Top 3 Healthy Nursery Questions Answered
There is certainly more awareness of the potentially harmful ingredients in everyday products. You can see this in the questions popping up in parent groups and the rise of natural products and retailers. This is leading to more options on the market but also more confusion. While it is great to have choices and more accessibility to healthier alternatives, it can also be daunting for a new or expectant parent to navigate.
Here are the top three questions I am often asked about creating a healthier space for a baby, and how you can make choices that fit into your lifestyle and budget.
What is the safest mattress for my baby?
Mattresses are often top-of-mind for the health-conscious parent because (in theory) babies spend a considerable amount of time on them. The concern with conventional mattresses is that they are typically treated with flame retardants, which are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors. They are also typically covered in a PVC waterproof cover, which often includes phthalates, also known hormone disruptors.
Look for a mattress that is made with natural fibres, such as organic cotton, and is free from toxic flame retardant chemicals. Third party certification through the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) requires a product meet strict manufacturing and material sourcing requirements – including prohibiting some of the most toxic flame retardant chemicals.
Should I buy organic clothing?
Outfitting a baby in 100% organic clothing likely isn’t practical or even achievable for most, however, consider choosing organic cotton sleepwear and crib sheets, especially for your newborn. Cotton is the most pesticide-intensive crop we grow. There’s some concern that pesticide residues remain even after processing and may be absorbed into baby’s skin.
I recommend staying away from sleepwear treated with flame retardants, for the same reason as I suggest avoiding them in your mattress. Look for labels, especially on fleece and polyester PJs, that say “flame resistant”. Labels that contain very detailed wash instructions like “avoid soaps”, “wash inside out”, etc should also be avoided. Snug-fitting, natural fibres typically meet flammability requirements without the addition of chemicals.
You can typically find organic clothing at your local baby boutique (this one in Toronto is pretty fantastic) and don’t forget to check out consignment stores like iSpy Clothing to save some money too – you never know what you’ll find! Here is a list of brands you will want to keep your eye out for:
Even the GAP has some organic sleeper options that you might want to look into!
What is the best diaper cream?
Diaper cream goes on the most sensitive area of your baby’s body. It is often applied several times a day so it’s definitely worth taking a look at the ingredients. Much of what we put on our skin gets absorbed and babies are particularly susceptible to side effects of harmful chemicals. When looking for baby care products, you’ll want to stay as natural as possible.
You can make your own cream using ingredients like olive and coconut oils (here’s a recipe). When it comes to buying off-the-shelf, read the ingredients and steer clear of petroleum by-products (petrolatum) and fragrance or parfum. There are some great apps and wallet guides to help read labels – my favourite app is Think Dirty. You can find more resources on this downloadable tip sheet I created.
BONUS: What diapers should I buy?
Your baby will spend a LOT of time in diapers. While performance is key, it’s also important to look at how the diapers are made. If you opt for cloth diapers, consider organic (for the reasons mentioned above) and wash with a natural laundry detergent. Here’s how you can make your own in no time!
Conventional disposable diapers are bleached with chlorine, which can result in a carcinogenic by-product remaining in the plastic. They can also include fragrance ingredients that are known carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and asthma-inducing chemicals. Green diapers come at a cost premium, but finding them in bulk has become a little bit easier. Plus, you’ll be reducing baby’s exposure to chemicals that could impact their health in the long-term. Here’s a handy guide to some of the more common green diapers on the market to help you choose. If you start using one brand and find it doesn’t work, it isn’t necessarily because it’s a ‘green’ diaper. Even conventional brands don’t work for every baby, and it can take a few trial-and-error attempts to find one that works for your baby.
As you make purchasing decisions, it’s important to emphasize that while there are some scary-sounding chemicals in everyday products, you don’t have to go for an all-or-nothing approach. Focus on things that your baby will be in contact with most frequently and directly. Combining or alternating conventional products with natural ones is a good way to manage your budget while reducing your baby’s exposure to harmful chemicals overall. Educate yourself, but don’t stress. You’re doing your best for your baby, and that’s what matters.
Want to learn more about all of the awesome work Emma does for homes and families? Visit her beautiful website Green at Home! Living in Toronto? Interested in learning how to create your very own natural body care products?! Join Emma at her next workshop!
Emma Rohmann is an environmental engineer, mother of two, and founder of Green at Home. She educates and inspires families and businesses to go green in a simple and practical way through workshops, one-on-one consultations, and seminars. Emma is a David Suzuki Foundation Queen of Green Coach, Home section editor for EcoParent Magazine, and contributor for Green Moms Collective.
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