Its hard to ignore that there's a major trend in baby nurseries at the moment: the monochromatic Black and White nursery. I'm also guilty of getting sucked into it, and it's easy to see why - the colours are neutral, the gender is neutral, and it goes well with grey which has been the colour du jour for so long.
I don't know enough about decoration trends to make any real intelligent observations beyond that, but after flicking through so many photos of black and white nurseries I started to wonder - is there any benefit to the baby, other than being #onfleek, of having a black and white room?
Babies are born without fully developed adult vision, and they go through multiple stages of visual development in their first year. Initially, their world is mainly black and white and their range of focus is about 8 - 12 inches, which is the perfect distance to gaze lovingly into mother's eyes while breastfeeding. A baby's eyes will get a little more savvy over the next few months, and their hand-eye coordination will kick in to get them through the next stages of development. By about 5 months old, babies are able to see a full range of colour and their eyes are able to process depth perception, which is crucial for them when they start to crawl. By about a year old, a baby's vision is up to par with a normal* healthy adult (*types the person who is in denial that she should be wearing glasses on a daily basis).
But between 0-4 months, they generally will not really be able to tell the difference between subtle shades of colour. Initially they are better at focusing on brightly colored or high-contrast items. Stimulating the baby's vision and giving them something they can focus on (with black and white items) is good for helping them get through important developmental milestones... but they will soon need more colour around them to keep up the progression. However, a number of advice columns will also argue that you don't want to stimulate a baby too much once they start to process colours as they can become agitated when overwhelmed.
It's hard to really get a consensus about what that means for your nursery. It seems that black and white items with high contrast patterns are important in the beginning months, but that it's really only relevant for objects that will be 8-12 inches away from the baby's face (the Montessori school system developed a "Munari" crib mobile for ages 3-6 weeks which is a black and white mobile made from 2 dimensional geometrical shapes). Once you pass this initial stage, it seems important to keep your baby more stimulated and to introduce more colours as they can handle it, which I would imagine will happen naturally as you take them more and more outside of the nursery anyway.
I'm not going to over think it and will continue to enjoy #blackandwhitenursery on Instagram. Sometimes it feels a little like rolling the dice, but maybe I'll get some of these decisions right one day.