We always had blackout curtains for our three children when they were babies, but are they really necessary?
Newborns sleep better in a dark room for both naps and nighttime, so blackout curtains, shades, and blinds are a good idea for babies. Once a baby is over 4 months old, a darkened room at night will also help set their circadian rhythm.
Let’s dive down into this topic in more detail and discover why blackout curtains, shades, and blinds are a great choice for youngsters, and also consider the differences between them…
Are Blackout Shades, Blinds, or Curtains Necessary For a Nursery?
Most experts say that having blackout window treatments in your nursery is a good idea. Newborns relax better in a dark room for both naps and nighttime. And, once a baby is over 4 months or so, a darkened room at night will help set their circadian rhythm.
Babies don’t produce melatonin (more on that later) until around 4 months old. So, some experts say it’s debatable whether blackout curtains are necessary for newborns.
But melatonin or not, darkness is soothing to newborns. Let’s face it, they’ve just spent nine months in can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face total darkness. No surprise that newborns sleep better in dark rooms.
Then, when they are four months or so old, total darkness at night will help set their circadian rhythm.
Here’s the Mayo Clinic’s daytime sleep tips.
Note to parents: the nursery isn’t the only place that can benefit from blackout window treatments. Your mother may tell you to sleep when baby sleeps, but that’s easier said than done.
But – if you ever get the chance – think how much easier it would be with blackout curtains in your room. Heaven.
Why Do Babies Need Blackout Shades, Blinds, or Curtains To Sleep?
Babies – and adults too – benefit from blackout window treatments because of the hormone called melatonin. Melatonin, also known as the sleepy hormone, is only produced in darkness. An elevated melatonin level helps you fall asleep and then helps you stay asleep.
Melatonin is produced by the brain’s pineal gland. Melatonin production is triggered when the sun goes down and stops when the sun comes up again. Even a full moon shining into a room at night can affect melatonin levels.
Turns out, babies don’t start producing melatonin until they are around 4 to 5 months old. But once they are old enough, a dark room will help their bodies develop a natural circadian rhythm.
If you have a newborn, you can start introducing the day/night concept. During the daytime, try to keep the baby in well-lit areas (except maybe for naptime), don’t worry about how noisy it is and play with them often.
Then, when the sun goes down, darken their nursery and keep the mood mellow. No more playing. Darkness is soothing to newborns.
Some parents recommend white noise machines in the nursery, or playing noises that mimic in-the-womb sounds, like a heartbeat and the whooshing of blood. The noise level in the womb is as loud as a vacuum – who knew?
Are Blackout Shades, Blinds, or Curtains Toxic? (Is The Fabric Harmful?)
Possibly. Of the three choices, blinds are the safest bet. That’s because shades and curtains are made from fabric that is treated with certain chemicals to prolong their life.
Manufacturers try to produce blackout shade and curtain fabric that will hold up to damaging sunshine, will insulate from heat or cold, is fire-retardant, stain-resistant and is dense enough that sunshine won’t leak through the fabric.
To accomplish all those things, manufacturers use chemicals. If an organic chemical can diffuse into the air, like from the fabric, it becomes known as a VOC, or volatile organic chemical. Because they are airborne, VOC’s can be breathed in.
Different materials have more or less harmful VOC’s. Paint or epoxy, for example, have very harmful VOC’s. Blackout curtains and shades are often made from polyester and backed with rubber, both petroleum-based synthetics.
Is there a danger from the VOC’s of blackout shades and curtains? Probably small but maybe, particularly if you have a compromised pulmonary system. On the other hand, we’ve been wearing polyester for decades and we use many rubber products.
To disperse the VOC’s in new blackout curtains, experts say to wash your curtains before hanging them, or give them a good airing. Or, get an air purifier for your nursery.
To avoid VOC’s entirely, you can use blackout film (even Aluminum Foil) with thick natural fiber curtains. Hang a couple of pairs of curtains together to achieve total black-out. Or use blackout blinds made of wood or aluminum together with some natural fiber curtains.
This is a well-balanced article explaining the possible toxicity level and helpful ideas to avoid it.
What Sort of Curtains, Blinds, or Shades Are Best For Black Out?
Curtains do the best job of darkening a room. Shades and blinds can also darken rooms but they sometimes have gaps around the edges where the sun shines through.
If you are not a window treatment expert, here’s a good guide to the difference between drapes, curtains, shades and blinds.
Blackout curtains are the traditional blackout choice because they come in many fabrics, open easily during the day and provide total window coverage for an extra dark room.
Most curtains hang from rods above the window and are designed to hang several inches on either side of the window. Because of this, rooms with blackout curtains rank as the blackest.
Curtains are also excellent choices for saving energy and limiting noise.
Blackout curtains of yore were made from plain, dark colored, heavy fabric. Not so today. You can buy curtains in bright colors with a wide choice of pattern and style. Yup, they even make white blackout curtains.
If you love your existing curtains (and you just spent big bucks on them), you can add a blackout liner next to the window. Blackout liners are hung like curtains and come in black or white. Or, you can hang a blackout shade or blind behind your favorite curtains.
Blackout blinds are made from narrow slats of wood, plastic or aluminum. Unlike shades, which are solid, and are opened by pushing or pulling up or down, blinds have slats that can be tilted to allow sunshine in.
Blinds can remain lowered while letting the sunshine in so you don’t have to bother raising and lowering them several times a day. Blinds may be a better choice than curtains if you live in a hot, humid climate because they don’t hold moisture and are much easier to clean.
Blackout roller shades are made from fabric, often polyester, mounted onto a roller. The roller is fixed to the top of the window and the fabric is pulled down over the window. Roller shades come in many fabric choices, like curtains.
Blackout Roman shades have pillowy, gathered fabric shades that pull down like roller shades.
Cellular blackout shades are very popular for good reason. They look great, are good insulators, good light blockers, and are easy on the budget. These polyester shades come in cordless models that pull down or push up easily.
Window coverage is important for both blinds and shades. Be sure to measure carefully before buying or cutting so that there are no sunshiny gaps between the window frame and the blind or shade. If you couldn’t avoid the gap, there are products that you can buy that attach to your window frame.
Consider buying the cordless version of blinds or shades to avoid any potential choking hazard.
What’s The Difference Between Blackout Shades & Room Darkening Ones?
To be called blackout, the window treatment needs to block 100% of the light. Room darkening, means that they will block between 93% and 97% of the light. Light-filtering shades block less than 95%.
Here’s a video showing the difference between light-filtering, room darkening and blackout.
Are Blackout Shades, Blinds, or Curtains More Expensive Than Normal Ones?
Usually yes, because they have more material. They are made of one or two layers of densely woven, heavy fabric. But they can also save you some bucks by helping insulate your room from both the heat and the cold.
As mentioned, we always used blackout blinds when our kids were babies and toddlers.
And as teenagers love to sleep in, now our oldest two are more grown-up they love having blackout blinds too.
So black-out blinds and curtains are a great choice for kids of all ages! 🙂
Homeowner and property investor Larry James started Castle of Mine to bring you the best articles on home improvement, based on his years of experience in homemaking projects. Read more >