Saturday, August 4, 2012

Rational Nursery - Part 3

Most nurseries are decorated according to the fashion trends seen on television and in stores. The unrealized philosophy being practiced is: Television characters/decorators/baby stores know better than you do. Expectant parents are often intimidated by the daunting task before them and fall for the message the "experts" send loud and clear: "You don't need to think about this stuff--that's too hard. Just do what you're told. Here's a list."

Continuing on with the "nursery must haves" listed by Babies'R'Us:


Philosophical issue: Very little furniture is appropriate in a baby safe room. Your baby can bang his head on and get stuck under dressers and climb on and fall from drawers, shelves or chairs. Child-size furniture will be appropriate later, but for the scooting/crawling/toddling years--almost no furniture is safe. (Furniture is safe before your child can move, approximately the first six months. Whether or not you want to buy furniture that you will only use for six months is up to you.)

Toxic! Keep in mind that almost all furniture is toxic--made from toxic things and treated with toxic fire retardant chemicals before being sold. Imagine how many fewer chemicals will be floating around your baby's room simply by it being free of toxic furniture.

What I decided to do: All of my son's clothes hang in his closet or are folded and resting on his closet shelf. I have not missed having a dresser or chest at all. 


Philosophical issue 1: Changing tables are dangerous. Many babies roll off these tables and injure themselves. Most changing tables have straps to prevent babies from rolling off but strapping a baby down is an annoying use of time and not a very Libertarian way to parent. If you are a competent parent, you should be able to train yourself to keep one hand on your baby while he is on the  changing table, so you will not need straps. That being said--

Philosophical issue 2: A baby-proof room does not include furniture like a changing table. Changing tables are not baby-safe furniture. They are giant, heavy monstrosities for your baby to get stuck under with drawers for your baby to climb on and fall from and will take up valuable space he could use for movement.

What I did: I bought a changing pad and put it on the floor. My son sleeps on a mattress on the floor so moving him from one floor area to another floor area made more sense than moving him from the floor to a changing table where I would have to stand. I love my floor changing station. If my son rolls he'll roll right onto the carpet so there is no need for straps or keeping one hand him at all times. Sitting cross-legged on the floor with nothing to worry about is a very pleasant way to change a diaper. It slows me down, reminds me not to rush and to enjoy my time with my son.

When my baby became mobile I moved his changing station to the closet.


Practical issue: If furniture isn't part of a baby-safe nursery, what is a Libertarian mom to do--she has to nurse!

What I decided to do: I got a chair for nursing that I planned to move out of my baby's room when he became mobile.

What really happened: I struggled through the aching arms and back discomfort of nursing in various seated locations with various nursing pillows and several different chairs before I decided it sucked and there had to be a better way. That's when I discovered laying-down nursing. I lie on my side, my baby cuddles up next to me and nurses.

When we nursed in a chair my son was often distracted, looking this way and that. When we started nursing laying down, all those annoying distractions disappeared. And it's so cozy! I will not bother with a chair at all for my next baby.


Practical issue: Babies do not need to be rocked to sleep and getting them in the habit of being rocked to sleep means you will need to do it all night long for months. Read my post about newborn sleep for more information on why I don't recommend a rocking chair at all.


Toxic! There's a whole sales pitch out there that will try to convince you that your newborn won't be comfortable in large spaces and should be put in a tiny, enclosed space instead. Unfortunately, since most cradles and bassinets are made of toxic things, your baby will be in a tiny, enclosed toxic cloud. There are non-toxic ways to make your baby feel like he is still in the womb (like swaddling or baby wearing) and there are even probably some non-toxic bassinets out there (perhaps moses baskets). However--

Philosophical issue 1: Your baby is no longer in the womb. The more time he can spend getting used to his new world the better.

Philosophical issue 2: Newborns have lots of muscular spasms. In many times and places parents were very disturbed by this, believing their babies to be possessed.  Babies were swaddled and confined to prevent these movements. Today, it is known that these movements are exercise. Every muscle spasm is helping to build that muscle so your baby will be able to scoot, crawl and walk. Preventing those exercises is no longer considered necessary or even wise.

What I did: I let my baby be in his new world when he arrived and he was fine with it. I swaddled him once or twice as a newborn when he was overtired. When I needed him to take a nap at a certain time (for visitors or family holiday dinners) my husband wore him. Otherwise, as much as possible, from day one, I let him experience being in and falling asleep in his new world.


Toxic! But at least they have good ventilation.

Practical issue: If your Libertarian baby won't be sleeping in a crib at home, will he be able to fall asleep in a crib when you are away? Every baby is different but most likely your baby will resist falling asleep anywhere other than the place he normally falls asleep. Whether it is a foreign bed or a crib, he will struggle.

What I thought I would do: since my son's "mattress" is really a yoga mat, I thought I would roll it up and bring it with me when I traveled.

What really happened: when I travel my baby sleeps in bed with me. First, because I find it delightful to sleep with him and welcome the excuse and second because when we are in a new place, be it a hotel room or a guest room or a campground, I am happier for him to disturb my sleep than the sleep of our hosts or other guests. Having him in bed with me means there will be no crying in the middle of the night and if there is I can deal with it in less than five seconds without getting up.

A pack'n'play was given to me. I have not used it yet but I imagine I will use it as a safe place for my son to play (not sleep) while we are traveling. I will update this post later to let you know how it worked out.


Toxic! Paint fumes belong no where near a pregnant woman or a baby. Glue and almost all other forms of adhesives (with the one exception of the old-fashioned, non-toxic paste sold for kids) are some of The Most Toxic Things Out There. 

Philosophical issue 1: Most babies are overstimulated. Overstimulated babies are difficult, unhappy babies. Difficult, unhappy babies do not make parenting fun. The wise mother will not make her baby's room a busy, overstimulating place. Maria Montessori said it well: "The most marvellous aspect of the child is that he is quite an acute observer who sees things that we cannot imagine he can have seen. How peculiar, then, that we believe we must use bright colours, exaggerated gestures and loud voices to attract his attention."

Philosophical issue 2: In order to have a baby proof room, anything you put on the wall should not be within your baby's reach.

Philosophical issue 3: Your baby doesn't know he is supposed to like a dumbed down version of life. He would actually rather play with your computer and your phone than stuffed giraffes. Babies want to imitate you and do what you are doing--babies desperately want to learn about real life.  I have never cared for a child who wanted his room to look like a silly nursery instead of his mom or dad's office. Babies don't want to be babies, they don't think nurseries are cute, we do.

A note on baby decorating motifs: once upon a time we lived on farms and as early as possible parents taught their babies about the animals for safety purposes and for chores. Teaching babies about animals was teaching them about their real lives. We no longer live on farms. It no longer makes sense to obsess over teaching babies about a life that they do not actually live. All it does is confuse them and disconnect them from reality.

What I did: Nothing. I left the walls white.


Yes! This is definitely part of a baby-safe room.


Philosophical issue: A lamp (with a cord for your baby to pull) that sits on top of some piece of furniture is not part of a baby proof room.

That being said, your newborn will stare at overhead lights so a lamp for the first six months might be good (after that your baby will mostly be on his stomach and won't find overhead lights nearly as interesting).

What I did: I loaned my baby the BioBrite Sunrise Clock that I use. I like how many settings it has--I can make his room bright during the day and just lit enough for me to nurse him at night. 


Toxic! 100% organic wool rugs are the only rugs I know to be safe. Wool is naturally fire retardent so it is not soaked in cancer causing chemicals before use like all other rugs have to be.

What I found: is the the best place I have found to buy non-toxic things. I really appreciate how informative their sales representatives are when I call with questions.


Philosophical issue: The only kind of hamper that belongs in your child's room is one that cannot hurt him while he is a baby and one that is light enough for him to carry when he can walk.

What I found: the folding mesh cube sold by the container store.


Philosophical issue 1: A wicker basket that your baby can break pieces from and choke on is not part of a baby-safe room. Use your common sense to make sure any basket--or anything--that is put in your baby's room is safe.

Philosophical issue 2: As soon as your child is old enough to start taking control of his clothing, he should be encouraged to do so. As you organize his closet, plan for the small child that will need to be able to reach things and put things away. A huge closest organizer system sized for adults will only be used for a year or two.

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