp, it’s best to avoid giving a newborn a pacifier until nursing is going well–and then they might become clutch. (See the Five S’s, under Happiest Baby on the Block.) “The shape doesn’t really matter,” he explains. For more on pacifiers from Dr. Karp, click here.
- Wubbanub Brown Monkey PacifierAmazon, $12.95Shop now
- Natursutten Butterfly PacifierAmazon, $16.50 (for 2)Shop now
- Nuk Silicone Core PacifierAmazon, $7.38 (for 4)Shop now
- Avent SoothieAmazon, $10.73 (for 2)Shop now
This series is totally awesome. Biased, but the Coldplay ones are the best.
Happiest Baby On the Block
Dr. Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block DVD is must-watch TV. His brilliant theory is that, thanks to their large brain size, babies are born prematurely, and should experience what is essentially a fourth trimester. Whatever you can do to recreate the womb in real life (tight, loud, always in motion), will help your baby adjust, which revolves around the Five S’s: Swaddling, Sucking, Shushing, Side, and Swinging.
Men, in particular, seem to excel at this art. As Dr. Karp explains, “Men are terrible at breastfeeding, but they’re far better than women at baby soothing.” In terms of that loud noise, he also has a low, white noise CD to run all night while your baby is sleeping (and a sleep book). (For more from Dr. Karp, click here.)
When it comes to newborns, you really don’t need much–resist the urge to shop too much in advance, as it’s hard to predict how big your baby might be (and how fast they might grow).
Mittens So they don’t scratch their face. Giggle, $8Shop now
Hat To keep them warm.Shop now
Giggle, $16 (for two)
Onesies Cheap, efficient, and easy-to-wash, particularly in the spit-up heavy first days. Carter’s, $16Shop now
Side-Snap Tees The umbilical cord doesn’t really fall off for the first week or two–while you wait it out, side-snap tees are best. (And you don’t have to pull them over their heads.) Carter’s, $16Shop now
Mini Health Kit
You don’t have to go nuts, but you do want a few essentials.
Safety 1st Nail Files A nail file is best, though you can also bite and peel their nails (which are weirdly sharp). Amazon, $5.98Shop now
The First Years Thermometer Just in case. (And yeah, it goes up the bum, but apparently that’s what’s most accurate when they’re tiny.) Amazon, $7.38Shop now
Safety 1st Brush & Comb You’ll want to wet your baby’s head and comb their scalp to combat cradle cap (essentially dry, flaky skin). Amazon, $4.49Shop now
FOR WHEN THEY’RE OUT OF SIGHT
You don’t have to go nuts, but you do want a few essentials.
Motorola Baby Monitor There are lots of options out there–WiFi-connected (which apparently comes with security risks), super basic, or lots of bells and whistles. This one is pretty loaded with features (thermostat, night vision, two-way sound) without being too much. Amazon, $150Shop now
Brica Car Mirror These are all a little janky, but they serve an essential feature: Since your newborn will be rear-facing, you can see what’s going on with them from the front seat. Amazon, $12Shop now
There’s nothing more terrifying than giving a newborn a bath–but the good news is that you really don’t have to do it frequently (and you can just use water for a long time).
Boon Bath This is great if you need to give a bath on a counter–it’s adjustable, and you can tilt it up. Giggle, $60Shop now
Infant Bath Seat This basic seat lets you sit your baby upright in either the bathtub or the kitchen sink. Giggle, $12.95Shop now
Shampoo & Body WashCritical
These are all super clean, meaning they don’t have any toxic chemicals. (For more on our thoughts about clean beauty, click here.)
Baby Lotion & OilCritical
A little baby massage is a pretty awesome tradition to establish before bed.
You can always used adult-sized towels, but the hood does come in handy.
Gear can pretty much act like Gremlins in your entryway–carrying the baby on your body is pretty awesome and streamlined, though a low-profile stroller is helpful, too.
Our advice: Go to a shop with your newborn and try some carriers on to see what they prefer–they’ll have a decided and vocal preference, and you won’t end up torturing them with a carrier they hate.
Baby Bjorn This does no favors to the back, but it’s simple and streamlined and refreshingly no-fuss–there are lots of variations and extra features, this one is as simple as they come. Amazon, $54Shop now
Ergo Baby This is nice because you can eventually carry the baby on your side or back–it’s best for larger babies, though you can buy a burrito insert to make it work for newborns. Again, there are a million variations. Amazon, $130Shop now
Moby Wrap Those who really want to “wear” the baby swear by the Moby wrap, which isn’t as complicated to put on as it looks. Amazon, $38Shop now
Go for as little bulk and heft as you think you can get away with…particularly if you’re putting it in and out of the trunk of a car.
Uppababy Vista Stroller This has lots of bells and whistles: You can easily convert it to a double, it comes with a toddler set and a bassinet, and it folds up nicely. It also comes with the price tag to match. Giggle, $860Shop now
Baby Jogger City Mini GT You can collapse this in half just by pulling the strap in the middle, making it pretty great for managing a baby and the trunk of a car with one go. It’s also very easy to maneuver (there’s an infant car seat attachment that you can set the car seat on until they’re big enough to sit in the seat). Amazon, $350Shop now
Infant Car Seat
You can hypothetically get one car seat that adjusts throughout childhood, but infant car seats are actually kind of essential, particularly if you drive–more often than not, your baby will knock off in the car, and then you can simply carry them into the house without disrupting their nap.
Maxi Cosi Mico Max Car Seat These are really nice looking–and better for smaller babies. Giggle, $250Shop now
Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat This accommodates babies up to 30″, though by the time they’re that long, they’ll probably be too heavy to schlep around in an infant car seat anyway. (This gets top safety marks.) Amazon, $200Shop now
Graco Snugride ClickShop now
Connect 35 LX Car Seat Another classic, a lot of moms think this one is the easiest to carry. Amazon, $180
For unknown reasons, diaper bags have long occupied the space of functional fugliness–but some designers and new companies are jumping into the fray and making them far less of a burden to carry.
Town & Country Baby Tote Like a classic boat tote on the outside, with a supremely handy, removable insert on the inside. Town & Country, $125Shop now
stella mccartney bag All the pockets and compartments you might need, plus a matching changing mat. Saks Fifth Avenue, $294Shop now
lesportsac baby travel bag The ultimate in no-fuss mom norm core. Shopbop, $148Shop now
Prada Nylon Baby Bag Prada makes what is essentially the Cadillac of diaper bags…with a price tag to match. Saks Fifth Avenue, $1340Shop now
bella tunno diaper bag This tote is blessedly frill free, lightweight, and super roomy. Bella Tunno, $85Shop now
Matt and Nat Diaper Bag This doesn’t look like a diaper bag at first glance, which is kind of a good thing. The Land of Nod, $195Shop now
Dr. Karp has a lot of advice on this matter.
Other Essentials Nobody
Tells you about
You can thank us later. Lay in stores of the following (and steal some supplies from the hospital). Buy nipple balm in bulk and bring it to the hospital. (The first week or so is the toughest, at which point breastfeeding generally gets infinitely easier and less painful.)
Interestingly enough, if you have a preemie who is primarily bottle fed, you want to use (BPA-free) plastic bottles: “The white blood cells in the colostrum cling to glass,” explains Dr. Karp. “If your baby is not premature and you’re breastfeeding, wait to introduce a bottle until two to three weeks so breastfeeding is established–don’t wait any longer, as a baby might reject a bottle after a certain point, and it’s great for other caregivers to be able to nurture the baby, too.” (For more on breastfeeding from Dr. Karp, click here.) “Choose glass, silicone (which is very stable), or if plastic, make sure they’re BPA-free.”
Dr. Brown’sShop now
Glass BottlesDiapers, $19.85
Comotomo NaturalShop now
Feel Silicone BottleAmazon, $14
Dr. Brown’s ElectricShop now
Bottle Warmer A luxury, for sure (you can warm a bottle in hot water), but nice and fast for late night feedings. Amazon, $31
While we’d be inclined to go straight for the newer all-organic brands, Dr. Karp actually advocates going with Enfamil or Similac. “They have a track record of safety that goes back 30 or 40 years–I just wouldn’t take the risk with a lesser known brand.” (For more thoughts from him on this, click here.)
PSSST, TWO GREAT GIFTS
Babies don’t need (or do) much at the beginning, but tummy time is key.
BLANKETS + BAR
Within a week or two, you’ll be putting your little one down for tummy time–and they like lying on their backs and looking up at things (that they can’t really actually see). There are pre-assembled sets that make this easy (SkipHop), or you can make your own version.
You’ll receive a lot of baby blankets as gifts, which all seem to serve a different purpose. Here, one that’s extra-washable, and another that’s incredibly comforting.
Swings & Bouncers
Swinging is one of Dr. Karp’s five S’s–in our experience, what the Fisherprice Snugabunny lacks in looks, it makes up for in effectiveness. (See Happiest Baby on the Block for more info.)
Baby Bjorn For minimalists: This is lightweight and portable, making it great for keeping the baby safe while you make coffee or shower nearby. Amazon, $144Shop now
Fisher PriceShop now
Snugabunny Swing For realists: We’re guessing you’ll be bowing at its feet. Amazon, $150
MommaRoo (We’ve heard good things.) Albee Baby, $170Shop now