Designing a Hypoallergenic Nursery


Given my textile and environmental allergies, it was a priority when pregnant to design a nursery that was hypoallergenic. I didn’t want to introduce anything that could be a potential allergen for my littles since it is still unknown exactly how heredity or exposure influence the onset of allergies. And as a mom, a lot of time is spent in this room so it was important that I not experience any issues while caring for my littles in their nurseries. 

While hypoallergenic was top of mind for me, I also didn’t want to sacrifice any level of adorableness, either. So I spent countless hours with my laptop perched on my baby bump and walking (er…waddling) through stores hunting for just the right hypoallergenic items (that did not make our nurseries feel like sanitariums)! 

The first task was finding the perfect crib. Since formaldehyde causes lip swelling for me, I knew I needed formaldehyde-free. Certain glues and veneers can also be allergens, so I decided to stay away from any manufactured materials. This left solid wood as the target of my hunt. When I was pregnant with my first, finding a solid wood crib was actually harder than it sounds as inclusions of MDF and other materials were the norm. Today, there is an increasing number of cribs on the market that are non-toxic, solid wood and come in a wide range of styles. From mod or farmhouse, the right one is easier to find now than ever. 

The crib mattress was the next item and this is clutch for a hypoallergenic nursery, especially when you consider that an infant spends between twelve and fourteen hours a day sleeping. So like my own mattress, the most important thing was that it be latex-free and also free of chemicals that could cause a reaction. Again, I didn’t know if any of my littles would have environmental or textile allergies, but with the possibility lingering and half of their day spent nuzzled directly on it, I definitely wasn’t going to select one that incorporated a potential allergen. The crib mattress is one area where style doesn’t matter as much, since you will be covering it with a crib mattress pad and sheet anyways, so as long as it was latex-free and toxin-free, for me, it was a go. 

With the crib and crib mattress selected, the next design element for me was the rest of the nursery furniture. For all three of my nurseries, I turned to vintage pieces for the dresser, bookcase, and changing table. This way, I knew none of the pieces would be off-gassing any toxins that could be allergens for either me or the baby, while newly purchased pieces might. And just as I had for the crib, I selected solid wood for all of the furniture. 

With these largest pieces found, I then turned my attention to the textiles. I knew I wanted cotton but after further researching textiles, I decided that organic cotton was ideal. This meant organic cotton for every single piece of bedding: crib sheet, quilt, sham, and mattress pad cover. There are now oodles of retailers with organic cotton crib bedding of adorable prints and a variety of colors (versus the off-white natural color that once was the norm and is, quite simply, sad).  

In keeping with purity of textiles, I also selected an all natural cotton rug (with no latex backing, of course). A rug and its material is important because, depending on the size of your nursery, can prove to be a lot of surface area. (Just think a 9 x 12 is more than three times the area of the crib mattress). It is also where the littles lay, then do tummy time, then roll, then sit, then crawl. So with so much playtime, especially in the first year, keeping it hypoallergenic is a must. While wool is another wonderful natural material, it can also be an allergen so I stuck to cotton. 

To round out our allergen-free elements, I filled our organic cotton pillow shams with hypoallergenic, non-feather pillows; bought a latex-free changing pad and an organic cotton changing pad cover; and selected beautiful chunky knit cotton baskets in which to organize our toys and diapers. 

Finally, I completed the least exciting but perhaps the most practical purchase for designing (and maintaining) a hypoallergenic nursery: an air purifier with a HEPA air filter. These alleviate a little’s exposure to common household allergens like pet dander, dust and dust mites, pollen, molds, etc. They come in a wide range of price points, sizes, styles, and noise levels (negating the need for a sound machine), so I hunted in-person to decide on the one that best met my budget and expectations. 

All in all, in considering allergies, we spent no additional money than we would have otherwise. Nor did we sacrifice any style. The only additional investment was time, and it was completely worth it as three times over, I designed a nursery we adored and that gave me piece of mind when bringing a little into a small room in a big world. 

The Short of It: 

nursery furniture | solid wood 

crib mattress and changing pad | latex-free & toxin-free

bedding, rug and baskets | organic cotton  

air purifier | def 

all of it | things I loved